Google’s dictionary defines a ‘task’ as ‘a piece of work to be done or undertaken’, and ‘responsibility’ as ‘a thing which one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation’.
Listing tasks or responsibilities on your CV tells the person reading it nothing more than what you were required to do. It makes for a dry and dull read. It doesn’t tell them how you made a difference, what your results were, why you were an employee or supplier worth retaining.
What’s more, anyone has held that position could, in theory, list the same tasks or responsibilities. You could end up presenting a similar CV to other applicants, making it hard for the person reading your CV to understand how you are different.
By contrast, Google’s dictionary defines ‘achievement’ as ‘a thing done successfully with effort, skill, or courage’. A much more dynamic definition!
Outlining achievements (what you accomplished) rather than tasks and responsibilities (what you were required to do) will strengthen your CV, giving the reader a better understanding of your experience, skills, and future potential.
I appreciate that it can be tricky to think of what you achieved by performing a defined task, which is perhaps why some people resort to listing duties and responsibilities instead. So, I thought it might be useful to share some questions that will help you to define your achievements.
Question 1: What was your task or responsibility?
Let’s use an example.
Imagine if you were a banquet attendant at Hotel XYZ. One of your tasks might be to set up tables and chairs. If you were simply listing responsibilities on your CV, you might write ‘Set up chairs and tables for hotel events’.
So far, so boring. But how can you transform this straightforward if highly physical task into something more dynamic? Let us move to question two.
Question 2: What might have happened if you hadn’t done it?
Consider what might have happened if you hadn’t done that task at all, or hadn’t done it well.
In our example above, lots of things may have happened if you hadn’t set up the chairs and tables for the event.
Paying clients may have entered Hotel XYZ’s banquet hall and discovered an unprepared venue with insufficient seating.
As a result, they may have been late to sit down for their meal, throwing the event timetable into disarray. The caterers, who planned on serving dinner at an agreed time, may have needed a plan B. Catering and serving staff may be required to work extra hours to accommodate the delay, meaning more expense and less profit for the hotel. The wedding speeches may have been delayed, postponing the moment when nervous speech givers could truly relax. The band may have had a later start time than planned, and may charge clients more for a later finish or offer a shorter set.
The wedding party and their guests may not have received the service or experience they had expected Hotel XYZ to deliver. They may have got a poor impression of Hotel XYZ. They may have complained. They may have asked for a discount. They probably would have told others about their experience. They might even have left adverse reviews online, affecting Hotel XYZ’s positive rating on TripAdvisor or another review site. This adverse publicity may have put others off booking Hotel XYZ for their wedding or event. As a result, the hotel may not meet its sales target for wedding packages. Revenues may have dipped; staffing would necessarily reduce, all because you didn’t put the chairs and tables out on time!
I acknowledge this is an extreme representation, but it goes to show that all actions have a reaction, and tasks and responsibilities have a consequence, for your employer and their clients. Let’s move on to question three.
Question 3: What benefit did you achieve by doing it?
For every answer outlined in response to question two, consider the opposite situation. This will help clarify the benefits you delivered by performing your task.
Looking at the answers above, it seems like by doing my job well, I have most likely helped Hotel XYZ to meet and exceed its clients’ expectations, thereby ensuring their satisfaction, avoiding any negative feedback on- or offline, and maintaining its overall reputation. My actions also helped Hotel XYZ to protect its profit margins by ensuring weddings and other events ran to time, avoiding unplanned costs.
Having identified the benefits you delivered, you can use them to craft achievement-focused bullets for use on your CV. Here are some examples:
- Positioned Hotel XYZ to achieve and maintain an average 4.5/5 TripAdvisor bubble rating by ensuring timely, accurate set up of weddings and events
- Facilitated cost-effective and quality delivery of hotel events by ensuring timely set-up of chairs, tables, and equipment for each booking
- Helped Hotel XYZ to secure 50 new wedding bookings for 2020 by working as a team to deliver a high-quality wedding experience for 2019 clients
You can read more about how to create strong bullet points here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-write-bullet-proof-cv-bullets-lis-mcguire/.
If your CV features tasks and responsibilities, use these three questions to turn them into attention-grabbing bullets that will intrigue your target reader to find out more.