Resume Accomplishments: What to Avoid

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While knowing what to include in your resume accomplishments to showcase your skills, achievements and strengths is important, knowing what to avoid in this section is vital as well. Ultimately, the accomplishments section shows resume reviewers how you are results driven, especially when you quantify your resume accomplishments to make yourself stand out from other applicants. They show your work ethic, too.

Including the wrong information in your resume accomplishments is more harmful to how you are perceived than omitting the right information. As you prepare your resume and work on developing a picture of what you can achieve by writing your accomplishments section, avoid making the mistake of including the following types of information:

  • Ancient history
  • Discrimination-producing details
  • Exaggerations and fabrications
  • Irrelevant information
  • Proprietary information

Avoiding ancient history in your resume accomplishments

Ideally, your resume accomplishments are a snapshot of the history of your best work achievements. They are not a snapshot of everything you have ever done in every single job since you started working that summer job in high school 20 years ago. Prospective employers are looking for your biggest accomplishments (that are relevant to the position) that go back 15 years at the most. As a general rule of thumb, include your most recent accomplishments whenever possible, and aim to go back no further than 10-15 years.

Avoiding discrimination-producing history in your resume accomplishments

Keeping information that can expose you to discrimination out of your resume accomplishments section is a decision you must consider. It is a very personal decision; on the surface, you should not have to hide something about who you are in fear of not getting an interview. However, while discrimination should have no place in the hiring process, the reality is that in some cases it does, even if it is not intentional. Information about your religion, age, race, political affiliation or sexuality can influence some prospective employers.

If you have previous work experience that makes this type of bias-inducing information obvious, consider an alternative way to include the information. Put the focus on your achievement in a position by omitting a company’s name if it provides information about you that could lead to discrimination. For example, if you worked for a political campaign of a particular party, write about resume accomplishments while working on the campaign, but omit the party affiliation. Again, this is a personal decision. In some cases, omitting sensitive information can help you land a job, and in others, it can help you lose an opportunity.

Avoiding exaggerations and fabrications in your resume accomplishments

Always use accurate information in your resume accomplishments. If something sounds over the top or unlikely, prospective employers take notice because if something sounds too good to be feasible, it is probably not possible. Keep exaggerations off your resume, and write with facts. For example, if you put that you increased company sales by 50 percent in two weeks, your resume is likely to be tossed in the trash pretty quickly.

You want to avoid exaggerating and fabricating even a little bit. For example, if you increased productivity by 97.8 percent, use that figure; do not embellish it to 100 percent. Increasing anything by 100 percent is unlikely, and prospective employers doubt anything that sounds too good to be true. If your accomplishments really are that good, back up your statements by linking something that proves your statement is true, or consider getting a quote from your supervisor about it.

Avoiding irrelevant information in your resume accomplishments

Keep your resume accomplishments relevant to your current career goals and the position to which you are applying. No matter how proud you are of something you accomplished, omit it if it is irrelevant. Prospective employers care about how your accomplishments translate into showing what you can do for them.

You always want to write to your audience (prospective employers), not to make yourself feel good. If it helps, think of search results in internet search engines. If you search for apples and get oranges, how likely are you to be interested in the results? The same principle applies to drawing the interest of resume reviewers by keeping your resume accomplishments relevant.

Avoiding proprietary information in your resume accomplishments

While using numbers and figures to quantify your resume accomplishments helps get you noticed, avoid sharing information that is considered proprietary. Any accomplishment that reveals a previous employer’s revenue figures, marketing strategies or plans or production secrets need to stay off your resume. This information falls under trade secrets. Instead, use percentage increases to demonstrate what you achieved. Any information that is available to the public, however, is information you may include.

Keeping the above types of information off your resume accomplishments section is the best way to ensure your resume does not get noticed for the wrong reasons. Stick to factual information that is relevant while protecting trade secrets, and you are much more likely to get your resume noticed for the right reasons.