Why knowing the difference between responsibility and achievement matters on your CV

As a professional career coach I see – and write – many CV s and you won’t be surprised to read that the standard of them is hugely variable. But one of the most common mistakes – and one that can be the most damaging – is people who only list their responsibilities, rather than their achievements.

Why does it matter?

The difference between your responsibilities and your achievements is huge. Your next boss doesn’t want to recruit just anyone who has been in your current job before, they want to recruit an amazing person who has made a difference in their current organisation. And that’s the difference between what you’re responsible for at work – i.e. what you are expected to do the same as any other person doing the same role– and what you have actually done, what makes you stand out and shows how you added value.

Achievements are active, not passive

The easy way to figure out the difference is to ensure what you write is always active, rather than passive.

You might be responsible for data analysis (passive) but you may also have identified a mistake which saved your current employer £10,000 (active) and that’s the thing that makes you stand out. You may be responsible for monitoring administrative processes (passive) but you may have improved or changed a process that has made your team/department more efficient (active).

Listing your responsibilities doesn’t create a picture of how successful you have been in your role whereas an achievement really does. To help you, an achievement will always contain a verb and should typically be written in the past tense as it describes something you have done. I like to call these your success stories.

Identifying your achievements

Make a start by thinking about the things you have done. Who or what have you made a real difference to? How have you contributed in your role? What is better because of your work? Often CV advice will focus on maybe how you have saved time or money for your organisation, increased sales or improved turnover but I like you to think about what you are most proud of doing in your current role – think about which stories of success will help to demonstrate your skills, knowledge and experience. Which examples of your work are you most passionate about and would want to share in your future interviews?

It helps to keep a running list and capture these kinds of things as they happen – along with any data that demonstrates your impact as it is much harder to think back. Dig out your old performance reviews or feedback to jog your memory. If you don’t already keep a list you could start now!

Create a desire to find out more

Your CV needs to tempt the reader with enough details to see you have the skills and competence to do their job and also create intrigue to make them want to ask you questions – and that’s what gets you to an interview.
Structuring your CV correctly and including just the right amount of information allows you to take a bit of control of the interview as you can expect to be asked questions about the achievements you have tantalised the recruiter with.

The real trick is doing this in a bullet point as a CV should almost always fit on two sides of A4 with the most important information being on page one. This can be challenging but with a little practice and a bit of refining you can achieve it. Why not pull out your CV now and double check if you have a list of responsibilities or if you have demonstrated your stories of success.

If you want a chat about how your current CV could be improved or my career coaching service, give me a call for a free no-obligation discussion on 07765 894040.


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