how can I write a resume when my jobs don’t have measurable results?

A reader writes:

You often advise that when writing a resume, you should list the things you achieved at each previous job, rather than just listing duties. I can see why this would be more interesting to a hiring manager, but what if your job isn’t really about achieving things? I’m a property/facilities manager, so I don’t really work on projects as such — my job is much more about maintenance and keeping things ticking. It largely involves routine stuff, like mandated fire safety and water safety checks, supervising the cleaning staff, arranging yearly or six-monthly service visits, etc. Of course not everything is routine, but the unscheduled stuff is just responding to problems of varying degrees that arise within a large building (be that handling something small like changing a light bulb, or something more long term like changing over one of our maintenance contracts and dealing with all the issues that arise from that).

Basically, I can’t really say that I’ve “achieved” many things, because it’s not like my job brings in money to the company, or attracts new clients (we did sign on a new tenant to occupy the whole building a few years ago, but they have a long-term lease so it’s not like this is something that comes up a lot), or that I can say I successfully completed so-and-so project. I could say something like, “oversaw installation of X system” as an example more specific one-off, but that’s really just doing my job.

Is there a way to describe your job more effectively or impressively when it’s less about measurable results and more about maintaining things?

The reason to focus your resume on accomplishments rather than duties isn’t because it’s more interesting to a manager. It’s because it conveys to a manager that you’re a person with a track record of achievement and getting things done, which is the type of person every manager wants to hire. It’s how you stand out in a sea of candidates with job histories similar to yours.

Think of it this way: someone could have your exact same job and do it really poorly, right? You don’t want to have the same bullet points on your resume that they would. For example, just listing that you were in charge of responding to service requests doesn’t reveal anything about whether you were highly responsive and got things taken care of quickly and effectively, or whether you were painfully slow, let things fall through the cracks, and were basically hated by tenants. So you need to talk about it in terms of what you achieved — like “promptly responded to large volume of service requests, ensuring all were swiftly resolved and earning regular kudos from residents.” If you’re hiring, who do you want to talk to — that person or guy who just writes that he “responded to service requests”?

Almost everything you do in any job can be done well or it can be done poorly. When writing a resume, you want to paint a picture that shows you did it well. What made you good at it? How were your results different than the results you would have gotten if you’d just phoned it in? That’s what you need to convey.

how to list accomplishments on your resume when your job doesn’t have easy measures

{ 137 comments… read them below }

  1. Bibliovore*

    Here let me help-
    quantifiable data-
    response rate to queries or work issues- within 4 hours 95%
    supervise x number full time maintenance staff…
    building coverage x amount of hours
    trained y individuals. on mn and p
    Disaster preparedness. have trained x number of individuals.
    Assigned x, managedy , hired z.

    Weekends, overtime?

    1. Natalie*

      See, to me these still read as duties rather that accomplishments. I’d rather hire the guy that trained one person well than five people badly.

      But for the OP, do take this as an opportunity to start quantifying what you do. I am job searching right now and I’m a little cranky with myself for not having gathered certain metrics before I left my last job.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed! The litmus test is “is this describing an activity or an outcome”? As much as possible, you want it to describe outcomes. Or another litmus test is “could someone who did a sort of crap job also have this line on their resume”?

        1. Natalie*

          One of the problems I’ve always had with this is that I feel like I have no idea what a person doing a crap job would do, or if I do I still think of myself as just “average” and that seems lame to put on a resume. Thoughts on how to approach that?

          1. Jules the Third*

            Start with what would happen if no one was in your job.
            Then read a lot of this blog and realize: showing up and doing the requirements of the job without getting into major trouble (quack!) is actually better than average.

            For a lot of jobs, people would rather have the steady 80% person than the unreliable 95/50 person.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, start with what would happen if no one was there. Or what results you’d get in job if you totally mentally checked out and DGAF– what would happen?

              Or picture a really terrible, untrained temp filling in for you and what might happen. Or if you’ve ever seen someone kind of mediocre in a similar job, picture them.

              1. Tassie Tiger*

                This is -so helpful- thank you for helping me look at it that way! Picturing the way a DGAF-worker would do things is a great tool to help me put more shine in how I describe my work.

                1. Liz*

                  I really struggle with this too. I have to say that if I did not show up, nothing would happen. I staff a service desk in a library and if I did not show up someone else would have to spend more time on the desk. Or if they got a barely functioning person to do my job, then a few patrons would wait a bit longer for help. Really, for almost anyone I know in every field, if they did not show up, someone else would pick up the slack. I think only a sales job or money job is where you really get to show that you really do produce more or better than other people. I can say I teach people to use a smartphone better than other staff do and I can say patrons say that, but I could equally he making it up. A friend of mine is a great manager, but if she did not show up, they would get someone else who did not balance the work quite so well and give her staff so much input, and they would miss her. But someone else could do the work at a level that got the job done.

                2. Marina S*

                  Liz, I think there’s a bit of a difference between “if I didn’t show up the company would continue to function” (true of every job, even sales) and “I don’t contribute anything to the company”. The hypothetical DGAF service desk worker would show up late, goof off when they should be answering questions, not bother to learn the answers to common questions or take the extra minute to research an answer for unusual questions. If that’s not what you do, then you have verifiable accomplishments of consistent service and going above and beyond to provide a stellar customer experience. And yes, you can absolutely say on a resume that you received consistent positive feedback from patrons–that’s what reference checks are for, to confirm that kind of thing.

                3. Sue Wilson*

                  @Liz: How long does it take you to find what people are looking for? How many resources do you have at your disposal to match vague patron questions with the results they want? do you ever steer patrons in a direction they didn’t really know how to ask for?

                4. The Supreme Troll*

                  Definitely agree with this. What Alison described above is an excellent way to try to break that block that can happen when it is super difficult to talk about $ amount achievements.

                  The career that I’ve been in for nearly 15 years is not in the business field, so this is something that I can try and remember for myself when I have to start job searching (hopefully not anytime soon).

          2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I’d be really interested to hear this also. I tend to think of myself as average or “just doing my job” but my work is described as excellent. I have a hard time thinking of it this way since it’s how it should be done. I do see that others don’t do some of the steps that I take, but to me that’s more that they don’t do what they should, not that I do something special.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              It’s like the whole “meets expectations” being the middle value on reviews. I’m pretty sure upper management expects us to ship a great product, not a buggy one.

            2. Liz*

              This is totally different. It sounds like there are actual steps to what you do and you do more of them or do them more thoroughly or with more attwntion to detail than others do and supervisors notice and appreciate it. And you can spell that out. I really have got nothing like that to say.

            3. spocklady*

              I also think, for people who are in the “well, anyone could *say* that, where’s the proof?” mindset, there might be a couple of ways to reframe that for yourself.

              One is that, as Alison says, a resume and job interview is not a court of law, and you don’t have to prove anything to that standard of evidence.

              The other is, if you say “I streamlined processes and worked with colleagues to improve x” or in Liz’s example “I’m one of the best librarians at answering questions about phones,” it gives your interviewer somewhere to start a conversation with you.

              They can then say “tell me more about what kinds of questions you see with phones? How are questions changing over time? What have you found is particularly effective when someone comes in ready to throw their phone at the wall?” and then you’re set up for a conversation where you do kind of “prove” that you’re good at it by how you answer. If someone had just made that up, their answers would likely be…unsatisfying and/or vague.

              Anyway, hopefully that helps someone. I have also been in that situation of feeling like it was hard to measure how good I was at my job. It seems like there are a lot of us out there.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      How about. . .

      Reduced maintenance costs
      Reduced turnover and retained core maintenance staff, saving “$X” in potential hiring costs.
      Negotiated a $X contract with a mowing company, saving X.
      Implemented a filter replacement program, saving on heating and air conditioning costs

      My concern with the OP’s view of the position is that the letter sounds like they just come in and do the job exactly how the person before them was doing it. No job is perfectly executed. If you didn’t make an improvement and achieve results that could be put on a resume, you may not have done the job as well as you think. If the OP worked for big corporate property management companies, I can see how their hands may be tied to make improvements, but there is always going to be some go-getter writing letters to corporate to try to get the changes made that they think are needed.

      1. the gold digger*

        First, maintenance is super important! It’s not “just” maintaining – it’s keeping equipment in good working order so tenants aren’t surprised by no heat on the coldest day of the year, lights going out when they are working late, or having two of the three men’s rooms closed because of leaking pipes. (And having the women’s locker room converted to a temporary men’s room so the men don’t have to wait to pee, which of course they should not have to do. Ever.)

        I like the list above and I would put numbers on those items. My company is in this area – we sell our product by saying it can help you reduce unplanned downtime, reduce maintenance time from 30 to three minutes on certain things, help you reduce spare parts inventory, etc.

        Maybe there are records from before – PMs vs emergency repairs – that you can use to calculate your improvements. For instance, “Implemented annual PMs for water heaters, leading to a decline of X% in emergency repair expenses and a decline of Y% in total water heater operating costs.”

      2. Liz*

        But can he say he reduced costs or any of the other things? Are those even measured where he works? How can he make this claims without ecidence?

        1. zora*

          You’re overthinking a little, and it sounds from your comments like you might be stuck in a negative thought spiral, which I completely understand because I’ve been there! But, try to see if you can flip to thinking positively instead. If you had a friend who really likes you who was talking about what they think you are good at, what would they say. And start from there.

          Being able to ‘prove’ it is a little different on a resume. It’s not like anyone is going to bring in lawyers and start challenging your math. In something like “reduced costs” it should be pretty easy to check invoices from before any improvements, check the current rates, and do a little quick math. Or some of these things can even be an educated guess, if you don’t have really specific tracked numbers. Something like a service position where you are getting info to people, could be “reduced response time by 20%” which can be an estimate you pull together from what your predecessor did, or how long you took when you first started. Of course, you should do your best to make sure the number is accurate, but it’s not like someone is going to take your resume into court and demand you furnish proof for each line on there.

        2. Close Bracket*

          What kind of evidence can anyone really show? Company records are proprietary. If a potential employer wants to confirm what is on the resume, they call the reference at that company, and if the applicant was honest (and the reference is honest), then it’s confirmed. The potential employer isn’t going to ask details, trust. The reference won’t have that information to hand, and the potential employer knows this.

          If you didn’t save any money, or make any money, or know how much you saved/made, don’t worry about it. At my former job, I solved some yield problems that were costing probably in the millions, given the nature of the business. I have no idea what the financials were, but I can describe the problem and the solution concretely. Those are my accomplishments, not the 47 lots that I dispositioned every week.

      3. Letter Writer*

        Hiya, LW here – I found this comment interesting “… the letter sounds like they just come in and do the job exactly how the person before them was doing it” because I’m actually the first person in this position for this building! I came on board a few months before the building was completed, initially helped out with finishing off the development and getting the building let, and all that came with it, but since everything was completed my role changed into a day-to-day management thing. So the actual responsibilities and duties have kind of grown organically over time, and I don’t have anyone to compare it to that did it before me.

        Of course, jobs like this exist elsewhere for other buildings, but before this I had never worked in property management, so now that I’m thinking about moving on, I feel a little clueless!

          1. Irene Adler*

            Holy Cow! You just provided me with a lightbulb moment.

            I’m in a similar boat as the OP. (to the OP: thank you for writing in on this!)

            Thank you.

        1. Abby*

          Agree, starting from scratch is huge! You coordinated with the building ownership to identify property management needs, you developed procedures and schedules and policies for all of the areas, you researched and negotiated contracts with landscaping and snow removal and plumbers and so on, you monitored outcomes of all of these things and identified changes that need making…

    3. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Regretfully for many jobs like mine (administrative assistant) things aren’t measured.
      In additional things that Alison said such as, “promptly responded to large volume of service requests” is subjective. How prompt is prompt?

      Do I actually put, “answered so many phone calls”, “typed X letters”, etc.?


      1. pope suburban*

        I’ve struggled with this and I’m not entirely sure I’ve got it down, but I tried to track how smoothly things were running when I started applying for jobs versus when I started. I lucked into (Ha. Hahahaha) my last job being a bit of a trash fire at the outset, because the previous person in that role had become overwhelmed and things were going missing or untended. So I got to say that I had established new procedures for X, Y, and Z. I was able to talk about the costs I had cut by paying bills before late fees (Like I said, trash fire, and of course I didn’t state it as baldly as I did here). I noted that I overhauled our office messaging system so that messages were actually reaching their intended recipients. When I started a long-overdue background-check program for the company, I listed that. It’s harder to quantify things like customer satisfaction, but usually there is a way to express that you, through your actions, are improving the company’s image and making your clients happier.

        I’m afraid that’s all still a little vague, but it worked well enough to get me into a better job at a decent agency. And it all felt, at the time, like just “doing my job.” Like, not one bit of it felt extraordinary or noteworthy or even worth mentioning; the work felt like just a series of duties that, if completed, would ensure I could still buy groceries. The trick is finding out how to express that you’re good at these duties, that the lack of upset is due to your skills/industry.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This isn’t a court of law. You don’t have to meet that standard. If you know that your work was prompt, you’re allowed to call it prompt. If they have questions about that, they’ll ask them in the interview.

        Y’all are making this harder for yourselves than it needs to be.

        1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

          Thanks Alison. I do have a bit of a “court of law” mentality. If it is subjective, anyone can say it. In my mind I equate “being prompt” to “strong work ethic” (which is a phrase I know you don’t believe should be on a resume). That is something I need to get over.

      3. Close Bracket*

        I said this to somebody else, above:

        “At my former job, I solved some yield problems that were costing probably in the millions, given the nature of the business. I have no idea what the financials were, but I can describe the problem and the solution concretely. Those are my accomplishments, not the 47 lots that I dispositioned every week.”

        I hope that helps.

  2. Anonymous Educator*

    I think if it is possible to convey results and achievements, go for it. I’ve usually had jobs in which those are difficult to quantify in quick bullet points, and I’ve also generally not had difficulty in getting hired. I think this may vary from industry to industry.

    For example, when I was a teacher, I didn’t win any teacher-of-the-year awards or improve students’ test scores by X%. A sample lesson and following up with references will tell the hiring committee a lot more about how effective a teacher is than some bullet points. If I’m looking to hire a teacher, I want to know what her preps were and what topics she’s covered.

    Even in the tech support I do now, the service is so “boutique” that it doesn’t make sense to list things like how fast tickets close or whatnot. I do have some projects I’ve launched and am proud of, and I list those. But there isn’t any revenue growth, and our surveys on “customer” satisfaction or general for the whole department, not me personally.

    1. Anonymoose*

      But I think folks forget that they can easily quantify results by competing against previous years. It’s actually very easy to convey, for the OP’s position, “reduced ____ % maintenance calls by ______”. Those would already probably be in their billing/ticket system anyway. Just measuring year-over-year (YOY), it’s usually easy to see improvement because most folks get better at their jobs over time and thus find more efficient/effective ways to do the same things they’ve already been doing.

      1. Kathlynn*

        That would require access to that information. Or not having other factors that would account for a sales difference. Like, assuming there are less forest fires (please please please) where I live next year, our summer sales are going to go down, at least on graveyards, because my city housed a total of 9k additional people for about 3 months, due to mass evacuations.

        I would have to some how gather my own numbers to figure any of this out. and I would need a lot more authority to get things, or change the schematic to claim any gain or loss of sales as mine.

    2. the gold digger*

      in the tech support

      I will email the boss of the tech support person who has done a great job for me. Any sort of praise you have collected over the years can be included. Alison has language for a resume and you can quote praise in a cover letter.

  3. ScoutFinch*

    This is my dilemma as well. My job is basically “keep things running no matter what email phishing link the users click on, no matter what unreasonable project request the president supports, no matter how many hours you need to work” .

    I am exempt, but we need at least 1 more person in my role. Been asking for years. No results, so I have found a new job. I love this place’s mission, but I just can’t do it anymore.

    1. Dan*

      And what is your uptime/downtime? Methinks that is a very measurable and very important thing to put down, particularly if you did it well.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Methinks also. Showing response/resolution times (hopefully decreassing) year over year would be really easy to show as well. And maybe implementing some sort of communication that details what to look for/how to avoid, and if there is an uptick in more secure practices (which could be shown my lower instances of issues).

        Totally doable.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          And satisfaction results. Send a surveymonkey to clients every once in a while and you’ll have a quantifiable result along with suggestions for improvement (or if no improvements can be made, then clients will get a chance to vent).

      2. spocklady*

        Oh my gosh yes. As the gold digger said above, keeping things running/maintaining them is a hugely important job and one that (opinions incoming) often get devalued in our cultural conversations about the value of innovation. I love a shiny new thing at least as much as the next person, but has to keep all that stuff running if it goes into production.

        Anything about downtimes, improving your own processes over time, finding ways to be more efficient as more projects get kicked over to you, helping folks (ahahahaha) evaluate the relative craziness of what they’re asking you for, especially if you can say that you were able to help someone come up with a better solution (or a more maintainable one) — that kind of thing is awesome to put on a resume.

    2. 2 Cents*

      When leaving Old Job, I absolutely wrote that I was doing the work of 2-3 people due to budget constraints thanks to the recession. I think one bullet point started “assumed XYZ responsibilities after XYZ person left and was not replaced….”

      1. Irene Adler*

        Thank you for this! I’m gonna do this to my resume. Good way to impart that I too, took over three people’s jobs when they were not replaced.

  4. LadyL*

    “promptly responded to large volume of service requests, ensuring all were swiftly resolved and earning regular kudos from residents”

    I struggle with this kind of phrasing because it feels kinda gross and braggadocious to me. I definitely have the mentality of “if you keep telling me how great you are, you’re probably overcompensating for something.” Selling myself in general makes me deeply uncomfortable, to the point that whenever I’ve done self-evals I always try to be as harsh with myself, and then I rate myself slightly under that. Humility was a big thing in my family; the idea that if you’re really talented other people will see it, and there’s no need to talk about it. I recognize that in job seeking the whole point is selling yourself, but I get deeply uncomfortable doing it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe think of it less as selling yourself (which I also find uncomfortable) and more as match-making (like “here’s what I do, and let’s see if it’s what you need or not”).

      1. Whooshingly*

        I think the match-making idea is really helpful. There is more than one way to be good at most jobs, so your resume should tell a story of your particular strengths. One facilities manager might be exceptionally prompt at responding to complaints; another might thrive setting up brand new systems for tracking regular maintenance tasks; a third might be killer at negotiating contracts and making sure vendors are up to snuff.

        The things we’re particularly good at often feel obvious. Yes, anyone can put “promptly” on a resume. But plenty of people don’t. Maybe being prompt isn’t that important in their eyes – they put residents’ complaints at a lower priority than x other issue, or they think that as long as they respond within y timeframe promptness doesn’t really matter, or they think it’s more efficient to batch complaints for a certain time each day. Or maybe they’re just spending their bullets talking about other aspects of the job that they would rather highlight instead.

        1. anono-pop*

          This is such a helpful way to think about things! Especially for high-achievers and those of us who are newer to the workforce: school taught us all to succeed in the same few ways (promptness, correctness, procedure-memorization), so those feel like the standard. But there are so many features that can make a person’s work valuable, in very different ways!

    2. hbc*

      How would you write a resume for a coworker? I’m curious whether you’d be comfortable putting “Consistently calming with customers” for someone else who has a 99% track record there, but you’d feel like it’s too much to describe you even though you’ve got the same success rate. Or do you think most resumes should just say “Took customer calls” and the hiring manager has some other way of figuring out your skill in the area?

      You don’t have to brag, but you should be honest. There’s nothing humble about lying about what you do. And since it’s review time here, I can say I’m just as annoyed having to review people who don’t seem to see their flaws as those who can’t seem to see their strengths.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        How about: “Consistently displayed tact with customers, and provided reassurance during stressful situations”?

      2. LadyL*


        I’m also much more comfortable talking myself up in a conversation, I think because I can see facial expressions that let me know the interviewer is picking up what I’m laying down? It just feels easier to navigate in a conversation (talking in person is my preferred medium in every way).

    3. Jules the Third*

      Accuracy matters, and might help you with a job hunt. Would you be comfortable with this?

      Responded to 10 service requests / week, resolving 90% satisfactorily within 1 hour.

      Any comparison you can find, like ‘vs average of 8 requests / week’ would give context. ‘Kudos from residents’ could be an anecdote in the cover letter. Size of the complex you managed would help too.

      And +1 to Alison’s comment, you’re trying to give the new employer an understanding of what you are capable of. You want that to be accurate, so that you and the potential employer can decide if you are a good fit for the job.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Plus, any fool can add “promptly” to a resume. It’s like saying “collaborative”. Show, don’t tell. I like Bibliovore’s suggestion to add the response time.
      Not everything is that quantifiable. As Natalie pointed out, you trained 5 people, big deal. Did you do a good job? Describe how you know your training was effective- how did the trainees use their new skills to benefit the company? So something like, “Trained 5 people to replace air filters, reducing property-wide yearly replacement time frame from 3 months to 5 weeks.”

      1. Anonymoose*

        Don’t forget how those air filter changes/training might have financially benefited the company. Managers love seeing how you affect the bottom line!

      2. AndersonDarling*

        I like seeing numbers on a resume- reduced response time by 3 hours vs. promptly responded. If I see the numbers, then it conveys that this is someone that keeps track of results and cares about tracking data.

      3. Bibliovore*

        Trained 5 people . Two were promoted to senior maintenance positions with 18 months.

        Created guidelines and implemented safety procedures trading staff on x.

        My attention to detail prevented the 4th floor bathroom leak from becoming a major incident that would have destroyed the rare book collection appraised at 500 ,000 in 1965.

    5. Ahora*

      I feel this. In my house, the lesson was, “No matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone better than you.” It’s a decent lesson in not being cocky, but it’s also seriously skewed my ability to evaluate my own skills. “Okay, yes, I’m good at this, but there are people who are better, so I can’t give myself high marks because that looks cocky.”

      1. Em*

        Mine is always, “well, yes, I can do that, but so could anybody who bothered to try/is reasonably intelligent/etc.”

    6. Sam Foster*

      I compare it to others or standards: Responded to and resolved tickets at rate 20% above expected standard. It’s not bragging if it is statement of fact.

    7. Marina S*

      From the hiring manager’s perspective, it is EXHAUSTING to read humble resumes where you’re expected to magically guess whether or not someone was good at what they did with barely any information. You’ve got a stack of 100 resumes from people who all basically had the same job duties. The people who give you any information beyond that are a huge time saver. If you’re not giving the hiring manager the information they need, you’re not being humble, you’re just making them work harder.

  5. Althea*

    When I was an admin, one of my jobs was responding to requests for money. Asset managers had to send me a set of backup documentation, I’d have to check it, ask for changes/more info, manage the internal approval process, and get the check from the bank. On my resume, I said something like, “reduced average request time from over 3 months to under 2 weeks.” The type of thing I was doing was pretty esoteric, but it conveyed a lot about the ability to get things done and not let them languish even without more context.

    Most sorts of jobs with requests coming in can be measured in this way. Any given request might be complicated and take a lot of time to resolve, but if you’re good at your job the average time for response/resolution will still be good.

    If you can ask yourself, “Is there a way to show with numbers what makes me better than that guy at my job?” sometimes that will help you clarify it on a resume as well. Numbers aren’t always the way to go, but a few well-chosen ones can make a big difference!

    1. Althea*

      I should add, if you are doing a lot of “checks” like you mention, you could describe how often these came on-schedule.

  6. 2 Cents*

    When I was in a job that didn’t really have measurable results (and wanted out!), I concentrated on a few aspects of my job that could be quantified like Alison illustrated. That meant leaving out some of my job functions (which I’d always meticulously kept in) — but instead I was showing that I did X for Y, which resulted in Z profits for the company. Ended up getting a few interviews from that revamped resume.

  7. nep*

    I’ve got a really tough time with this one. Unfortunately a lot of the bullet points on my resume are more along the lines of duties than achievements or results. Probably a large part of the reason I’m getting no bites. I’m always working on improving it but I’m constantly hitting a brick wall.

    1. Laura*

      I’m in the same situation. It’s a little difficult to mention any “accomplishments” at my last permanent job (data entry clerk) when I didn’t have a quota and really no measurements whatsoever.

    2. Archives Gremlin*

      I feel your pain! I’m stuck with how to write stuff when I, like the OP, don’t really many measurable outcomes.

  8. Helpful*

    Writer here. For those of you who are stuck, ask yourselves the question: how can I show I did Task X well? Not just did it, but did it well.

    1. Forrest*

      Yes, and if you genuinely *can’t* – maybe that’s something to think about?

      For a facilities manager, what are your targets on responding to queries/issues/jobs? If you don’t have them, maybe you should? Do you ever run feedback exercises with your clients/service users to check you’re meeting the level of service they expect/require? Again, if you don’t, maybe you should?

      When you renegotiated a service contract, what was the service level agreement you negotiated? Did you save your company any money? or improve the contract in any other way? What’s your system for making sure your regular routine jobs get done regularly and routinely, especially the health and safety ones – did you inherit that system or set it up? If you inherited it, have you improved it? If not, is that what you’re looking to do in your next job?

      If it’s really hard to say, “this is how I know I’m doing a good job”, then it is actually possible that you aren’t. You can’t measure or evaluate everything, of course, but you can spend some time thinking about who or what you’re accountable to and how to get meaningful feedback from them, or what targets you ought to be meeting (or exceeding.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve literally never seen a job where there’s no difference between doing it well and doing it poorly. I’d be interested in an example if anyone has one! (Which, fair warning, I will then try to refute.)

          1. JamieS*

            I don’t think it’s possible for a job to have no possible variation of performance. However it’s possible for the same performance to have wildly different interpretations.

            For example let’s say someone works in customer service where their performance is evaluated on resolving the customer issue in an average time of 30 minutes and having an 80% customer satisfaction rate. If that worker meets those metrics exactly some would call that just doing the job (no accomplishment), others doing a great job (pat on back, brag on resume), and others doing a horrible job (head held down in shame).

            1. Bibliovore*

              I had an informational interview with a student today. He asked how do I define success? I was totally flummoxed.

              1. JamieS*

                Since I’ve started reading AAM my definition of success has changed to “ending the day still employed with no coworkers vowing a personal or professional vendetta against me.” Everything else is ice cream to go with the cake.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                So I’m going to argue that that’s a huge problem! You’ve got to know what you’re working toward and what doing it well (or unsuccessfully) looks like.

                1. Bibliovore*

                  I know . It was really a weird moment. Success in the big picture way is easier. There are metrics and goals for collection development, patron interactions, fund raising, fiscal responsibility, publishing, community engagement, customer satisfaction and department reputation, and internal client interaction and satisfaction. I believe I am successful in my job performance. He meant how do I define personal success. Still trying to wrap my head around that one.

                2. Mary*

                  Ha, that’s a pretty hardcore question from a student! I’m a careers adviser and I ask that a lot, but I have a lot of strategies for breaking it down. It’s a discussion, not a question!

                3. Close Bracket*


                  If it helps, my definition of personal success is being helpful to others and gaining satisfaction from the things I spend my time on. I could get both of those from work (in principle), but it’s not limited to work.

  9. JD*

    Ya but i can assume everyone will say they did it well. No one is going to write a resume saying they responded slowly to request.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      That’s what I’m wary of as well. Everyone is bad at self-assessment. Words like prompt or swift are meaningless without some metric to score them against.

    2. schnauzerfan*

      You’d be surprised. So many people don’t do themselves any favors with their resumes.

      Try, “revised trouble ticket process reducing average response time by 50%”
      “reduced employee turnover by… (training, employee of the month, bonuses etc.”
      “instituted competitive bid process which reduced supply costs by x%” (or created a part time supply clerk position to streamline procurement process…)

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, not everyone says they did it well. Most people’s resumes don’t include any discussion at all of how well they did things; instead they just list activities, like a job description might read.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      Even if all you do is have a bullet point with a quantifiable result, it lets employers know that you care about results. That’s what “result driven” companies are looking for. It may sounds mundane to say a receptionist answers 98% of calls within three rings, but it shows that you understand the concept of tracking results and striving to improve.
      One bullet point can get you that interview!

    5. Marina S*

      It’s like the difference between a stellar reference and a lukewarm reference. No one is going to agree to be a reference and then say, “No, Marina actually did a terrible job here and no one should hire her.” But there’s a biiiiig difference between hearing, “Yes, Marina showed up for her job every day and she is eligible for rehire here” and “Marina is the best llama shaver we ever had, and you’d be lucky to have her on your team.” Similarly, no one is going to say on their resume that they responded slowly to requests, but the lack of information can be just as telling.

  10. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    I have to kind of disagree with Alison a bit on this one. I review resumes fairly regularly (I’m not in HR, but I seem to be the default person for doing first passes through resumes). If I’m looking for someone with X experience it doesn’t matter to me whether they write: “Responsible for X” or “Consistently did X promptly”.

    I know nothing about this person and their opinion that they did X “promptly” holds as much weight as them saying “I’m nice”. Like, ok – I’m glad you think that, but that gives me nothing concrete for me to use to decide whether I trust your judgement on that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue is that when you have 100 resumes that all have similar job histories, the person who talks in terms of the actual outcomes they got is going to be more compelling than the 99 who just list what they were asked to do.

      1. JamieS*

        True but I don’t think subjective terms such as “promptly” or “effectively” help. To me concrete results would matter. For example “resolved service requests quickly” compared to “resolved service requests within 30 minutes.” I don’t see the first example holding much weight.

    2. Forrest*

      I would sort of agree about “promptly”, except that it does actually show that the candidate recognises that responses should be prompt, which not everyone does!

      However, I do think there’s something here about evaluation. If you’re the facilities manager and you’re not evaluating your service at all – you probably should be? I run an internal service within a larger organisation, and we look at things like, “how many requests do we receive and respond to”, “how quickly on average”, “are there any groups of internal clients who use our services more than others? if so, does that mean there are groups we aren’t serving as well?” If you’re collecting and looking at that kind of data (or whatever is relevant for you), then listing what your service/function actually achieves should be fairly straight-forward and concrete. If you’re not, then starting to think about how to do that is maybe something to think about?

      There’s also concrete stuff like the size of the team that you manage, the size of your budgets, square foot area of the space you manage – all really helpful for telling hiring managers what level you are working at!

      1. Letter Writer*

        Hello, LW here – you make a really good point about evaluation, and to be honest I probably don’t do a lot of it. The thing with my job is, I spend a lot of time working on my own – my boss deals with multiple other properties and works from home multiple days a week (she’s extremely hard working and productive in her job, but somewhat hands-off as a manager), and there’s no one else who also has a similar position to me. The feedback I get from the tenants is always positive, in a “you can always count on LW” type way, and I’ve never had an official complaint, however we don’t really do anything in the way of official feedback forms or anything. I also haven’t ever had an official “review” in my job – I do get feedback from my manager occasionally and I have had raises, but usually they just come annually, or when we’re reviewing the cleaners’ pay. Frankly this is one of the reasons I’m looking to move on – I know a lot of people dislike corporate environments but I really would appreciate working somewhere with more structure and clarity. Plus I’m bored all day working on my own :/

    3. Natalie*

      I think there is a place for a hybrid approach. I have been told by multiple recruiters that I need to list specific job duties, because my title (staff accountant) is such a broad title it’s totally meaningless for figuring out what I actually do day to day. But, so far I’ve also had the most success with the recruiter who wanted me to highlight accomplishments more. So I have both.

      1. Cath*

        I agree with Natalie. I tend to have a few sentences describing my duties and a few bullets highlighting accomplishments. Because nobody would know what a Teapot Recovery Analyst even does and how that experience relates.

  11. Badmin*

    This is a really helpful post, I also struggle with listing accomplishments v. duties. This totally reframed it for me. Thank you!

  12. hbc*

    I think some positions and responsibilities are more about a lack of negatives rather than documented positives. “Kept all safety certifications and certifications up-to-date, with zero citations or warnings.” “Decreased resident complaints from a weekly occurrence to about twice a month.” “Negotiated snow removal contract to guarantee snow-free lots by 6am on weekdays.” “Rearranged coverage during 2-month employee shortage resulting in no increase in complaints.” “Increased security of delivered packages by establishing a new collection area.”

    Maybe it’s better if you have call logs or can say that there was a 63% decrease, but if it’s the truth, there’s no reason not to state it. Even better if you’ve got references who can back you up.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Oohh, and here is what our building manager did for me. Negotiated addition disability parking spaces with the support of disability services Dept. Shows working well with others and responsiveness

  13. Coalea*

    This is so timely! Over the past couple weeks I’ve been helping my brother update his resume so he could apply to a new job. He had all kinds of great, quantifiable accomplishments and it got me thinking about how my own resume is more a list of duties/responsibilities. I’ve been trying to think of ways to change this and haven’t come up with much so far – hopefully this thread provides some good advice!

  14. Ainomiaka*

    Okay, Alison are you willing to do examples of what to say in a case like the lw? The response seems to be all “you must do this or nobody will want to hire you” but no showing how. I have a similar issue -I’m not really allowed to change much of anything about what I do without congress passing legislation. So other than say I passed through x things pee year, what are concrete examples that could be a good resume point?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, and there’s an example in the post, and more examples in the post I linked to ( ). That was intended as the showing how.

      What are your goals? How does your boss know if you’re doing a crappy job versus an mediocre one versus an excellent one? That’s where your language will come from. In your case, maybe it’s about becoming the go-to person on your issue on the Hill, how many cosponsors you got on a tricky piece of legislation, coalitions you built, media coverage you got, etc.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        Thank you for being so fast! Thanks for the link-I admit I thought it was an automatically generated one. I will have to look more not on a phone/lunchbreak and read through. Sadly my job isn’t anything nearly as interesting as getting bills passed. More like sitting in a lab testing drinking water. Which has to be done following a specific law, the same way every time, hence my comment. And hence why this is the job I struggle with finding results for a resume.

        1. misspiggy*

          Right – to you, that task seems easy – but would everybody be able to do it time after time with no deviations from the legal process? Probably not. So you could talk about process accuracy rates of 100% over however long you’ve been doing the job. (And speed, if that’s relevant.) In a cover letter you could explain the value of you getting the job right – why is your accuracy in following the law helpful, ultimately?

          1. AndersonDarling*

            I’d track No Contamination Rates, Accuracy Rates, Time to Completion (how many times the labs are completed by deadlines) and (hopefully) a lack of deviations. Even prompt training is an OK metric- Completed 20 modules of training within one week of launch.

        2. Kira*

          I like how MissPiggy is putting in. Another way – if you messed up your job, what would happen? Then you can turn that around and say that it never happened, because you did your job well.

          e.g. Never had to disqualify results because of improper testing procedures; Always processed results by the deadline; Passed every federal inspection

        3. a different Vicki*

          Possibly “ensured clean drinking water for X,000 residents” or “kept lead levels in $location drinking water to n ppm, which is within EPA safety guidelines.” Or if the water isn’t always safe, focus on what you do with the data: “tested drinking water after all storms and flood events, and sent boil water advisories to residents and local media within X hours when necessary.”

          There are a variety of jobs, including testing drinking water, where the law says “this must be done, and it must be done in X way,” but that doesn’t always mean that it is. Century-old water mains break sometimes, and northeasters and hurricane remnants may overwhelm the local storm sewers; I don’t expect my local government to prevent that in the short term, but I do expect them to notify me if I shouldn’t drink the tap water, or if it’s not safe to wade or fish in the local brook for a couple of days. Getting those tests run, and the word out, accurately and quickly is measurable and important.

        4. Close Bracket*

          What are your test results used for? Somethings you could say would be, “Ensured drinking water standards were maintained”. I have a line on my resume that says, “Did this thing. Results were used in this strategic decision.”

  15. cornflower blue*

    I’ve also had this question, in relation to how to include tasks like prevention, wherein the possibilities are never able to be guessed. You can’t know for certain that your work avoided a million-dollar lawsuit, for example. You could try to compare your track record to how things were before you, but good luck getting the company to give you that information.

    1. Kira*

      You can still probably say “None of my projects ever had [insert common bad consequence here]”. If someone were bad at your job, they’d probably have more of those situations than you would, right?

      If someone said you were good at your job, what example would they use? Maybe you’re unusually good at keeping meetings on track, or digesting legalese and communicating it to stakeholders. Earlier, someone gave an example of a field where staying on top of cutting edge developments would be helpful – in your job can you say that you keep an eye open and incorporate new laws/rulings/procedures/best practices into your job?

      1. cornflower blue*

        I guess “I’ve never been deposed” and “my product has never been held up at customs” could be woven in somehow.

  16. oranges & lemons*

    Where I get stuck with this approach is trying to balance between listing my most impressive accomplishments, trying to give a full sense of what the position is like, and showing that I have the experience that the posting asks for. Maybe part of the problem is that I’m still using a 1-page resume, since I’m still in my first job since graduating, but I have some relevant internship work that I’ve included on there as well. I don’t have space for volunteer work or anything else.

    1. Kira*

      I know what you mean. In my latest job search, I actually took out a bullet point that described the bulk of my tasks, because it didn’t showcase an accomplishment that the job listing was looking for. I was largely being paid to respond to handle XYZ process, but for this application I instead wanted to highlight my experience sourcing and launching a new database system.

      The hard part was making it clear it was a thing I did, but not what I was dedicated to working on 40-hrs/week.

  17. Tuesday Next*

    My work is also less easy to measure, but after reading Alison’s advice on this in an older post, I rewrote some of my copy from “I designed teapot spouts to business requirements” to something more like “I helped to develop OldJob’s teapot design capacity by introducing and advocating for spout and handle design design”. Both true, but the update gives a better indication of the value I added beyond my job description.

  18. Dan*

    I have a technical background and work in government transportation research. The types of projects I work on will take years for implementation, and that’s if and when they actually do. The notion that I will ever know the financial benefits of what I’ve worked on? Ha.

    What makes me good at my job doesn’t show up on my resume, it shows up in my cover letter and my references. As a practical matter, a tech resume focuses on technologies and algorithms that you are comfortable with. My *role* in a project is certainly important — did I code up someone’s idea, or did I contribute a lot of intellectual creativity? In my work environment, the “average” person just does what’s asked; a great person makes the project their own. I’m low enough on the totem pole where I’m never in charge; but I’ve also noticed the bosses are often struggling for ideas as well. I’ve found a lot of career success by taking a task and becoming the expert at it.

    In my field, the ability to technically execute a task is the bare minimum. I don’t have the time to hand hold people and spoon feed them — the people I want on my team are those who can take something and run.

    1. Kira*

      Dan, I like your perspective. Any examples of what you would read and think “This person knows how to take initiative”? Or even the difference between somebody being mildly familiar with a technology vs mastering the technology?

  19. R2D2*

    It may be helpful to look up facilities/property manager openings on recruiting websites (e.g. LinkedIn or Craigslist). If the position opening includes a job description, you can borrow some of the language for your resume!

  20. Maddening*

    My job doesn’t have measurable outcomes nor can I point to any improvements I’ve made as I don’t have the authority to make even the smallest changes. Half of my job is making sure someone else does their paperwork right, and if they don’t I have to ask them to fix it. I don’t have authority to make them do it on time or anything, so quite often they don’t bother and I have to remind them again. I am also not allowed to fix it for them. Eventually they get around to it, though sometimes I have to contact their boss about it.

    I know I do my job well because my boss says so at review time and I always get a raise. But to be completely honest, I once spent 6 months doing absolutely nothing at work and no one noticed for nearly a year. I got a much smaller raise that year.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s kind of what the receptionist jobs I’ve had are like. I did what I was supposed to do, but there weren’t any real measurable accomplishments, and as for numbers-oriented results? Nah, that’s not a thing. I have one thing I can brag about in my cover letter, and the rest is just rote stuff I did over and over.

      It must have been effective, because that admin job I didn’t think would call me, called me today. While I was in the cinema watching Thor: Ragnarok. (I called back and got her voice mail–she hasn’t called me again yet.)

      (PS: Thor was awesome, y’all. Go see it!)

      1. Kira*

        Elizabeth, if you’re willing to share, could you say a little more about what your neat accomplishment was?

      2. Althea*

        What would give me context about a receptionist job would be some information on volume of reception – how many phone calls and visitors per day, how big the office is, the volume of shipping or other duties, etc. Even if your accomplishment is “juggled these regular duties,” doing so for 10 people is a lot less impressive than doing it for 100. Also, you could reference something like, “consistently reviewed as friendly and fast-working,” which gives a sense that someone other than yourself thought that about you. Not to mention, they may be able to verify such a statement with a good reference. And almost all regular duties have some schedule by which they need to be done – packages shipped within a day, or whatever.

  21. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP, as a worker across behind the scenes stuff like admin Alison’s advice is spot on. Consider the qualitative results of your job, like “trained colleagues to a level where they could confidently execute a service loved by customers” vs “trained colleagues to deliver service”. Ask yourself the question how are my qualitative results better?

  22. EhCanadian*

    I have a question expanding on the struggle with quantifying/giving achievements for your jobs. As someone who is a recent grad (Master’s, which I started straight after finishing undergrad), most of my work has been doing research for other people. I haven’t really had duties other than…research *this* topic and get back to me with some recommendations. You know, classic academia. I am really struggling with how to turn this into an achievement-based thing (especially since none of my recommendations have been implemented, usually because of a lack of funding or because they’re broad-based recommendations aimed at a large audience addressing large, systemic issues). Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Do you track how often you complete the research on time? That’s a great metric right there!
      Could you send a little email survey after you do your research? Asking how well you communicated with the requestor and if you delivered recommendations that were useful? If you ask to be rated 1-5 on each of those (Communication and Satisfaction), then you will have 2 more bullet points for your resume. Emailed surveys aren’t the most official way to get feedback, but it is just for personal tracking.

    2. Kira*

      You could consider: why do these people keep asking me to do the research task for them, vs another grad student? Are you more accurate, timely, good at communicating your results? Do you have a broad/deep enough knowledge of the literature that you’re not missing obvious connections?

      Like a lot of the other examples, it’s easier to say what you’re doing well if you’ve seen (or can imagine) someone doing a half-hearted job of it. Then describe what makes you better than that.

  23. AndersonDarling*

    I think the toughest thing is that if you work somewhere were everyone comes in and goes through the motions of their job then goes home, then it’s really hard to think about quantifiable results. I worked at a dysfunctional office and if I showed quantifiable results, I think they would have thought it was witchcraft.
    Once you start thinking about tracking results, then it becomes easier to find results. As an Admin at crummy company, I had results like this on my resume:
    *Completed 85% of dictated letters with perfect accuracy on first distribution
    *Received 99% satisfaction when booking travel (I would send a survey after booking travel that asked to rate it 1-5, I may only get 10 surveys back from collegues, but they count!)
    *Rebuilt monthly reporting system reducing the distribution time by 5 days.
    *Received “Exceeds Expectations” on last 5 reviews

    I had to start tracking my activities, but after a month or two, I gathered enough information to make some calculations. Is 85% accuracy good for dictated letters? Who knows, but it shows that I cared enough to track accuracy. I ended up at a company that tracks everything, and having a few results on my resume set me apart.

    1. Kira*

      I love your examples. Before I finished, I was planning on commenting exactly what you said — maybe there’s no benchmark for that accuracy rate, but putting it on your resume shows you care about accuracy, you care about tracking your performance, and you can talk knowledgeably about whether your performance is improving or decreasing.

      Your example is also a good case of what somebody mentioned earlier — by saying “here’s what I’m good at, is that what you’re looking for” you ended up finding an organization that valued the same kind of achievements that you do.

  24. Glenn*

    Do you deal directly with tenant staff? (I’m reading your letter as suggesting this is commercial and not residential property, but the same issues are in play either way.) Do the tenant staff like dealing with you? What would they say if you asked why they’d rather have you in the job than someone else?

    As a residential tenant, I have dealt with all sorts of property managers, and by and large they accomplished the same official tasks, but my opinions of them vary all the way from “walks on water” to “wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire”, based on responsiveness/promptness, followup, courtesy, quality of work (does it break again right after they “fixed” it? How many times does it take before they get it right?), precision/recordkeeping (if we disagree about numbers, do they have thorough and accurate records of what I paid / what I should have paid according to their books?), etc. etc.

    Assuming you do your job well, if you are having trouble figuring out what achievements you bring to the table that you can brag about, you probably have just never had to deal with someone who does your job poorly. Maybe ask around and solicit some examples for comparison, so you know what to compare against?

  25. This Daydreamer*

    You have kept all (or just about all) of your tenants and attracted a new long-term lease. If you had been doing a poor job, the property wouldn’t have been attractive enough to snag someone new, and making sure that everything works helps to keep tenants. You make sure that everyone is happy with the building.

    “Responded to tenant needs efficiently and kept all facilities in good repair to prevent problems”

  26. Liz*

    Alison said,
    “What are your goals? How does your boss know if you’re doing a crappy job versus an mediocre one versus an excellent one?”

    I don’t have an answer. We don’t actually have goals. We have a meaningless annual review that counts for nothing, literally. No merit raises ever. We get evaluated on things in an eval designed for all city employees: safety (15% of the eval, but there are no safety rules for us to follow), communication, teamwork (my supervisor listed always subs when asked), 6 things total. We get rated excellent, exceeds expectations, meets expectations, ect and the boss has to give three examples to support their choice. My old boss saw it as a hoop to jump through for the city, not as a tool for evaluation.

    I have no idea what my current supervisor thinks is meets or exceeds expectations for each one or how i can demonstrate them.

    I am just now realizing how messed up that is.

    I work in a library and it is really customer service. There is no way to quantify what we do. I have no ability to say what I do is faster, better, drives circulation, or is more cost effective, or anything else better than anyone else here. And finding better ways is frowned upon. I just got a new task assigned and was told explicitly, I am to do the process as is, no changes at all.

    This is really raising some interesting questions for me.

    1. Eliza*

      There are things you can quantify in customer service. At the very least, you can keep a tally sheet of how many customers you serve per day and what percentage seem satisfied. Now, are other potential employers going to know how that compares to the average for your industry? Maybe not, but as other commenters have pointed out, just the fact that you care enough to keep track provides a non-zero amount of information.

    2. Althea*

      It doesn’t sound like a great work environment, but one thing you should do is consider your own goals. What would you like to get done during the day, month, or year, that would make your working experience or your customers’ experience better? Are you able to implement these yourself, or are there institutional barriers to them? To what extent can you improve yourself, and to what extent can you attempt to make larger institutional improvements?

      It often happens that you can’t change certain institutional processes, but it SHOULD be possible to get a thorough understanding of why the change can’t happen, and how to work within/despite barrier to the best of your ability. Often I’ve worked with forms and had to do a ton of research to figure out what a box on a form is for. Then I find out it’s obsolete, and no one thought to update it, yet it was there wasting everyone’s time for years. Sometimes no one lets you fix the form even when you’ve discovered this. Then you can still improve everyone’s experience by letting them know in advance exactly how to fill that box in (or to skip it) in order to move things most efficiently.

  27. Kali (UK)*

    I’m interested in the use of the word ‘kudos’. I’ve always thought of it as quite slangy/informal. Is that a regional difference?

    1. nep*

      I’ve always thought of ‘kudos’ as informal. Would be interested to hear what how others see it.

      1. Anna Held*

        Not slangy to me, but I would have used “praise”. Always keep it simple and use the word others won’t see as slangy/pretentious/regional. And I say this as someone who slogged through Greek.

  28. GreenDoor*

    If the OP is looking for similar work, I would suggest that the tone counts, too, in jobs where tasks are routine. So a cover letter that conveys how much you enjoy keeping buildings in good order, how important it is to you to be compliant with building codes and safety regulations, how you take pride in knowing tenants are confident in the work you do, etc. would help set you apart from the guy that thinks of himself as “just” a building manager.

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