Accomplishment Based Resumes and How to Make Them Truly Effective

a Zoom with Mulberry Talent Partners, Portland, Oregon

Kelsey Daly [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to a Mulberry Talent Partners career conversation. My name is Kelsey Daly and I am the talent acquisition specialist here at Mulberry. So a little bit about Mulberry. We are a full service staffing and recruiting agency headquartered in Portland, Oregon, with an office in the Silicon Valley. We specialize in the professional placements of human resources, professional and financial office, payroll and operations positions with direct hire, temp to hire and temporary opportunities. I would encourage you to check out our website at to see our current job opportunities that we update on a regular basis and check out our previously recorded and upcoming career conversations.

[00:00:46] So today we are joined by Kristen McConnell and Heather McBride. So Kristen is our Director of Operations and Talent at Mulberry Talent Partners. She joined Mulberry in June of 2021 and brings over 25 years of talent acquisition experience.

[00:01:03] We are also joined by Heather McBride. Heather is a professional resume writer and possesses a combined 30 years in human resources and resume consultation. Heather has assisted hundreds of individuals and organizations with 360 performance reviews, corporate recruiting and professional resumes. You can learn more about Heather and the services she offers at

[00:01:24] We’d like today to be super interactive, so please do not shy away from using the Q&A function on Zoom and we will try to get to any and all questions that come in. Without further ado, I’d like to pass it off to Heather.

Heather McBride [00:01:40] Hi, everybody. I’m so happy to be here. Should I go ahead and share my screen?

Kelsey Daly [00:01:46] Yeah, go ahead and share your screen.

Heather McBride [00:01:48] Okay. So I was thinking about what would benefit people in today’s job search world and I thought about this.

I’ve done some training in accomplishment-based and targeted resumes, and I pulled some of the data from that training to share with everybody. Basically, what we’re going to do is focus on accomplishment-based resumes versus task-based resumes. When it’s appropriate, when it’s not, how much experience one would want with more of a task-based resume, and when you would like to use an accomplishment-based resume, which is, usually, most of the time.

So let me just move on here. But first, before we go into that, I want to talk about two things that are extremely important, questions I get from my clients on a daily basis, and that is, do I really need a cover letter and how important is LinkedIn? I know that there’s been a lot of discussion about cover letters and LinkedIn over the last couple of months. I’ve seen a couple of presentations that have happened at Mulberry, and so I want to offer maybe a similar or a different opinion about cover letters and LinkedIn. Everything that I’m going to say today may or may not be applicable. There’s not one right way to do anything. But this is what I have found to be true for most of my clients.

There are some fields where cover letters aren’t going to be really applicable. Hourly service employees tend to require applications and resumes. If there’s a warm referral or you’re being recommended and they want you to get that resume right over, you might not want to use a cover letter, but in general a cover letter is very important. It’s a vital marketing tool. It’s part of your toolbox, your cover letter, your resume and your LinkedIn are like the triangle that will really help you be as effective as possible within your job search.

The most important thing about a cover letter is it’s a summarization of your resume and it focuses on what matters to them, the relevant summarization. You see these cover letters that say, I saw your posting at such and such and I’m very interested in the job. What I would like to say is there is a unique way of approaching cover letters. If you address what you think their needs are in the first paragraph, you’re talking to them and you’re talking about their pain points.

Then, what you do is you have a summarization or bullet points. It can be a paragraph. I suggest bullet points because that way you can plug and play them in and out depending on the jobs that you apply for. But you know what to put in those bullet points because in the job posting it says what the duties and qualifications [for the job position] are. You can address those and you can take from your resume, you can take from their job posting and re-word it so that you’re talking to them and their needs. So redundancy in your cover letter is okay.

I suggest staying to one page. There are technical fields where two pages might be applicable, but as much as you possibly can, stay to one page and get straight to the point with some bullet points that address what’s in their job posting. And what I say about cover letters, too, is that, yes, as an HR and talent acquisition professional, before I started doing this, there were times where I didn’t read the cover letter. 50/50, it depended on how much time I had. But if you were one of my top candidates and I was going to be pushing that resume package over to the hiring leader, I would definitely read the cover letter and it gave me the opportunity to see what your communication skills were like, if you could get straight to the point. It proved to me that you would go the extra mile compared to your competition. So I just wanted to touch base a little bit about cover letters and give you the quick dirty about it because that just that question comes up so many times. And when you do a cover letter, I think that you have a little bit of a competitive edge.

[00:06:18] So the next thing is LinkedIn. I want to tell you a little story. It’s not the norm, but it blew my mind last year. I had a client that had a LinkedIn that was just basic. She had been in her job for many years, wanted to make a change, and I helped her with her resume. I always say, “look, I’m going to do your resume, but we need to also do your LinkedIn because a strong LinkedIn supports a strong resume”. When I was a recruiter, I would go into LinkedIn, use the Boolean search for those skill sets to find my candidate. I found most of my candidates through LinkedIn for three years when I worked at Oxford Instruments. When I did this LinkedIn for her, no joke, that night, a VP of a company found her, wanted to interview her that week, and she never had to apply for a job. You know, three interviews down the road, she got the offer and they relocated it to the other side of the United States.

That’s not the norm. But that’s how effective LinkedIn can be and I know that recruiters have that backend program and they can Boolean search and they can find you. Even if they don’t have that backend program, they can still find you as an individual searching those skill sets. So do a LinkedIn and turn off the notifications if you’re concerned that your company is going to be notified. There’s more about LinkedIn, but it’s a very important job search tool.

[00:07:49] Here’s something else I was thinking about. There’s a lot of conflicting information about how to handle social media like LinkedIn compared to your resume. LinkedIn has turned into more of a social media platform in this day and age with the postings and the feed. But, really, it’s the wave of the future. We may not even have paper resumes in five years. LinkedIn is set up with a professional summary, your experience, your skill sets and aligned with your resume as far as language so you don’t have to come up with different language for your LinkedIn. If you’ve got a solid resume, move that data over there. It’s maybe the only time a recruiter sees you on LinkedIn. Why not use your data from your resume? I’m not saying put like proprietary information on there about your company, especially your current company, but you can use your narratives, you can use your skill set, you can use your title, you can use past employment, some of your accomplishments. So I try to mirror my resume because it’s my online resume, and that’s why you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with your language. Now, again, I want to say there are a lot of people with different opinions, but I have found this to be the most successful for my clients.

[00:09:10] Alright. So onto the resume portion. This is a screenshot of one of my training programs. The three things we’re going to talk about, for accomplishment-based resumes or targeted resumes, is the difference between task-based and accomplishment-based resumes. How you write an accomplishment, the most effective way to write an accomplishment using the SAR method, which you’ve probably heard because a lot of you are human resources professionals, and behavioral interviewing. Also, just a side note, writing these for your resume helps prepare you for your interview. I do a lot of work in my edit calls with clients about SAR and behavioral interviewing and where you can place those accomplishments in your resume. Alright. There’s a controversy about which one it should be, but the easiest way for me is SAR.

[00:10:05] So Situation and Task. You’ve got the three components of a really good accomplishment-based bullet point. What was the problem or the challenge? What were the steps that you took to solve it even if you worked with the team? We’re going to talk a little bit about that at the end of this presentation about team versus I. And what were the qualitative or quantitative results?

So I found a couple of bullet points that I wrote for myself just so I didn’t disclose any client information. Let’s go over to the task-based/accomplishment-based [slide]. A task-based resume is the kind of resume that you see where it’s just a list of duties that you do, what your day-to-day looks like and those things are also very important in an accomplishment-based resume, but you take it to the next level. A task-based bullet point would be, for example, handle incoming telephone calls, plant seed and grow plants to maturity, analysis and reporting for hospital board of directors, etc. These are different types of industries. So those are things you find in a job description that tell you what your duties are going to be in the day-to-day.

Then, what you do is you take that task to the next level. So if the situation is you need to handle telephone calls, maybe in a call center, you could mention that you’re managing 50 clients across the nation, resulting in an increased call volume by 15%. That’s a quantitative result. For the nursery task-based resume, what did you do to solve the problem? You reduce the plant diseases and increase propagation times, resulting in 60% reduction in lost plants. Then, again, increasing hospital reported data accuracy by 90% for the analysis and reporting. So that’s really what you do. What was the situation? What were the actions that you took? Maybe you don’t put the actions in a bullet point, but it helps you get to the results when you’re putting it in your resume.

Then, what were the dollars for sales people, account managers? How much did you increase revenue? What was the percentage? If you can’t use numbers because it’s proprietary and it’s not public information, you can use percentages. Now, how many clients did you bring on board? What problems did you see this year? A safety guy or gal; what safety issues did you solve? Did you prevent OSHA inspections for reporting and analysis? The data accuracy? You can even take that to another level and say data accuracy by 90%, which solved a particular problem. So even though it’s situation-action-result, you can mix and match how you present the data in the bullet points.

Here are a couple of examples that I came up with. Reorganized four departments into a streamlined call center, health records department, reducing annual payroll by 50K. And sometimes people think that in an industry 50K doesn’t sound like a lot. So that’s when you might say a reduced annual payroll by 20%. Or designed, developed and implemented a 360 degree review using SurveyMonkey and providing a forum for operational feedback and preparation for strategic play. There again is the situation and what were the results? I put a little action in there also.

The third one is design and train performance management processes, instilling supervisor confidence and reducing excessive administrative hours that impact operations. So notice that the two bullet points designed and developed and designed and trained don’t have numbers, but they do talk about the qualitative or the impact on the organization.

Okay. So one of the things that I have noticed, especially in the human resources world and other departments where it’s more people-centered, where your role is support. I find that a lot of people tend to in their resume say ‘we’ or ‘the team’ or ;in the organization’, the culture is team-based. We and I get that. People have problems bragging about themselves, which is why sometimes they work with a professional because somebody else can do it better for you. If you have that tendency to focus on what ‘we’ are doing rather than what your individual contributions are, that’s great inside of the organization. I’m a big proponent of that. I was that way. I’m still that way. I like to be behind the scenes. I like to help people and I don’t need the credit, that type of thing. But on your resumé you need to identify what your contributions were. It’s okay, I say, to push the envelope and be more of an eye where you’re taking credit for the accomplishments. If you’re a leader within your department, even if you’re not, your contributions created that and you’re going to have an opportunity in the interview to give more details.

So the resumé is about getting the interview and the interview is about getting the job and in that interview you can give more details and show them that you are a collaborative team player. But in the resumé hiring leaders want to see what you can do for them in that role. I’m not saying don’t put a little bit of that team work in there, but when you’re talking about your accomplishments, unless you’re talking about being a project manager or a team-lead where you’re developing teams, try to focus your accomplishments on your individual contributions.

Another thing that I find is, I think it’s what you call the halo effect, it’s been a little while since I use that terminology, but people say “I can’t remember that 20 years of experience. I can’t remember what I did”. So one of the ways that I jog their memory is by asking them to find their job descriptions, asking them to provide me with performance reviews. Reports that you’ve created for your team or for your leadership or for your board of directors tend to have summarization of things that you and your team did. Presentations that you’ve created for training for maybe an external entity or where you’re doing your annual or your biannual reporting of what you and your department accomplished. Sometimes you can find what your team did on your company website, in your media, in the ‘about’ section. A lot of times marketing people will put what the organization did, and it’ll jog your memory of what your contributions were.

The other way that you can do it is go and search job postings that are similar to the work that you’ve done. Look at their duties and requirements to jog your memory about what you’ve contributed.

So I wanted to present you with places where you can go to find your accomplishments. Because what I want you to do today, actually, is start an accomplishment database so that you can prevent that, what happened in the last three months, is only what’s in your brain. What I say is bring up a word or an Excel spreadsheet. Call it an accomplishment database and in this busy world where you’re doing something and everything all day long, especially if you’re in leadership roles or a pretty extreme responsibility level position, why not put it on your Google calendar or wherever your calendar and write ‘accomplishment session’? And that week or twice a month or once a month, you go into that and you even have the columns like Situation-Action-Result. Like, what did you accomplish this week or during this time period? What steps did you take and what were the results? Because if you do that, I’ve had so many clients over the last seven years. If they do that, they’ll call me after two or three years and say, “Hey, I got that job a couple of years ago. I’m looking for another job”. And then I said, ”Did you do that database, the ones that did, when we have our session, they can go back over that period of time and access their accomplishments. And then what they had is a database of plug and play, so they can just look at the job postings, look at their accomplishment database. They’ve got a solid resumé and they just put the relevant bullet points that matter to the job inside of their accomplishments, and it takes them like 15 minutes. They can also do that in their cover letter if they do an accomplishment database.

So it’s something that I was thinking about that I didn’t do a slide for is a placement. There’re lots of places on the resume where you can put accomplishments in your professional summary, which could be should be at the top, just like LinkedIn professional summary, or you can call it highlights of qualifications where you talk about you as the professional, calling yourself what it is they’re looking for, give them what they want, psychologically, speak their language. And in that summary, you can put one or two bullet points of the accomplishments that matter the most to them. You can weave these accomplishments into that narrative. That’s like the job description of what you do in the title on the resume. Or you can leave your accomplishments outside of the narrative and go highlights of accomplishments or selected highlights or relevant highlights.  Then on the bullet points, put the accomplishments.

And I say, Don’t just do this whole paragraph, and it’s all slammed on there. When a person is looking at a resume, you’re wanting to pull them down the document. You’re wanting to keep them engaged. You don’t want them to have reader fatigue. So if you separate out the data, even if you yourself are like, okay, I don’t have any qualitative or quantitative results, what you can do is you can have your day to day narrative and your selected highlights can be the most important things that you do, in your opinion, that are relevant to the job posting. So you can put the accomplishments all over the place in different ways, or you can just have them right under the narrative. I have a lot of information in my head I could go on on about this, but I would love to field some questions about what I’ve been talking about.

Kristen McConnell [00:21:44] Hi, Heather. Hi, everybody. It’s Kristin. I have a couple of things, and not so much questions, but just some from a person who reads resumes all day long. But just some of the things that you highlighted about just that last point of waiting reader fatigue on resumes and how separating that data out is so critical. And we talk to candidates about that. But that was the perfect way to phrase that, because sometimes we struggle with how to explain how to avoid the paragraph, because it’s just so hard to read that when you’re going through so many candidates sometimes, and if you’re not spending your day reading resumes, t’s just that you can’t digest it sometimes. I think that’s a really good way to to say that, to keep your eyes moving down the document. I think that’s really helpful. And I love the idea of the accomplishment database and trying to keep that information at your fingertips, because it is hard sometimes to to think about what you have accomplished. Soo I think that’s just an excellent suggestion. I’m curious if you have any thoughts or guidance on how many bullet points or like individual things you should have per job, you know? It probably depends a little bit on your length of service in the position, but do you have a recommendation, a minimum versus a maximum number of things that people should list?

Heather McBride [00:22:59] Okay. I have a very formulated method of resume. I don’t believe that they have to look all different because LinkedIn doesn’t look different. We train ourselves to see what’s on LinkedIn. And so that’s why I want to say that. First, as far as bullet points, let me give you two or three examples. Say you have someone that’s been coming out of college with 3 to 5 years of experience. I always say, okay, one page resume. The narrative which is more of a paragraph will be shorter. And I say you might be struggling to find bullet points. So three. Three in your last job, then you could do two in your job before that one, or maybe even none. Then, at the top, you could have your professional summary or the objective is really outdated. It really bores people to death that objective because it may not be the same objective. The company has set yourself up for failure by doing that immediately. But even if you’re just saying in your professional summary, ‘aspiring mechanical engineer’, or if you have more experience, you can say ‘experienced mechanical engineer in the field, in the industries of..’ and talk a little bit about being a collaborative team player.

Then, I say do and areas of experience and/or areas of expertie. Whereas two or three columns of the skill sets using the language they use in their job posting, because then what you’re doing is you’re addressing the human factor of those people. When we’re screening resumes, we’re like, okay, all right, does this look good? Okay. But the applicant tracking systems pick it up because as you know, the algorithms and applicant tracking systems are different and they’re looking for a certain percentage of keywords and they’re going to use that job posting and its language, take that, hijack it, then also show that if you use the skill set, the wording that they use, you can acclimate to their culture. Companies love to say things differently, and they don’t realize how much of a disservice they do to themselves sometimes. Then software, technology, and then you’re going into professional experience, show that you’re technologically savvy, show any pertinent, important education, but you’re doing this and all and a little bits. So you said something about the paragraph that those paragraphs can kill us. But I’ll tell you what, if you’ve got a one or two page, two pages more around ten years or more specific like R&D, scientists CV type of thing. If you’ve done it the way that I’m saying, they’re not there right before they get too tired of those columns of keywords are already in your professional experience. They’ll go to the bullet points. That’s where our eye goes. So if you’ve got them by then, it’s like Jerry Maguire; “you had me at hello”, right? Grab me. Give me my relevant stuff. I’m going to take the time to go back and read the little narrative paragraphs of the day to day. Does that answer the question?

Kelsey Daly [00:26:07] It does, it does.

Heather McBride [00:26:08] Oh, I have one more thing. I did a resume yesterday for somebody, a federal resume, a big time federal bigwig. He had like eight bullet points. But it was federal, it’s required. People know their standards. I say trust your intuition. If it’s relevant, they don’t have to read the second or third page. So if those bullet points are really relative, like you’re an R&D guy or gal and you made a breakthrough with antibodies or something, you’re going to have more bullet points.

There is no right or wrong way to do a resume, and if that person is writing well and they’re giving you relevant information, you’re going to read more of what they have. Does that speak true to you two. You’re on the other side right now. I’m on the writing resume side and you do the recruiting. Does that speak true to you?

Kelsey Daly [00:27:06] I think so. I think so. Now, we had a question come in from Josh. He says, “when writing a resume, should it be 100% accomplishment based or are all task based claims, able to be worded as accomplishments?”

Heather McBride [00:27:25] I have a question for Josh. What’s the industry? Would he be able to share that?

Kelsey Daly [00:27:34] Yes, Josh, if you can…oh, yeah, camps/childcare.

Heather McBride [00:27:40] Oh, okay. For childcare, it’s going to be more task-based. Well, it depends on if you’re a camp director where you’re going to have how much enrollment increase you had. You’re going to have the programs that you developed. But if you’re a camp counselor, you’re going to talk about more of those qualitative thing, of what your approach is with your children, and what you do day to day. So it all depends on the responsibility level.

The people that are more individual contributors that are reporting in to somebody accountable are going to have more task-based. If they’re specialized fields like user experience, UX or client relations people, they’re going to have a mix of task-based and accomplishment-based. And then as you go up on the, I hate the word, food chain, but more responsibility and accountability to senior leadership of board of directors. Those people want to see the results that you’ve done for organizations so they can see that you’re going to do it for them, too.

Kelsey Daly [00:28:51] Great. Okay. Josh says that makes sense. So thank you. Good. Perfect. Well, I think we’re coming to the end already. 30 minutes goes by so fast.

Heather McBride [00:29:02] Oh, really? I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to say.

Kelsey Daly [00:29:06] Here at the end. So let me share my screen again. Yes. And I would like to say, Mulberry, we’ve been fortunate enough to know Heather for a while now. And we have several candidates that have had a lot of success in working with Heather and in going to her and working through resume updates and LinkedIn updates. It just makes a world of difference if you just need to have that overview and that refresh and Heather just does an excellent job. We’re so lucky to have her as a partner and someone that we refer people to and to have you as a resource. So thank you, Heather.

Heather McBride [00:29:39] Thank you. It really is an honor for me to help the people that you send over. I love what I do and it’s just a pleasure to be able to help people find those jobs and to be part of that process, knowing at the end of the day, you’ve contributed. I know that you two feel that way about your people. So thank you very much. I sincerely appreciate.

Kelsey Daly [00:30:00] Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Here are a few ways to stay in touch with us so you can connect with all of us on LinkedIn. I provided all our emails as well, and we just want to thank everybody for tuning in today. We know you have a lot of different options when it comes to webinars, but we’re really happy that you chose ours. So hope to see you at future conversations. And thank you so much, Heather and Kristin.

Kelsey Daly [00:30:22] Thank you, everybody.

Heather McBride [00:30:22] Have a great day, everybody.

Kelsey Daly [00:30:24] Bye bye.

Want to learn more about how to write a resume that pops? Read “The White Squirrel Resume OR How To Make My Resume Stand Out