How to identify and explain your achievements on your CV

A strong CV not only gives a recruiter an idea of the remit of your roles, but also enables you to explain your achievements.

If you can tell potential employers how you’ve positively impacted companies you’ve previously worked for, they’ll have increased confidence in your ability to excel in their business, too.

What is an achievement?

While you may feel that your greatest achievement in a role was developing your leadership skills or learning a new software package, your CV really needs something more impactful.

They’re great skills to have, but that kind of progress benefits you personally more than the company. You really need to outline successes that have had a positive impact on the business.

A common error is to mistake responsibilities for achievements on your CV. You may have found delivering presentations to be a challenge. But if that’s expected as a regular part of your role, it isn’t an achievement.

Think of times you’ve improved something, reduced costs, increased revenue, streamlined processes, enhanced efficiency and so on. Why was the company better off for having you there?

How can I identify my achievements?

Firstly, think about how your manager measures your success. Do you have targets or KPIs to meet? Meeting them (or, even better, exceeding them), is certainly an achievement.

Aim to quantify this. For example ‘consistently achieving demanding sales targets of £500,000 per quarter’, or ‘surpassing a target for upselling by 30%’.

Next, think about times you’ve influenced change – whether it’s a major business transformation or just a better filing system. What impact has that change had on the company?

Again, quantify this if you possibly can. For example ‘introducing a new system for order handling, resulting in a saving of 10 man-hours per week’.

Have you won any awards? Whether they’re internal awards or external industry awards, this is their time to shine. Make sure your success is shouting loud and clear. Include what the award was for and the year you received it.

Most companies now have some kind of performance appraisal process, so why not go back through your old performance reports? They will often highlight not only successes and achievements, but also work you’ve done beyond the remit of your role and challenges you’ve overcome.

Consider also any projects you’ve worked on. These will often be outside your general job description and achieve a specific aim for the company. Take credit for the outcome of the project – if it wasn’t down to you alone, you can still say you contributed.

If you’re happy with your colleagues or manager knowing about your job search, these are the ideal people to tap into to identify further achievements. They’re working alongside you every day and may remember or appreciate work you’ve done and forgotten about.

Ask them what you’ve achieved while you’ve been in the role, what they see as your strengths and what you’ve done that has been particularly successful. Have a think about positive feedback you’ve had too. Whether that’s from colleagues, management, customers, partners or suppliers.

Have a quick look on LinkedIn as well. Search for people with similar roles to your own and see what kind of achievements they’re highlighting. It might trigger some ideas of your own.

How should I present achievements on my CV?

So now you’ve identified a few achievements for each of your roles, how should you present them? Most of us don’t find it natural, or polite, to brag about our successes. However, done in the right way it can sound confident, rather than arrogant.

The key point to bear in mind is that by quantifying your achievements you’re backing up your claims with fact. You should also write without pronouns, which avoids excessive use of “I”.

Aim for at least three achievements for each role you’ve held in the last 10 years and present them as short, sharp bullet points. A sub-heading of ‘Key Achievements’ under each job title will emphasise what you’ve added to the role beyond just turning up.


To take your CV to the next level, CV Knowhow’s top three tips are:

  • Identify what you’ve added to the business
  • Present your achievements in bullet point form
  • Quantify as many achievements as possible

If you’d like an expert to cast an eye over your CV, you can get a free review from the team at CV Knowhow.

About the author: Jen David has been a CV Consultant since 2010 and currently works for CV Knowhow, the UK’s leading career and CV writing consultancy. She has written CVs for thousands of job seekers from all industries and at all stages in their career, from students to senior executives. Jen aims to add value to CVs, enabling her customers to increase their chances of securing an interview and progress in their chosen career.