Elevate your CV by highlighting 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 even downplay our successes. But in today's competitive jobs market, you need to sell yourself. It's no easy feat to make the switch to showing off your accomplishments, but fear not ‒ here are some tips on using them to make your CV shine for the job you're applying for. 

What are awards and achievements?

Achievements are not the same as responsibilities. Responsibilities are listed in your job description and explain what you are expected to do to successfully execute your role. Achievements show how you've gone beyond the bare minimum to deliver a positive result for the company. They are examples of how you've excelled, added value, and contributed in addition to carrying out your basic 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 is absolutely valid to include it on your CV. 

Why you should list awards and achievements on your CV

Put simply, by including achievements and awards on your CV, you'll be positioning yourself a step ahead of other candidates and applicants, right from the start. Employers and hiring managers will see that you've performed well in previous roles and will therefore assume that you are 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 the Salesperson of the Year award shows that they've performed beyond expectations and above their 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 type 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 your seniority. Entry-level applicants may focus on their 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 achievements: 

  • Gaining strong grades

  • Leading a club or society

  • Organising events

  • Winning competitions

  • Securing election to a committee

  • Winning academic awards or honours

Professional achievements:

  • Contributing to, or leading, one-off projects

  • Overcoming team or business challenges 

  • Meeting deadlines 

  • Increasing sales or revenue

  • Saving time or money

  • Improving systems

  • Introducing new processes or products

  • Increasing social media reach 

  • Training others 

  • Achieving or exceeding targets and KPIs

  • Gaining promotion

  • Winning industry awards or related awards

Personal achievements:

  • Raising large sums 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 personally. 

How to track your achievements

If you track your achievements 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 and avoid the small things that could stop you from getting a promotion, and instead be able to find a new role or negotiate your salary at a performance review.

Tracking your achievements need not be difficult – in fact, it can be as simple as recording your 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 on there – including dates. Then, when you're ready to take your next step, you'll 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 achievements on your CV?

There are two main ways of listing awards and achievements 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 and those who are 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're lucky enough to 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. 

You may also like to make a reference to your awards in your personal statement, particularly if you have a 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, ideally, 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 achievement and award sections

Example for a retail sales CV:

  • 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

Example for a marketing CV:

  • Launched a new product which exceeded sales forecasts by 20%, having coordinated both on- and off-line campaigns
  • Increased Twitter followers by 15% and Facebook followers by 25% by developing engaging content
  • Secured internal promotion from Marketing Assistant to Marketing Executive, having independently managed a product rebrand

Example for an administration CV:

  • 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

Example for an awards section:

Now that you have the lowdown on how to include awards and achievements 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 are correctly including achievements and awards on your CV. Request a free CV review today.

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