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Some hiring managers prefer 'accomplishment-based' resumes over 'responsibility-based' resumes:

I tend to discount resumes that only talk about responsibilities for instance. I want people who think in terms of accomplishments.

So "led a team of 5 sales people" is responsibility-based, while "led a team of 5 that exceeded sales targets for 15 consecutive quarters" is accomplishment-based.

For some roles there are clear accomplishments. For instance:

  • Met sales targets for 15 consecutive quarters -or-
  • Added support for Asian languages (double-byte characters) to Product X -or-
  • Increased website visits by 250%, etc.

For support/back-office positions that have less measurable goals, for instance a school psychologist, or an HR person, or a sales trainer, how can you create an accomplishment-based resume? While there may be internal KPIs, stating that you met internal KPIs doesn't tell the employer anything about the value of the accomplishment as they aren't privy to the details of the KPIs. Are accomplishment-based resumes appropriate for these sorts of positions?

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Since I wrote the orginal quote let me clarify what I meant a bit further.

I see resumes at times that say things like:

Responsible for Facility Maintenance

(Well usually I see more like Responible for Database Administration but I wanted to give an example more in line with your question.)

Ok that says nothing about what you actually did because plenty of people don't actually manage to do the tasks they were responsible for. Or don't do them in much depth. Responsible for creating Quarterly reports doesn't mean you actually did them. I have found in interviewing that people also frequently can't answer questions about what they were "Responsible for" if they described the tasks that way.

If instead you said:

As facility manager, I initiated repair requests, I responded to building security alarms, I created access for new employees, I oversaw the rebuilding of the office space to add new cubicles including putting the work out for bid, evaluating responses and hiring the contractor, designing and implementing a plan to move employees to temporary desks while their area was being rebuilt, ...

Now I have an idea of what tasks you actualy did under Facility Maintenance.

Suppose I was looking for a new person who would need to spend a significant portion of his or her time doing facility management (In many companies it is not a full-time job) because we were planning to move to a new building soon. Am I more interested in the person who is "responsible for" it or the person who detailed the tasks?

As far as the example of Led a team, that is an action not a reponsibility, so I am fine with that. It would be better, of course, to say, Led a team who met or exceeed sales goals every quarter for the last 4 years.

The sales trainer is easy to quatify, you should know how many classes you presented to how many students and on what topics. You should also know what classes you designed the materials for.

Basically what I mean was I want to see what you actually did not what you were responsible for doing. I should see the phrase "responsible for" only on tasks that are at best a minor part of your duties. If I need an IT Support Manager who is going to have collateral duty of Facilty Manager that takes up less than 5% of his time, seeing "reponsible for" is ok for that task, but I would want more detail on the actual IT support experience he has and the management experience.

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I'd certainly say that they're not impossible. I would word the achievements so that you use the STAR (situation - task - action - result) type of summary. This shows not only what you achieved, but also how you came to that achievement. (in summary style) Of course, you do need to have something that you did that made things better.

Instead of saying "I managed to do X", you could say "We had situation X (start situation) and within my responsibility R I did Y to get result/improvement Z" It still reads as an achievement if you ask me, and it also demonstrates how your involvement was a factor in the change.

As far as KPIs go, you have the option of showing approximate relative improvement numbers for KPIs expressed in absolute values. (And you could add a clause/footnote that you can't reveal the true number due to confidentiality reasons) I think that improvement on KPIs lend themselves to the STAR method because, if it is an achievement you've had part in establishing, you've done something to make it happen.

There is one type of achievement that is excluded. Those are the type of achievements where you had a placement relative to others, like winning a prize for example. But those can be listed as facts.

  • Onno, if you think STAR is more appropriate, could you please explain why an accomplishment-based resume is not appropriate, and why STAR would satisfy the same hiring managers who appreciate the accomplishment-based resumes? The nature of KPIs (e.g. "create estimate within 1 working day of receipt of request for quotation") make them meaningless save in the context of being a KPI -- KPI means the company finds them important. Estimates within a day could be fast or slow depending on the industry/nature of the work. – jmac Mar 31 '14 at 2:48
  • I'll edit my answer to round it off a bit more, but I'd say STAR is achievement based. I'd say that it is the most common way of demonstrating achievements in a relevant way by not just showing the item, but also the competence required. – Onno Mar 31 '14 at 2:50
  • I've made the edits to show that STAR, in my mind, is achievement based. – Onno Mar 31 '14 at 3:10

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