Achievement Stories

Achievement Stories

What is an Achievement Story?

An achievement story describes a past accomplishment. These stories act as evidence to prove that you have the skills or expertise to perform the role you are applying. Achievement stories should, where possible, be quantified. However, an achievement story should also go beyond the data and result and include details of how you achieved the outcome; your actions. These insights will highlight your unique approach, skills and personability and help to set you apart.

Advice for Thinking of Achievement Stories

Once you move through this step, the rest is easy, even more so if you do this part well.

If you have gotten this far and you are thinking, ‘I know I need achievements, but I just can not think of any!’ Work through the prompts. You might be surprised.

You don’t need to approach this in order. Rather than working your way through your experience and trying to remember your successes for each role, use the job advertisement or position description as a prompt.

In other words, for each key selection criteria, try and think of an example of where you have used this skill, knowledge, expertise to achieve an outcome.

Similarly, for each of the duties or responsibilities of the role, think of an example when you have performed these tasks well.

As you think of examples, insert each achievement under the position, education or experience it relates.

I didn’t write this guide from start to finish. Ideas came to me for the section on targeting mid-way through this section, so I jumped there, and now I am back. Do that. It is much easier to go with the flow of ideas than try to force it. 

Equally, don’t worry about creating a perfectly polished achievement story straight up. Get the thoughts on paper before you worry about making it sound ok! You will edit later.  In this step, focus on ideas.

Below I have set out how to write an achievement story and included prompts to help you think of examples.

Aim to have at least one achievement story for each key selection criteria.

Remember, achievements stories are not just for work experience. You can also use achievement stories within your education and volunteer work.

Ideally, you want to have at least three achievement stories per role.

For assistance writing your resume, complete a quote request.

How to Write an Achievement Story

The most straightforward formula for writing an achievement story is:

Accomplished (X) by doing (Z)

Lead with the result (X), and then describe what actions (Y) you took to achieve that result. 

It is important to quantify where possible. This means using numbers, percentages, dates, dollar amounts or brand names to add additional weight.  (Don’t be too concerned if you can’t, not all achievement stories need a number, but where you can, you should.)

Here is an example of how this works:

Annie recalls that when she first started in her role, she reviewed accounts and identified over 1000 cases of rental car arrears. She discovered no invoicing for damages had occurred for two years. She was proud of finding this error, and her actions allowed her company to collect significant arrears.

Turning this into an achievement story worked like this:

Start with the result and if possible quantify: (always use a strong action verb to begin and make sure you use a variety throughout your resume)

  • Led recovery of 1134 delinquent accounts with rental car arrears of $784K

Add a description of actions taken:

  • Led recovery of 1134 delinquent accounts with rental car arrears of $784K. On commencement in role uncovered invoicing error. Coordinated arrears collection over eight months.

For added impact, add in any challenges or obstacles overcame:

  • Led recovery of 1134 delinquent accounts with rental car arrears of $784K. On commencement in role uncovered invoicing error. Overcame challenge of missing and incomplete records. Coordinated arrears collection over eight months.

If you are writing your resume in the first person, you might write this one like this:

  • Led the recovery of 1134 delinquent accounts with rental car arrears of $784K. On commencement, I uncovered invoicing errors and overcame the challenge of missing and incomplete records to coordinate arrears collection over eight months.

Achievement Story Examples

  • Designed network to download and record meter readings to a database; eliminated need to travel into the field and saved $5K annually.
  • Took initiative to cover the work of colleague on extended leave. Noticed the accumulation of tasks. Approached manager during a quiet period and offered to assist.
  • Resolved refund issue for a customer and avoided a complaint to Ombudsman. Conducted investigation. Presented findings to customer. Negotiated mutually agreeable outcome.
  • Coordinated delivery of two charity events with two-month lead time. Put in additional hours and maintained enthusiasm despite pressure and broader team disenchantment.
  • Created lesson on Sound Waves for Year Three Science Class. Undertook research and created an engaging lesson that my mentor teacher praised.

Additional Prompts for Achievement Stories

Here are some general prompts that may help you think of additional achievements. Try to think of examples of when you have:

  • Retained or attracted customers/clients/new business
  • Produced a report of considerable impact
  • Built or protected company reputation
  • Introduced a more effective process
  • Created a successful business case
  • Negotiated a significant outcome
  • Improved team performance
  • Solved a critical problem
  • Developed a new policy
  • Mentored a colleague
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Improved quality
  • Increased sales
  • Reduced costs

You will find additional assistance for writing achievement stories for specific soft skills throughout this website. It is helpful to understand how skills are performed well on the job.

Related: How to Demonstrate Your Ability to Work Independently on Your Resume

Related: How to Demonstrate Attention to Detail on Your Resume

Related: How to Demonstrate You Are a Team Player

Alternatively, if you are finding the process of thinking and writing achievement stories difficult you can obtain some help. (It can be hard to think of examples. Not to mention, how hard it is to write about yourself!) See: Contact Page

Advice on the Responsibilities Section

Your goal should be to create an achievement-focused resume. Setting out your responsibilities is not as persuasive as highlighting what you have done well and the outcomes you have achieved.

If you do include responsibilities on your resume, you should also frame these as benefits and contributions. For example

Here is a responsibility statement from a client before version resume:

Organise and conduct product training sessions for all staff and management in order to increase product knowledge and sales skills

This is the improved version:

Designed and implemented product training, addressing gaps in staff product knowledge and achieving improvements in staff confidence, customer service and sales

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Resume Questions

You Don’t Need a Synonym for ‘proficient’

Resume Writing Assistance

Next Step: The First Page

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