Tips for Creating an Achievement-Focused Résumé

One of the topics that generates the most interest at my seminar and workshops is how to create a résumé that emphasizes key accomplishments and achievements instead of one that reads like a career obituary. When a résumé overflows with duties and responsibilities, it’s a snoozer for hiring managers because EVERY candidate has duties and responsibilities. Make a hiring manager go on a fishing expedition for information he or she needs, and your chances for further consideration are greatly reduced.

I suggest creating a small table with 5 rows and 2 columns like the example below.

Situation What were the circumstances leading up to the accomplishment?
Task What task were you assigned for this situation?
Action What action(s) did you take to fulfill the task assigned?
Results Where were the results of the actions you took to fulfill the assigned task?
Restated for résumé How would you state this accomplishment in one short sentence for your résumé?

Here’s an example that I worked up an accomplishment from my last résumé:

Situation Technical publications function considering going from print to digital.
Task Create task force to evaluate costs, organizational impact, timetable, cost-savings
Action Obtain buy-in from all functional groups affected by shift to digital.
Results Reduced company printing costs by $2.3 million in two years.
Restated for résumé Reduced documentation printing/distribution costs by $2.3M in two years with minimal impact to participating organizations.

Breaking down your involvement with various company initiatives and projects using this table format helps you extract an accomplishment that contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization.




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Knowing when to bring up salary during job interviews

I have written about it, I have said in workshops and presentations: the first person to utter a salary number loses. Now, a recent survey of 300 senior managers by Robert Half reveals the best times for hiring managers to bring up the subject of salary:

  • Phone interview: 9%
  • First interview: 31%
  • Second interview: 38%
  • Third interview or later: 8%
  • Once you make the job offer: 14%

Regardless of when a hiring manager discusses salary requirements, never be the first one to toss out a number. If the job ad doesn’t list it, (“competitive salary” means different things to different people), keep asking questions until you have enough information to ask for more than you want so you can settle for what you need. But you’d better have that number firmly in mind when the conversation starts.

For more details on salary negotiation, see the Salary Negotiation chapter in my award-winning book, Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition).

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One Item on your Résumé that Cuts Your Job Prospects by Nearly 25% (and other job news)

I’m always cautioning candidates to mention only those things on a résumé that highlight their complete and total brand as a professional. Leave the personal stuff, the hobbies, the social causes, the kids, etc. to the coffee pot conversations after you’re hired because some information can be detrimental to your career or job aspirations no matter how socially conscious you think they may be.

A study from the Equal Rights Center and Freedom to Work found that job candidates who listed LGBT-related interests, such as gay rights activism, on their résumés were 23 percent less likely to get a callback from potential employers than their non-LGBT counterparts, even when the LGBT applicants had a better skill set. (
While 58 percent of employers offer pay for maternity leave, one in four mothers who work during pregnancy either quit their jobs or are let go soon after a new child arrives. (Los Angeles Times)


In its annual time use survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that on average Americans spend 8.74 hours per day sleeping, 5.26 hours per day engaging in leisure activities, and just 3.46 hours per day doing “work and work-related activities.” (


In a recent Gallup poll, more than half of Americans said the economy, particularly unemployment, is the country’s top challenge today. (


The price of a college education keeps climbing, but it still may be worth the cost for most people. According to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the average U.S. college graduate can expect to earn some $800,000 more over a lifetime than the average high school graduate. (


In 2013, Americans with four-year college degrees earned 98 percent more per hour than workers without degrees. That figure has been climbing sharply since the 1980s, when college graduates earned an average of 64 percent more per hour than non-college workers. (The New York Times)


According to numbers released by Uber, full-time drivers of the smartphone-summoned UberX taxis in New York City earn a median annual income of $90,766. That’s three times the estimated yearly wage of a traditional cabbie. (

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Align Your Expertise with What Hiring Managers are Looking For

As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, hiring managers are more interested in what you accomplished than what your duties and responsibilities were in your career. Too many folks still confuse task completion with accomplishments; a task completion is part of your duties and responsibilities. An accomplishment yields results that impact the higher strategic vision or objective of the organization beyond the normal day-to-day duties and responsibilities.

The graphic below summarizes how hiring managers view expertise in a job candidate, and how candidates can express that expertise to better align with what hiring managers are looking for. Such methods help promote your professional brand in the job marketplace.

Common ground graphic

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Job Seekers: When Are You Going to See the Bigger Picture of Your Expertise?

When are job seekers going to stop seeing their expertise as merely the bait for the next job? When will people start looking at how their expertise contributes to something far bigger than their own self interests?

In my Career and Job Strategy Workshops, I show participants how position their expertise beyond the nose on their face. I still see far too many résumés full of bullet lists containing “duties and responsibilities” that only tell me what you did (or had a part in doing)–what I as a hiring manager what to know specifically is what was it that you accomplished in the normal performance of your “duties and responsibilities”? How did what you did contribute to the higher strategic objective of the organization? Did it generate revenue? Did it reduce costs? Did it avoid costs? Did it result in some kind of efficiency improvement?

Figure 1 graphically represents how core competencies are created–by a series of related duties and responsibilities. Unfortunately, most candidate résumés are loaded with duties and responsibilities. When you have more than a few related core competencies, they contribute to a “functional expertise” and that’s what hiring managers want to see (accomplishments speak to functional expertise too).

functional expertise 1

FIGURE 1. Show hiring managers your core competencies, not just your duties and responsibilities, which do not separate you from the competition who also have duties and responsibilities. (© 2014 Donn LeVie Jr. from The Career and Job Strategy Workshop)

Candidates need to realize that a company is on the road to having a competitive advantage in the marketplace when they hire people who know how to showcase their core competencies and NOT just everyday duties and responsibilities. Companies that enjoy market dominance tend to employ people who know how to showcase their talent through related areas of functional expertise, as Figure 2 shows.

FIGURE 2. How core competencies contribute to a company's competitive advantage and how functional expertise contributes to a company's market dominance.

FIGURE 2. How core competencies contribute to a company’s competitive advantage and how functional expertise contributes to a company’s market dominance. (© 2014 Donn LeVie Jr. From the Career and Job Strategy Workshop)

Demonstrate to hiring managers that you understand the business, the issues, and the challenges by listing achievements/ accomplishments, core competencies, and functional expertise on your résumé–more than likely, you’ll be on that hiring manager’s short list for a job offer.





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Job and Career News

Almost half of small business owners surveyed said they don’t support raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, while 44 percent said they endorse the idea. More than a quarter said hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 would force them to cut back on employees or hours, but 95 percent agreed that the current rate is not a living wage (

Nearly three-fourths of job seekers say they would relocate for new work, according to data from But managers are still less likely to hire out-of-towners whom they’ve never met in person. (

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, students who worked as unpaid interns last year received full-time job offers at almost the same rate as those who had no internships at all–about 37 percent, compared with 62 percent for students with paid internships. (The Wall Street Journal)

When adjusted for inflation, the average graduate student’s debt load rose 43 percent between 2004 and 2012 to a median of $57,600. Debt for students pursuing advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences grew more sharply compared with professional degrees–in, say, business or medicine–which also yield greater long-term returns. (The Wall Street Journal)

U.S. employers are giving workers more flexibility, with two thirds now allowing staffers to occasionally work from home, up from 50 percent in 2008 and 38 percent allowing employees to work from home regularly, up from 23 percent just six years ago. (

According to a new Gallup poll, workers who remain unemployed for a year or longer suffer from higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and excessive cholesterol. While workers who have been unemployed for two weeks or less have an obesity rate around 23 percent, some 33 percent of long-term unemployed people are considered obese. (

Job and Career News of Note

Your High School GPA May be an Indicator of Earnings Potential

Your high school GPA is strongly correlated with how much you’ll earn as a worker, a new study found. For a one-point increase in a person’s high school GPA, average annual earnings in adulthood increased by about 12 percent for men and about 14 percent for women. Men who were born between 1960 and 1964 and graduated from college earned a median of $802,000 in cumulative earnings by the time they were in their mid 40s. Meanwhile, median earnings for high school graduates fell from $435,000 to $243,000 over that same time period.  (

Best Apps for Job Hunting

Jobr: is trying to be the Tinder for job hunting. Fill out a résumé and job openings that match your profile will pop up one by one. You swipe to the right to register interest, and if the hiring party likes you too, Jobr sets up a phone chat (Free, iOS only).

Job Interview Q&A: offers just what the name says. It poses common interview questions to which you respond. It also explains in each case what managers are hoping to learn (Free, Android only).

Job Compass: lists jobs by ZIP code and covers dozens of countries–in case your up for a big change (Free, iOS only).

Job Search: from JobandTalent, improves on the average job-search engine with a beautifully designed interface that helps you sort through and stay up on the openings that interest you. (Free, Android or iOS)

Best Companies to Work For

When it comes to attracting workers, tech companies are tops. A new report from Glassdoor used employee feedback to rank the top 25 employers, with firms like Google, Facebook, and Adobe leading the way thanks to pay and perks (

Why College Degrees Are Losing Value

Congratulations, graduates–your diploma may be worthless, said Richard K. Vedder in “American institutions will confer about 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees this year,” and while many of those grads will land solid, well-paying jobs, many more “face an uncertain future.”  In fact, “many will end up taking jobs historically done by those with high school diplomas or even less.” Surely, the financial crisis, enduring recession, and sluggish recovery are partly to blame. But there is a longer-term problem at work: “There are simply more college graduates than jobs requiring college degrees.” And it’s getting worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a gain of more than 15 million jobs by 2022, but less than a third of them will require a college education. Of course, “as word spreads that college degrees do not guarantee vocational success,” many students may choose to skip college–and student debt–altogether. But “solving the problem will be very difficult so long as politicians find it expedient to dole out aid and cheap loans” to students who won’t benefit from college at all. The bottom line is that unless we overhaul how we finance higher education, we will continue to have “a lot of graduates with low paying jobs, big debts, and unfulfilled expectations.”

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Stupid Job Interview Responses: Why Unemployment is Still a Problem for Many of the Unemployed

From time to time, a magazine article, blog, or website reveals the idiotic responses and actions from applicants before, during, and after job interviews. Here’s a collection that–hopefully–needs no further elaboration on the stupidity of the job applicants–unless they were interviewing for an available “village idiot” position. Is it any wonder why most hiring managers dread screening résumés and conducting interviews? You have your work cut out for you…

Took the edge off…with a drink.

“I swear this is true: Someone threw his beer can in the outside trash can before coming into the reception area.” Anonymous HR professional

Hey: TMI, people.

“A guy once talked during the interview about how an affair cost him a previous job.” Anonymous HR professional

Read the directions wrong.

“We ask prospective job applicants at our business to fill out a questionnaire. For the line ‘Choose one word to summarize your strongest professional attribute,’ one woman wrote, ‘I’m very good at following instructions.'” Anonymous HR professional

Grossed out the interviewer.

“Someone once blew her nose and lined up the used tissues on the table in front of her.” Anonymous HR professional

Misunderstood the work.

“An individual applied for a customer-service job, and when asked what he might not like about the job, he said, ‘Dealing with people.'” Source: Robert Half Technology

Brought a sidekick. Who wasn’t patient.

“Once an applicant’s friend came in and asked, ‘How much longer?'” Anonymous HR professiona

Didn’t bother with research.

“It’s amazing when people come in for an interview and say, ‘Can you tell me about your business?’ Seriously, people. There’s an Internet. Look it up.” HR professional in New York City

Listed all experiences…relevant or not.

“I had somebody list their prison time as a job. And an exotic dancer who called herself a ‘customer service representative.'” Sharlyn Lauby, human resources consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Came hungry.

“I had someone eat all the candy from the candy bowl while trying to answer questions.” Anonymous HR professional

Called in an understudy.

“The candidate sent his sister to interview in his place.” Source: Robert Half Technology

Gave more than a handshake.

“Someone applying for a job hugged me at the end of the interview.” Anonymous HR professional

Ordered in lunch.

“Applicant delivered prepaid Chinese food, including a fortune cookie with his name and phone.” Anonymous HR professional

Spammed a prospective employer.

“Applicant put up posters of himself in the company parking lot.” Anonymous HR professional

Wore the wrong outfit.

“The candidate arrived in a catsuit.” Source: Robert Half Technology

Got too creative.

“Applicant announced his candidacy with a singing telegram.” Anonymous HR professional

Thought he was larger than life.

“Applicant rented a billboard, which the hiring manager could see from his office, listing his qualifications.” Anonymous HR professional

Shared his “happy” hours.

“Candidate specified that his availability was limited because Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was ‘drinking time.'” Anonymous HR professional

Tried to justify the crime.

“Candidate explained an arrest by stating, ‘We stole a pig, but it was a really small pig.'” Anonymous HR professional

Forgot to proofread the cover letter.

“Advertising is a tough business. Which may be why one prospective adman wrote a cover letter boasting, ‘I am getting to my goal, slowly but surly.'” Anonymous HR professional

Was just weird.

“A job applicant came in for an interview with a cockatoo on his shoulder.” Source: Robert Half Technology

Cared about his appearance too much.

“A guy who forgot dark socks to wear with his suit colored in his ankles with a black felt-tip marker.” Source:

Cared about his hygiene too much.

“I once had a person clip her fingernails while we were speaking.” Source:

Had other business to conduct.

“I was interviewing someone who took a cell-phone call and asked me to leave my office while they talked.” Source:

Has a problem with authority.

“The candidate told the interviewer he was fired from his last job for beating up his boss.” Source:

He was a fugitive.

“The candidate said that by crossing the Maryland state line he was in violation of his probation but felt the interview was worth risking possible jail time.”  Source:

Something didn’t add up.

“An applicant said she was a ‘people person,’ not a ‘numbers person,’ in her interview for an accounting position.” Source:

Got a little too comfortable.

“A candidate complained that she was hot. She then said ‘Excuse me’ and removed her socks. After placing them on the desk, she continued as if everything was normal.”


(All of these examples came from Reader’s Digest online at


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Questions You Need to Ask During a Job Interview

Wow…back online after a fabulous vacation in Spain (Madrid, Toledo, Seville, and Barcelona) and smack in the midst of preparing for presentations and personal career consultations for upcoming international conference in June.

On the plane to Madrid, I came across an article in RealSimple Magazine entitled, “Do You Have Questions for Me?” The article offered with four smart questions you need to add to your arsenal during job interviews. You don’t have to ask all four, but I’m sure each specific job interview will present an opportunity to toss out one or two of them. So, here’s the article…

It’s the moment that you’ve been dreading. Your prospective boss leans forward and asks the question about, you know, questions. Moments before, you were chatting merrily. Now it’s crickets in the conference room. To end your interview on a high note (and to ensure that you’ve examined your future workplace as carefully as they’ve scrutinized you), stick one of these expert-recommended queries in your back pocket.

What is the most important quality I need to succeed in this position? Your would-be boss’s response gives you an inside look at the company’s value system, says Allyson Willoughby, the senior vice president of human resources at, a career site. For example, if your interviewer says “accountability,” you know that she will expect you to take responsibility for your actions. Plus, says Willoughby, “asking this question shows that you’re thinking about the importance of your work style, not just the skill set you offer.”

Can you describe a recent stressful workday that you experienced? Details about the not-so-great times can tell you as much, of not more, about the realities of day-to-day business as you would learn from abstract talk about the future. Your interviewer’s reply can also illuminate how she handles conflict, says Shannon King, the chief operating office of Levo, a career forum. If you follow up by asking her what could have made that day less challenging, she’ll understand that your aim is to make her life easier.

What would you expect a star performer to accomplish in the first 30 days? This question shows the boss that you will be results oriented; conversely, it gives you a preview of your future to-do list. “If you’re interviewed by multiple people for the same position, you would be smart to ask this of all of them,” says Priscilla Claman, the president of the Boston-based coaching firm Career Strategies Incorporated. “Then you can see if their answers differ.”

What are some of your favorite office traditions? Office culture matters. Chances are, you’ll want to know if the company has happy hour once a month or a killer Halloween party–or if, on the other hand, employees don’t socialize at all. The answer may lighten the mood in what can be a serious conversation. It will also give your interviewer a welcome opportunity to tell you what’s fun about working for the company.


OK, some good ideas. Pay attention to how the interview flows and you’ll know which of the questions can best cement your position going forward in the hiring process.

As always, if you have a specific topic you’d like me to address, let me know.

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Don’t Use an “Objective” Statement on Your Résumé! Please!

woman holding nose

If there’s one suggestion that bears repeating at frequent intervals to job seekers, it is this: Avoid including an Objective statement on your résumé. Please. Few things will get a hiring manager to quickly move on to the next résumé in the pile than some poorly worded, self-serving Objective statement.

Some résumé writers and career professionals continue to suggest using Objective statements, but they are quickly recognized by hiring managers as euphemisms for “I need a job.” Forget what other authors write about creating an awe-inspiring Objectives section on your résumé—it is self-serving, states the obvious, takes up precious space on the page, and is not read by hiring managers. Your objective, as implied in your crafted cover letter, is to sell the hiring manager on how you can help that hiring manager solve problems; don’t use your résumé to talk about you and your needs.

Here are some examples of useless, ineffective Objective statements:

Objective (for an electrical engineering position): To obtain a challenging Test Engineering position with a dynamic high technology company.

Objective (for a technical writer position): A senior-level technical communications position in a company that demands quality documentation focused on customer needs.

Objective (for a criminal investigation management position): Seeking a challenging position as a Deputy Chief Investigator where I can pursue my goals and be an important asset in the organization.

These Objective statements are all self-serving (“here’s what I want”) from individuals who have employee mentalities and thus fail in those critical initial few seconds to hook the hiring manager’s interest in his or her pursuit of finding a problem solver among the masses.

Next post, we’ll take a look at what you should use to replace the Objective statement: The Professional Summary.

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