How to highlight your achievements on your CV and improve your interview chances

You have probably read in many places that when writing a CV, you should mention your achievements, either in a separate section on the first page, or within your employment / experience section.

In our professional CV writing service, we always highlight our clients' achievements. A good candidate with proven achievements on their CV will have the edge over equally good candidates when it comes to short-listing for interview. Having read this, you've probably also wondered what you should or shouldn't include.

An achievement is a result that you personally bring about while fulfilling a particular role. It is not the same as responsibilities that come under a job description, as these remain fixed no matter who is employed in the post. An achievement is unique to your experience and functions as evidence of your abilities - it tells the employer that you can deliver.

When compiling your list of achievements, think about how you made a difference in a particular job. When we are producing a professional CV, we tend to start with results that can be measured in numbers and you should too. Financial figures carry particular weight: improving profit margins is the bottom line for commercial organisations, while all organisations (including the public sector) are concerned with reducing expenditure and increasing efficiency.

Identifying such achievements is simplest with jobs involving sales: for example, "exceeded sales target by £x in year one." Savings can also be quantified: "developed new administrative systems that reduced expenditure by £x". Likewise, "increased output by x units a year by optimising production processes."

Not all achievements need be expressed in financial terms, however. If you have written a report that subsequently carried major influence within your organisation, include it in your list. If your employer has commended you or singled you out for an award, that is certainly an achievement. An outstanding educational or training result is worthy of mention, providing it's in a subject area that's relevant to the jobs you're applying for. And if you were rapidly promoted in a short space of time, mention it, as this doesn't happen to everyone.

Nor do all achievements have to have occurred in the workplace. Involvement in a community action or campaign that secures a result can also be included. Consistent sporting achievements can briefly be mentioned, if you believe the employer needs to see a high level of motivation for the advertised position. Use your judgement here - don't include non-work achievements for the sake of it, especially if you have plenty of others that are directly work-related.

A list of around six achievements will carry maximum impact, unless you have a very high level of experience with more to include. Whichever you select, be sure to present them clearly and succinctly. Use professional language to emphasise their significance to the employer. Prioritise the points within your achievements section, ensuring that it's always clear which job each achievement relates to. Use bullet points and keep sentences as short and punchy as possible. You'll sound more dynamic if you do.

If you have trouble coming up with a list, asking yourself the following questions may help. When did I feel proudest of my work? When have I known that I'm really good in my job? Which of my actions has received the most praise? What do other people think that I am good at? (If you're not sure, ask them.)

Very often, people look at their finished list of achievements and think "wow, is that person really me?" This reaction reflects the fact that we are all generally poor when it comes to selling ourselves. Yet with a strong achievements section on your CV, all that will change, and you can expect a higher strike rate with interviews as a result.

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