Watch Your Q’s and A’s!

Without minimizing the importance of being able to answer tough interview questions with concise answers, today’s column is about the other Q’s and A’s: Qualifications and Accomplishments.  Qualifications and Accomplishments are the resume headings misused most frequently during job search document preparation. This happens primarily because the information revealed by both these and other headings can often be similar.  However it’s the way you state the information that differentiates where you should place your content.
When reviewing resumes, employers expect to see orderly and easy to decipher information that reveals something about the skills of the applicants.  That’s one of the reasons the information on a resume is separated into categories.  Skills are sometimes called Skills, and other times referred to as Qualifications.  The difference between these headings is a fine point:  Typically, a list of Skills will include only mentions of functions and talents used in the execution of a candidates work history.  A list of skills alone does not provide detail about how or where the skill was used, nor how the skills relate to the position being sought.
When Qualifications are stated, they convey skills relevant to the job being applied for, and something about the way those skills were used.  Think of your Qualifications as a group of statements that succinctly describe your most important skills and major successes that specifically identify How You Will Do The Job for which you are applying.  Qualifications state your ability to perform the tasks of the job, and what you have done prior that makes you qualified to fill a particular position!
Some examples of Qualifications:

  • Ten + years in management and supervision
  • Superior diagnostic and analytical skills
  • Write and compile computer code in 24 different languages
  • Accurate documentation and communication of details to supervisors
  • Concise translation of technical information into comprehendible lay terms
  • Proficient using MS Office, Photoshop and other productivity software
  • Effective communication with all levels of staff, management and customers
  • Extensive successful experience closing sales and increasing revenues

Stated merely as Skills, they might read like this:

  • Supervisory experience
  • Diagnostics and Analysis
  • Coder (Code Jockey)
  • Detail oriented
  • Read technical schematics
  • Computer literacy
  • Communications
  • Sales

Accomplishments are succinct descriptions of the best and most relevant experiences you had on previous jobs that convey your strengths at performing functions typical of a particular position, your achievements and successes. Sometimes referred to as PAR Statements (Problem, Action, Resolution), your accomplishments can convey not just the what, but the how of your experiences. As always, accomplishment statements should be directly allied to the position you want to fill.  Accomplishment Statements are formulated by using Past Tense Action Verbs to detail specific actions you’ve taken on previous jobs, illustrating how you solved problems, created solutions, took successful steps to make things happen, and completed your tasks.
Now let’s make those same qualifications into Accomplishment/PAR statements:

  • Managed and supervised multiple departments for over ten years resulting in increased productivity and lower turnover rates.
  • Diagnosed test results and analyzed samples to achieve maximum accuracy.
  • Designed and coded XYZ Co.’s ultra HD photo/video manipulation and finishing software using 15 different coding languages, boasting the broadest range of frame rates, imaging formats and their convertibility on the market, delivering release version three weeks ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • Provided accurate documentation to supervisors and clearly communicated findings to insure proper follow-up actions were taken.
  • Translated technical jargon into lay terms for use by marketing department that was subsequently included in product documentation and promotional materials.
  • Used a wide variety of office productivity software to prepare documents and images for marketing presentations and hand-out literature.
  • Communicated effectively with all levels of staff, management and vendors to cultivate strong relationships, increase collaboration and improve pricing.
  • Closed sales and increased revenue for 7 consecutive quarters breaking company-wide sales records, and improving company recognition in the marketplace.

Yes, accomplishment statements are longer and more wordy than merely indicating skills, but they allow you provide greater detail of your actions and their results in the course of performing your job.  Of course some of those details come from lengthier work experience; a more tenured employee should be able to provide more detail about their capabilities.
It’s not a bad idea to build an arsenal of strong accomplishment statements.  Every job seeker should have at least ten that they can plug-in to represent the breadth of their careers and work history.  Optimally, a batch of 20 or more accomplishments affords greater flexibility to convey the finest points of one’s abilities. How many you choose to use is mostly dependent on the length of your career, and the number of jobs you’ve had.
So start examining your career, and separate your Qualifications from your Accomplishments, and watch your Q’s and A’s.
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