In this competitive job market, your resume has to really stand out. The secret is to demonstrate your accomplishments and prove your value to employers.

You’ve probably read countless articles on how to write a resume. You already know formatting basics such as using wide margins and easy-to-read font. You’ve got bullets describing what you’ve done in past jobs that read something like, “Coordinated ordering of office supplies” or “Managed filing system.”

But you probably don’t know the secret to stand out from the dozens – if not hundreds – of other applicants for that job you really want.

Here’s the secret: it’s not about listing your job descriptions, duties or responsibilities on your resume. It’s about demonstrating your accomplishments and proving your value to a prospective employer.

Brainstorm Your Accomplishments

How do you figure out what accomplishments to put on a resume?

Start with a blank piece of paper in front of you if you’re old school or a blank Word doc on the screen in front of you if you’re not. Brainstorm everything you’ve done in the past five years on the job that you’re proud of – the sort of thing you shared with your spouse or friends – or got a promotion or bonus for. Write down a bullet point for every proud accomplishment you can think of. Don’t do any editing – just let the thoughts flow. If you’re not sure if something’s worthy of listing, put it down.

Then highlight the three best accomplishments per position you’ve held over the last five years. Those should show off skills you believe make you a special employee – different from everyone else out there.

At this point your paper or document should look like, “Won Employee of the Month” or “Managed project to convert paper files to digital records.”

Emphasize Results

Now, for each of those points of pride, answer these two questions:

  • What was my action?
  • What was the positive result of my action?

It should look like this now:

  • Negotiated contract with new office supply company to save the employer money. Won Employee of the Month for this.


  • Managed project to convert paper files to digital records. Made it much easier for employees to access information.

At this point, you’re very close to a resume bullet that will catch the attention of a hiring manager. You just have one more step, and it’s probably the hardest step. The step is adding the specifics that will prove you accomplished what you said you did.

Add Specifics

Think about numbers that make your point for you. Money and time are the two most common specifics. A number to support the first bullet might be how much money was saved, or a percentage of savings. In the second example, a perfect number would be the amount of time saved by employees looking for documents. Numbers can also come in handy to describe how large or important a project was.

Now your bullets should look like this:

  • Negotiated contract with new office supply company to save employer 35% in monthly bills, amounting to a $2,000 yearly saving. Won Employee of the Month in June 2009 as a result.


  • Managed six-month project to convert 50 years of paper files to digital records. Enabled employees to retrieve records in seconds instead of minutes. Saved staff an estimated two hours a week each in document filing and retrieval time.

At this point, you might be thinking that you don’t have numbers to back up your bullets – certainly not numbers as exciting as these fictitious examples. Brainstorm a little harder and you may find you can come up with a way to quantify your accomplishments. Here are some non-numerical ways by experts you can reinforce your points:

  • Do you have awards, accolades or promotions you earned as a result? Those work.
  • What about dropping names? It’s much better to say, “Served as a guest speaker at Harvard University” (as long as it’s the truth, of course) rather than “Spoke to a business school class.”
  • And what about demonstrating that managers, owners or clients valued your accomplishments through increasing your budget, recommending you for additional business or expanding your department? Anything that demonstrates you’re making more money or saving time for your company is good even if you can’t attach a dollar figure.

Are you thinking, “Wow – that’s a lot of work. I haven’t heard of people doing all this on a resume?” The answer is, “Yes – people who get jobs do go the extra mile on their resumes.” Ponder this: whom would you rather hire, the person who coordinated supply orders or filing systems – or the person who saved the company money and staff time and frustration and proved it in an easy-to-read resume?