See the Difference Between Activities and Achievements

Hiring managers know when they see achievements on a resume. And if a competitor is putting them on his/her resume and notating them as such, and you’re not, which work documents will the hiring manager be most impressed with?

Achievement Defined

An achievement is the result of what you did; an activity is what you did (or do). For example (all examples are from real resumes):

Sales Manager

Activity: Sourced and trained contractors/employees on the information and sales process of finishing products, services, programs and equipment.

Achievement: Increased sales by 30% to $ 900k annually, improving from the smallest territory to the second largest.


Activity: Ability to effectively liaise with key opinion leaders and establish national and international collaborations with other medical professionals in the field.

Achievement: Received Australian Postgraduate Award and Elite scholarship (given to a limited number of students displaying excellent research potential) and numerous other grants that allowed for global travel to present work and create collaborations.

IT Solution Architect

Activity: Ensure multiple projects are aligned, planned, organized, controlled and delivered within a given program portfolio by working directly with project sponsors in North America, UK, Spain, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

Achievement:  Successfully converted and upgraded existing ERP Assets—Lawson, Oracle and SAP 4.6c—to a common instance and platform SAP ECC 6.0.

Notice that while the activities and achievements both begin with action verbs, the achievements are easy to interpret.


The best way, in my opinion, to present an achievement is to call it that. Avoid burying them in bullet points. They might be listed like this:

See the Difference Between Activities and Achievements  image WP blog 2 revised 2 300x102

While, I have seen resumes where the key accomplishments are kept separate and are listed right below the summary, I think it’s best to keep them connected with a job. It’s just easier for a hiring manager that way because they will be trying to connect them to a job anyway. It’s best to keep their mind uncluttered!

What I See

What I see in the resumes I work on are:

  • What appear to be job seeker blind spots related to struggles in writing about what they have accomplished in the workplace.
  • No achievements listed at all (most common).
  • While achievements may not be on a resume, job seekers often will verbalize them over the phone and/or on a brief questionnaire perhaps not connecting them as items that need to be on their work docs until prodded to do so.

Hiring managers need to be told where to focus when it comes to making sure they notice your workplace achievements, contributions or accomplishments, so make sure they are labeled on your resume.

Also, keep in mind that in the pile of resumes s/he is reviewing, someone will have their contributions highlighted. That’s the one that will be garnering all the attention.

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