So What Have You Accomplished?

Susan Hall
Slide Show

10 Interview Questions Job Seekers Must Ask

The most important questions of an interview might be those that you, the applicant, ask.

In this post on resume writing for college students, I wrote about a speech by the dean of admissions at Duke University in which he explained that elite colleges look for a student's impact, not just stellar grades and honors. Employers, too, want to see that you've made a difference, not just that you held a job.


On resumes, it's easy to list the things you were assigned to do, rather than the outcome. In an interview earlier this week, Gayle Laakmann McDowell told me that's the biggest resume problem she sees. She's the author of "The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Any Top Tech Company" and founder and CEO of, a site devoted to tech jobs.


She told me:

They talk about they have this responsibility or they're assigned to do this, not specifically about, "Here are the features I've built, here are the things I've accomplished."

There's a difference between job responsibilities and accomplishments. This CareerLab post describes it this way:

Your duties and responsibilities refer to the general scope of your job, such as "sales" or "selling." Accomplishment statements give specific examples of tasks you finished. ... Being an excellent manager isn't an accomplishment. It's a skill or competency. But leading a task force that develops a new money-making product in less than two months is an accomplishment.

In her book, McDowell pegs these statements as responsibilities:


  • Monitored two data centers using remote-access technology.
  • Analyzed and optimized performance using various profiling tools.
  • Fixed crashes as they occurred on Windows operating system.


And these as accomplishments:

  • Reduced time to render video by 75 percent by implementing prediction algorithm and delayed graphics.
  • Created service to provide gradient across VS and VS add-ins. Optimized service by 29 percent by caching toolbar gradient paintbrushes.


You'll note that the accomplishments are quantified, illustrating the measure of your success. It requires finding the numbers that matter to the hiring manager. This piece can help with that. And these are some hints on a list in the CareerLab piece. Did you:


  • Identify new markets?
  • Invent or improve something?
  • Achieve more with fewer resources?
  • Reduce costs or save money?
  • Improve productivity or operations?
  • Save time?
  • Solve a long-standing problem?


Every company wants to hire people who can get things done. Your resume is your avenue to show that person is you.

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