My Most Significant Accomplishments?

A few months ago, I submitted a candidate’s resume to a good client, and after she had reviewed it, she asked me, “what’s been his most significant accomplishment?” Her comment reminded me how important it is to think in these terms when preparing a resume or taking an interview.

When you read as many resumes as I do, you realize that they tend to fall into two general types: those that emphasize skillsets, and those that emphasize accomplishments.

No question, skillsets are extremely important to detail in a software resume. Your resume won’t get you very far if you haven’t clearly shown what technology stacks, languages, tools, and so forth that you’re comfortable with. But a resume that only lists skills, while it’s a good and necessary start, may fall short when it comes to opening doors at the most desirable companies. Hiring managers need to make sure that fundamental skills matches are present, but beyond that, they want to gain some perspective on the scope of your previous accomplishments, so they can attempt to predict what you’ll be able to do for them.

You need to talk about accomplishments, and more specifically, you need to think in terms of your Most Significant Accomplishments. A couple of years ago at my old recruiting firm I co-founded, I wrote a blog post detailing how to differentiate between job responsibilities and accomplishments; read it here if you like. So the first step is to make sure that you’re orienting your resume to be a chronicle of the accomplishments you’ve made, not just the things you were responsible for.

Once you’ve done that, now think about the entire arc of your career so far. What are the accomplishments you’ve had that represent the best and most significant work you’ve done? That you’re most proud of? Those are the things that you want to emphasize in a resume, in a cover letter, in an interview. You might even want to imagine how those accomplishments stack up against your peers. If they’re more impressive, you’ll want to make sure to point that out (although don’t overdo it, or you run the risk of appearing cocky or arrogant). If your accomplishments don’t seem as good as what they should be, then you’re going to need to create a strategy to deal with that in an interview, and more importantly, how to start accelerating your career to achieve more.

Communicating your most significant accomplishments will go a long way toward making you stand out from the pack. What are yours?