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Resumes and cover letters need to be accomplishments-driven

This worksheet is a companion piece to the article, For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments. Although much of the material in that article overlaps this worksheet, you may wish to read the article.

Although resumes and cover letters should be accomplishments-driven (and should NOT focus on duties and responsibilities), many job-seekers have difficulty pinpointing their accomplishments. This worksheet will help you brainstorm the accomplishments that will help sell you to your next employer.

Note to individuals in jobs with not-for-profit organizations: Some of the questions below will not be relevant to people who’ve worked in organizations that are not concerned with making a profit. However, many other questions still are relevant to people like you, so answer as many as you can.

As you complete this worksheet, keep the following in mind:

  1. Try to list accomplishments that are specific and measurable.
  2. Quantify whenever possible. (Examples: Increased sales by 50 percent over the previous year; Supervised staff of 25; Served a customer base of 150, the largest on firm’s customer-service team.)
  3. Use superlatives and “firsts.” Use words such as “first,” “only,” “best,” “most,” and “highest.”
  4. Consider the “so-what factor.” For every accomplishment you list, ask yourself, “so what?” Does the item you’ve listed truly characterize your abilities and your potential for contributing to your the next employer’s success?
  5. Make sure each accomplishment is relevant to the type of job you seek.

Instructions for Accomplishments Worksheet: A series of brainstorming questions are asked below for your four most recent jobs. Respond to as many of the questions as you can for each job. For new graduates and others with minimal job experience, be sure to complete the school and unpaid experience section.


  1. In this job, what special things did you do to set yourself apart? How did you do the job better than anyone else did or than anyone else could have done?


  2. What did you do to make this job your own? How did you take the initiative? How did you go above and beyond what was asked of you in your job description?


  3. What special things did you do to impress your boss so that you might be promoted?


  4. And were you promoted? Rapid and/or frequent promotions can be especially noteworthy.


  5. How has the organization benefitted from your performance? How did you/will you leave this employer better off than before you worked there?


  6. List any awards you won, such as Employee of the Month, President’s Club?


  7. What are you most proud of in this job?


  8. Check your annual performance reviews for this job. Provide below any glowing or even complimentary quotes from your reviews. Did you consistently receive high ratings?


  9. Have you received any complimentary memos or letters from employers or customers? Provide below quotes from these letters that support your accomplishments.


  10. What tangible evidence do you have of accomplishments — publications you’ve produced, products you’ve developed, software applications you’ve written?


  11. How did you contribute to this employer’s profitability, such as through sales increase percentages? How have you helped your employer to make money? How did you contribute to the firm’s Return on Investment (ROI)?


  12. How did you contribute to operational efficiency in this job, such as through cost reduction percentages? How did you help this employer or a part of the organization to save money, save time, or make work easier?


  13. How did you contribute to productivity, such as through successfully motivating your team?


  14. How did you make your company more competitive?*


  15. How did you build relationships or image with internal and/or external constituencies? How did you attract new customers or retain existing ones?*


  16. How did you expand the business?*


  17. How did you help the organization fulfill its mission statement?*


  18. If you had to ghost-write a letter of recommendation about you from your boss, what would be in it?*


  19. How did you solve one or more specific problems in this job? What were the problems or challenges that you or the organization faced? What did you do to overcome the problems? What were the results of your efforts?



 Hint:   Use the SAR or PAR technique, in which you describe a Situation or Problem that existed in a given job, tell what Action you took to fix the Situation or Problem, and what the Result was. (See more about this technique: Behavioral Interviewing Strategies, STAR Interviewing Technique, Behavioral Interviewing Story.)

(*Note: These questions were suggested by the writing of Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of Resume Magic.)


List relevant accomplishments from:

  • Internships
  • Summer jobs
  • Campus jobs (work-study)
  • Entrepreneurial/self-employed jobs
  • Temporary work
  • Volunteer Work: school, church, club, not-for-profit organizations
  • Classroom experiences, assignments, research papers/projects (group projects, hands-on assignments, “real-world” experiences, laboratory experience, presentations, study-abroad programs, simulations)
  • Certification courses
  • Campus activity positions
  • Fraternity/sorority/social club positions
  • Extracurricular or sports leadership positions

Looking at all of the above possibilities, brainstorm responses to the questions below. Be sure to list the context for each accomplishment. You can list multiple accomplishments from multiple sources.

  1. What technical accomplishments have you had? For example, did you write a software program, design a Web page?


  2. What competitions did you excel in?


  3. What superlatives can you list, such as the highest grade, the best test score, the strongest essay?


  4. What creative accomplishments have you had? Were any of your poetry, plays, stories, music, art published, performed, or exhibited?


  5. What leadership positions have you held that demonstrate important skills that relate to the type of position you seek?


  6. Did members of your group choose or elect you to a certain position based on special skills you possess? Did a supervisor or professor hand-pick you for additional responsibilities or special project(s)? Also list situations in which you chose to take on additional responsibilities.


  7. What kinds of things have your friends and classmates always asked you for help and advice about? What are your areas of expertise?


  8. What community service projects did you undertake and what were the results of your efforts? Hint: For group efforts, phrase your accomplishments like this: “Participated in team effort that raised funds for charity that broke a school record.”


  9. How have you used organizational or managerial skills?


  10. What ideas have you come up with to improve the organizations with which you’ve been involved?


  11. List situations in which you’ve handled money or budgets. How have you raised, collected, or managed funds?


  12. Give one or more examples of ways you have exhibited interpersonal skills?


  13. List situations in which you have trained, taught, or oriented organization members. Have you spoken in public or written for an audience?


  14. Have you recruited new members to any organizations?


  15. In what situations have you employed problem-solving, conflict-resolution, or mediation skills?


  16. List situations in which you were required to deal with the public. Describe any situations in which you responded to complaints or smoothed ruffled feathers.


  17. How have you demonstrated teamwork (for example, as an athlete)?


  18. How have you demonstrated individual drive and determination (for example, as an athlete)?


  19. Did you work with the general public?


  20. List situations in which you required to juggle many projects simultaneously under deadline pressure.