Interviewing Tips: Accomplishment Statements

So you’ve submitted your resume and cover letter, and Lo! and Behold! they’ve asked you in for an interview! Woo Hoo!

Maybe you’ve already had a phone screening interview, maybe not, but now you’ll get to meet the hiring team, search committee, or the hiring manager in person. Maybe even all of them. Daunting? It doesn’t have to be…but you do want to shine and be able to put your best foot forward.

For this suggestion, I need to back up to a tip we use even before your resume has been written, but if you’ve gotten this far and have an interview, this becomes the icing on your cake.

Get yourself a packet of 3×5 index cards–lined or unlined–you decide!

Make an exhaustive list of all the things you’ve ever accomplished…in the world of work, or in other situations–volunteer efforts, sports teams, school or family projects–you get the idea! What have you ever done that has benefited others? Each item goes on a separate index card.

What you’ve already got on your resume will come to mind first, but I want you to think even more expansively: add even those things that don’t seem as though they are “resume-worthy.” One item per card, whether they’re already on your resume, or didn’t make the cut. No matter how big or how small, put it on a card of its own!

Yes, on a card–a piece of paper–in your own handwriting…. There’s a ton of brain research out there that corroborates using your own hand to write things so as to cement the learning more deeply into your brain and thinking and memory. Believe me!

Your next task is to articulate exactly how what you did made a difference. What impact did it have? Why did you do it? Who was affected by this thing you did? How many people? How did it affect the organization? The team? Your manager? Your family? Your friends, coworkers, colleagues, customers?

Here’s an example from an administrative assistant who’d worked in a paper-based office environment:

She: I reorganized the filing system.

Me: Tell me more… What did you do? What change did you make?

She: I color coded the files.

Me: Okay, so what impact did that have?

She: It was easier to find things.

Me: Who used that filing system? Were you the only one?

She: No, the managers used the files too.

Me: How many managers?

She: Eight.

Me: And how many people reported to those managers? Did they use the files too?

She: Yes, their 52 people also used those files.

Me: (Getting a better sense of scope, now.) How many filing cabinets?

She: (Getting the idea that she could expand on her answers.) Ten four-drawer filing cabinets in a bank against the wall in the common area.

Me: Let’s see how this sounds now:

Her new, far more powerful, accomplishment statement: I reorganized ten centrally-located filing cabinets used by 60 people in eight departments, color-coding the files to make accessing the data in them far more effective and efficient!

Now, you will want to drill down for each of your 3×5 cards, such that you have clearly stated how each thing you did was of benefit to someone or to the organization. Again, not all of these items are resume-worthy. But each one provides you with a story to use during your interview. It can answer a question you’ve been asked, it can more fully explain an item on your resume, it can provide an opportunity for you to shine that may not already have been included in your resume or cover letter, giving your interviewers even more reason to see you in a positive light!

What to do with those cards, now that you have them? You take them with you when you go for that interview (no, you don’t hand them out at the meeting!) and you read them over before you go into the building, or you sit and read them in the parking lot, or on the bus or the train. You familiarize yourself with the content, so you have even more fodder for the conversations you will have as these people decide if they’d like to work with you. And you add dimension and data to the sheets of paper they have in front of them–giving them a far better experience of you and your capabilities than they’ve had so far!

Good Luck with that interview! Let me know how it goes!