Directory of Achievements: Make it easy to create a winning application
One of the hardest tasks in creating an effective job application is identifying and expressing convincing evidence that you have the skills to do the job. The best way to overcome this problem is to compile a Directory of your achievements before you sit down to write your application.
A Directory of Achievements makes it easy to compile a winning resume and to prepare answers to possible interview questions. It also boosts your confidence while you're doing so.
Achievement statements, also called accomplishment statements, are key ingredients of effective job applications because they make interesting and convincing reading. Achievement statements, especially those which describe specific events, demonstrate your approach to your work in a tangible way. Employers are likely to quickly pass over applications which talk in broad, non-specific terms but an application full of relevant achievement statements will grab their interest.
A Directory of Achievements provides you instantly with the relevant information you need to compile a compelling application and to compose winning answers to interview questions.
While compiling the Directory may take some time, the actual task is not difficult. In fact, the task itself is reaffirming and very satisfying. Just try it out for yourself.
So don't wait until you're applying for a job before starting to compile your Directory. Start it today. Here are four steps for doing it.
First identify your relevant achievements
The first step is to determine the relevant skills required for the sort of position you could be looking for in the not too far distant future. To do this, go to a job board and find an advertisement or position description for the sort of job you are considering. Look at the key tasks and responsibilities for the position and the selection criteria. List them. These will become the category headings for your Directory.
If the job you are, or may be, looking for is similar to the one you currently have, list the things you have achieved and are most proud of. It could well be worthwhile looking through performance appraisals as well, to see what other people consider your greatest skills.
Under each of these headings, list occasions when you've used those skills. List them all and be prepared to add to the list when you think of any you may have missed first time round. It's not likely that you'll use them all but the more extensive your list, the more you'll have to choose from and this gives you a greater chance of getting the very best examples.
Richard Parker's (fictitious) application for a sales executive position in the construction industry is featured in my book 'How to Get a Good Job After 50'. This is how he might have done it:
Sales and marketing
- supply and fit roof trusses
- sales team
- met sales targets
Building and construction
- construction of the Garth Penderbury Centre
Then write them up as achievement statements
Achievement statements (also known as accomplishment statements) provide convincing evidence that you have the necessary skills as well as the initiative and motivation to use them effectively. The more specific they are, the more effective they will be.
There are any number of ways of writing achievement statements. However the two you will use most frequently are the 'classic', a short, often one-sentence, statement and the STAR which is significantly longer and tells a whole story.
Let's take a typical example and see how it is constructed:
Increased sales by 16% in the first 12 months after my appointment as Head of the Hardware Department, Montgomery General Store, 2017.
It starts with an Action Verb, 'increased'. This is followed by the action itself, what you did or achieved: 'sales by 16% in the first 12 months after my appointment as Head of the Hardware Department'. The statement ends with the where and the when, 'Montgomery General Store' and '2017'.
Use this formula to get started:
- Action Verb
- What (the action itself or what you achieved)
The classic achievement statement can often be used to introduce further information. This example is from another fictitious resume in the book, this time for a local government technical services manager:
Initiated self-directed work teams in 2014. This approach has improved productivity by up to 20% particularly in outlying areas of the Shire.
As already stated, STARs tell the complete story and can be 200 words or more long. They are often used in cover letters or statements addressing the selection criteria and they are brilliant for answers to interview questions.
Here is another fictitious example from my book:
A major fire destroyed a large part of the manufacturing capacity at the Butterchurn factory in 2018 when I was the factory's Commercial Manager. Damage to the plant and loss of profit totalled $23 million. Without any prior training, I set in motion the process to claim this amount from our insurers as quickly as possible to enable the rapid restoration of production. These actions resulted in:
- An interim payment of $8 million within 48 hours of the fire
- Loss assessors on site within 24 hours
- Partial production resumed within 4 days; full production within 6 weeks
- Full settlement of the claim within four weeks
- Commendation both from the insurers for the way I had managed the claim process and from senior management at the company's headquarters in Los Angeles
The situation and task elements are contained or implied in that first sentence: 'The fire (...) when I was the factory's Commercial Manager'. The implication here is that the applicant was responsible for restoring production as soon as possible.
The action, which often makes up a large proportion of the STAR but, in this example, is only one sentence: 'Without any prior training, I set in motion the process to claim this amount from our insurers as quickly as possible to enable the rapid restoration of production.'
The results are listed in the bullet points.
Now go back to your list of achievements, choose 10 and write them up as achievement statements. Don't worry if they're not yet perfect; you'll be able to improve them as you develop the skills to do so. Now get on with the next 10 - until you have written achievement statements for them all. Then you can start putting them into your Directory.
To find detailed information regarding writing achievement statements, access a copy of my book 'How to Get a Good Job After 50 - 2nd edition', and read Chapter 6, 'The sizzle that sells the story'. Or read my LinkedIn article, 'How to convince an employer of your skills without bragging!'
So now you've started to get a good collection of achievement statements, how do you find the right ones for your application? That's where your Directory comes in.
Now compile your Directory
List the skills and qualities required for the job. Use these as category headings and then file the achievement statements in the appropriate categories. This makes them easy to find when you want them.
This is how Richard Parker might have done it. He has identified two important criteria for the position of Sales Executive with a large construction company: experience in sales and marketing, and in building and construction. He uses these criteria as headings for his Directory:
Sales and marketing
- Identified the market for prefabricated roof trusses, Over the Top Roofing, Williams Lake.
- Initiated and implemented a 'supply and fit' service to the domestic building industry throughout the Cariboo region.
- Developed a motivated sales team, Over the Top Roofing.
- Built and maintained a loyal customer base across the whole region.
Building and construction
- Managed the Garth Penderbury project, a $270 million hospitality development at Elkwater.
And now use your Directory to help you compile your resume and prepare answers to possible interview questions
Using a Directory like this, writing your resume becomes a much easier task and, because of the relevant achievement statements, it becomes a significantly more convincing document. Let's look at how Richard Parker started the Professional Experience section of his resume:
Sales and Marketing Manager
Over-the-Top Roofing Supplies, Williams Lake, BC, 2009-2020
- Initiated and implemented a 'supply and fit' service for prefabricated roof trusses to the domestic building industry throughout the Cariboo region. This enabled the start-up company to gain significant market penetration against two already well-established, national roofing suppliers.
- Developed a motivated sales team who identified with the company's values and principles and who worked hard to ensure that customers' needs were fully met.
- In this way, we built and maintained a loyal customer base across the whole region enabling us to meet all sales targets in spite of a depressed building market.
Builder / Site Supervisor
Carnegie Constructions, Medicine Hat, AB, 1999-2009
- Responsible for the construction of the Garth Penderbury project, a $270 million hospitality development at Elkwater. The project consisted of a 3-storey hotel, 52 self-catering units, 5 restaurants and an information center. The Garth Penderbury Center now caters for about 20,000 tourists a year.
The material was all there in the Directory. All Richard Parker had to do was to add a bit of detail. And it's the same when preparing answers to interview questions. Every answer should comprise at least 50% achievement statements. Let's work out how he might answer a behavioural question such as 'Tell us about a time when you used your initiative to propose an innovative way to increase sales.'
He might answer:
'Probably the best example of an innovative project of mine was shortly after I started with Over the Top Roofing Supplies. With my extensive experience as a builder, it didn't take me long to realise that prefabricated roof trusses were the way to go. So I did some research and took a brief business proposal to management.
'This was accepted. Premisses and equipment were obtained and a team appointed. I impressed on the team the importance of quality and, as a result, we quickly gained greater market share than either of the longer established roofing supplies in the town.'
The last word
The great benefit of a Directory of Achievements is that you have at your fingertips a list of your accomplishments relevant to the selection criteria. Instead of having to scratch your head to think of specific examples, it's all there in the Directory.
The Directory will also help to prevent temptation to write less specifically, and therefore less convincingly, about your experience. Whether or not you are ready to apply for a job, start your Directory today. Up-date it regularly; at the end of each day, think about what you have achieved and write up as an achievement statement. Then, when you are ready, you will find it so much easier to put a winning application together. And the application, including your answers to interview questions, so much more convincing for being full of achievement statements.
As a bonus, should you ever start doubting yourself, read through the Directory to repair your self-confidence. You'll find it very reaffirming. Yes, don't wait. Get started today.
Writing a resume is, for many people, a daunting prospect. People don't like high-noting themselves and yet candidates need to convince employers that they are the best applicants for the job.
The most convincing way of doing this, and one that does not sound like bragging, is to use achievement statements and the easiest way to have a ready supply of relevant achievement statements is to create and maintain a Directory of Achievements. Yes, it requires a bit of work and regular up-dating but when it comes to the time to apply for your next job, you'll be so thankful that you did it. And packed with compelling achievement statements, your application will have a significantly better likelihood of being successful. Read the article, start your Directory today and be prepared for your next promotion or move to a better job.