Elevate your CV by highlighting all of your successes
Awards and achievements are some of the trickier things to include on your CV. After all, we're brought up to be modest, not to boast, and to sometimes even downplay our successes. But in today's competitive job market, you need to sell yourself. It's not an easy feat to make the switch from being modest to blowing your own trumpet, but fear not, marketing yourself on your CV is the way to go. If you can't show off your accomplishments on your CV, when can you?
Here are some tips on using your achievements to make your CV truly stand out for the job you're applying for.
What are awards and achievements?
Achievements and accomplishments are not the same as responsibilities. Responsibilities are listed in your job description and explain what you're expected to do to successfully execute your role. Achievements show how you've gone above and beyond to deliver a positive result for the company. They're examples of how you've excelled, added value, and contributed, in addition to carrying out your daily responsibilities. Everyone who takes on the role will have the same responsibilities, but different achievements.
Awards are given in recognition of your contributions and can be given to individuals or groups by academic institutions, managers, businesses, or external bodies. If you've been part of a team that's won an award, it's absolutely vital that you include it on your CV.
Why you should list awards and achievements on your CV
By including awards and accomplishments on your CV, you'll be positioning yourself a step ahead of other applicants, right from the start. Prospective employers and hiring managers will see that you've excelled in previous roles and will therefore assume that you're likely to continue delivering results for their business.
Awards are, in some ways, even better than achievements, as they provide third-party validation and recognition of your value. Most sales professionals will claim to have increased sales, for example, but winning Salesperson of the Year shows that you've performed beyond expectations and above your peers. If you're looking for a way to highlight your value without sounding boastful, including awards on your CV is an excellent way to prove your worth.
Which types of achievement should you include on your CV?
The exact achievements and awards you include on your CV will vary depending on your role and seniority. Entry-level applicants should focus on academic awards, whereas those who are further along their career paths should emphasise professional achievements. Personal successes and volunteering can also be included on your CV.
Academic accomplishment examples:
Gaining strong grades
Leading a club or society
Securing election to a committee
Winning academic awards or honours
Professional accomplishment examples:
- Winning industry awards or related awards
- Contributing to, or leading, one-off projects
- Overcoming team or business challenges
Increasing sales or revenue
Saving time or money
Introducing new processes or products
Increasing social media reach
Achieving or exceeding targets and KPIs
Innovating or generating new ideas
Personal accomplishment examples:
Raising large sums of money for charity
Leading or coaching a sports team
Completing an endurance event
These are just a few examples, so have a think about what you've achieved academically, personally and professionally.
Top tip: Even if you're not seeking a new job, it's worth taking a few moments every few weeks or months to update your CV with your accomplishments. That way you won't forget that you resolved that customer's complaint to such an extent that they went on to purchase over £1,000 worth of extra goods!
How to track your achievements
If you track your accomplishments on a regular basis, your future self will thank you. You never know what opportunity could be around the corner, so rather than throwing together a last-minute list (which will almost certainly miss key points and cause stress), it's better to maintain an ongoing record. That way, you'll be prepared to apply, avoid the small things that could stop you getting promoted, and be able to find a new role or negotiate your salary during a performance review.
Tracking your achievements need not be difficult - in fact, it can be as simple as recording details in a work diary. The more creative or technically proficient among you may prefer to build an online portfolio.
We also recommend keeping a record on a master copy of your CV. It doesn't need to be perfect or pretty, as long as the key information is there - including dates. Then, when you're ready to take the next step, you simply need to copy the relevant details onto your tailored CV. LinkedIn serves equally well, with the advantage of having your successes immediately visible to your network. You may even find that your newly updated profile leads to job offers before you've even started applying!
Where should you list awards and accomplishments on your CV?
There are two main ways of listing awards and accomplishments on your CV. Firstly, you could create one specific achievements section, right under your profile. This works well for those who are looking for their first job or those struggling to identify many work-related achievements.
The alternative is to create a Key Achievements section for every role. This has the advantage of showing a strong record of success throughout your professional life and is the recommended route for anyone established in their career.
If you only have one or two awards, count them as achievements and list them alongside your other successes in the relevant role. If you have three or more awards, you can adopt a combination of both. Create a specific Awards section, in addition to role-specific achievements sections. Place this section below your career history.
Top tip: Refer to any awards in your personal statement or cover letter, particularly if it's a particularly prestigious one. It never hurts to sneak in a reference to your “award-winning” performance!
How should you list awards and achievements on your CV?
The achievements sections should always be bulleted. The bullet points not only help the reader to pick out key points, but also force you to write concisely. One or two lines per achievement is plenty, with around three to six achievements per role.
Start each bullet in your CV with an action verb, such as delivered, succeeded, accomplished, saved, increased, and so on. Then state the positive outcome for the business by quantifying the results. Saying you increased sales by £5,000 is far better than saying you increased sales. You can also include a brief summary of how you achieved this.
Awards should be listed with the title of the award, the awarding body, and the year in which you won it.
Examples of strong accomplishments
Examples of accomplishments for a CV in retail sales:
- Delivered a £15,000 increase in revenue by providing staff training on upselling
- Exceeded challenging sales targets by 34% by building long-term customer relationships
- Led the store to achieve recognition as the best performing in the region
Examples of accomplishments for a CV in marketing:
- Launched a new product which exceeded sales forecasts by 20%, having coordinated on- and offline campaigns
- Increased Facebook followers by 25% and X followers by 15% by developing engaging content
- Secured internal promotion from Marketing Assistant to Marketing Executive, having independently managed a product rebrand
Examples of accomplishments for a CV in administration:
- Reduced overdue payments by 15% by establishing a new database to facilitate payment tracking
- Successfully trained 2 new Administrators, enabling them to contribute to the team at an early stage
- Developed a new filing system, which was commended by staff from several teams and was adopted as company best practice
Examples of accomplishments for a CV in health and safety management:
- Introduced an electronic COSHH management system, due to previous lack of controls with regards to hazardous substances
- Established a legal update register that managed audit activities along with legal compliance requirements
- Created a cross-departmental Safety Representative role to engage and consult with employees on safety issues, resulting in shop floor safety discussions, adoption of resolutions, and the sharing of best practice
Examples of accomplishments for a CV in youth work:
- Took ownership of the renovation of an abandoned four-bedroom property, transforming it into a refuge for young girls
- Supported the needs of vulnerable young girls by applying relevant resources to educate professionals on how best to support them
- Highlighted the common global thread of girls and women experiencing exploitation, which resulted in connecting women and girls from all walks of life to share and heal together
Examples of accomplishments on a CV for a student:
- One of only 25 students to be selected, out of 160 applicants, as a marketing intern
- Promoted to Saturday Supervisor at Carats Cafe due to outstanding problem solving skills and diligence, line managing five members of staff
- Set up and launched a gardening business, acquiring new custom via recommendations from existing clientele
Example of a general awards section
- Company A Ltd: Salesperson of the Year, 2022
- Industry Body: Team Winner - Most Innovative Sales Campaign Award, 2021
- Company B Plc: Silver Award for Leadership, 2020
Example of an awards section for a graduate:
- Awarded first place in the Nottingham Malaysia Campus Frisbee Tournament (2021)
- High School Olympiad Mathematics Representative (2020)
- Global Leader Experiences, Kuala Lumpur (2019)
Now that you have the lowdown on how to include accomplishments on your CV, there's no excuse to present a weak, responsibility-focused document next time you apply for a job. As an added bonus, focusing on your successes will send your confidence sky high - and that's something everyone needs during their job search.
Find out if you're correctly including accomplishments on your CV by requesting a free review from our experts today.
This article was originally written by Jen David and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.