In CVs our achievements are an essential tool for demonstrating our ability to deliver results and to perform at the required level. Yet a day never goes by when Geoff Curran, Practice Leader for Gerard Daniels in Sydney, doesn’t come across a CV that fails to include or to clearly communicate a candidate’s professional achievements.
“Despite the importance of highlighting achievements, surprisingly there are still people who overlook this information, or who include it but miss the mark,” says Geoff. “And this isn’t limited to graduates. We see this on the CVs of senior and other experienced executives.”
Here we take a quick look at why achievements matter, and provide some pointers on how to communicate achievements in ways that will open doors for interviews and help you to stand out from the crowd.
Achievements vs. responsibilities
Before we get into why achievements matter it’s important to have a clear understanding of what achievements actually are. “There can be some confusion around duties and achievements, when in fact they are quite different,” says Geoff. “Duties or responsibilities are the tasks required to perform a role, where achievements describe the impact and the tangible results that come from performing those duties well.”
“A good results-oriented CV won’t read like a job description,” Geoff continues. “And while the majority of people can articulate their achievements there are still those who will describe what they have done but fail to describe the impact of their work, or to highlight when they’ve really accomplished something or made a difference.”
Why do achievements matter?
People who read CVs have typically never met or worked with most candidates before, and until they do, their CV is all that they have to go on. So without the benefit of knowing candidates, employers will use descriptions of achievements to get a measure of how likely they are to perform well in future roles.
“Employers use CVs to understand past performance as an indicator of future behaviour and success,” Geoff explains. “What this means is that employers need to understand what you have achieved in the past, to try and make a reasonable judgement call on whether you will be a good hire for them.
To give employers greater confidence that you can do the role and therefore be worth an interview, you must make it clear that you have already achieved success in the roles you have been performing.”
Standing out from the crowd
When it comes to formatting and presentation, Geoff doesn’t believe people need to work to a set formula or template. What does matter, however, is presenting information in a way that makes it easy for employers to quickly identify the impact that you have had. Keep it simple and keep it clear. Remember, it’s not about buzzwords, it about clarity.
“You may choose to summarise all of your career achievements straight away, or to include achievements relative to each previous role,” says Geoff. “What you don’t want is for your achievements to go unnoticed, and as people are time poor and it’s human nature to skim a little as we read, it’s essential to highlight or bring focus to your achievements in some way.”
According to Geoff, how you communicate your achievements is equally important. “If you describe your achievements in vague and qualitative terms you’re not helping future employers to measure your track record of success,” he says. “Your achievements need to be specific, measurable and relevant to the role that you are applying for. And if you’re worried about breaching confidentiality or adding to the length of your CV, remember that most achievements can be incorporated without compromising either of these points.”
Knocking on closed doors?
At any level it’s rare that you will get a second chance if your CV is overlooked. So if you’ve got what it takes but you’re not being invited in for interviews, perhaps your CV isn’t doing a good enough job of selling you and what and you can offer.
“In executive search it’s our role to deeply understand the achievements and capabilities of the candidates that we put forward, so we also play a key role in providing clients with additional insights,” Geoff reflects. “If your phone isn’t ringing it might be time to rethink your CV, or to talk with a specialist who can help to objectively review your approach and position you fairly and favourably to prospective employers.”
For advice on preparing a CV and approach for your next executive role reach out to Gerard Daniels today, or connect with your local consulting team.