Are you talking about your accomplishments in an interview? We think we are but most of us are not. We are too humble, too shy, or brought up to act differently. Many of us don’t realize it. The next few posts are going to show us how to talk about our accomplishments. In the last month, I have had a couple of experiences that have shown me that most of us:
- Don’t realize what we did is an accomplishment
- Are not comfortable sharing our accomplishments
- Don’t know how to share our accomplishments without sounding like a braggart
- Think we will sound like a braggart if we share our accomplishments
- Or all of the above
I recently worked with a candidate who is VERY accomplished. How accomplished you ask? How bout a 3.85 GPA, member of a national champion cheer squad and a black belt and instructor of martial arts? (I’m just getting started) I have gotten to know this woman a little better in the last few months and she has her shit “Together” with a capital “T”. Humble, quick smile, social skills, and a great presentation layer. She has also worked in a Fortune 20 company so we know she’s got corporate game. A hiring manager couldn’t ask for more of a candidate.
If you met this woman, you wouldn’t know she was super accomplished. She is humble and treats everyone like an equal and that is what makes her so dang special. Not only does she have the smarts and athletics, she has the inner confidence of a black belt. You know the mindset that I’m talking about. Normally I’d share her twitter profile here, but I want to hire her and don’t need any competition. BOOM bitches!
When I first received her resume, she had a small section of Achievements which read as follows:
- Martial Arts
- Scuba Diving
Prior to meeting her, I didn’t know she had a black belt and I didn’t know she had the high GPA. I did know she was a cheerleader because she was introduced to me via her teammate who is also super accomplished. Per my usual routine, we worked on the resume and then went through interview questions and answers. The following quantitatives were NOT listed and came out through the process of refining her resume.
- “3.85” GPA
- “National Champion” cheer squad
- “Black Belt” in Martial arts.
It boggled my mind that someone with any one of these accomplishments wouldn’t include them on their resume. Personally, I would have been happy with 1 out of the three and I would have been shouting it from the rooftops. Not this candidate. Her attitude was more “Meh. . . .”
She is used to being a badass, she’s not familiar with the need to advertise all that she can do. The true sign of a badass.
Why we quantify accomplishments
I explained that this is the quantifiable goodness that every resume dreams of. This is what makes all other resumes envious and what makes recruiters drool like a Pavlovian dog who just heard the bell ding.
If Sir Mix a lot was a recruiter, her resume would be the “big butt”
It was these quantifiables that separate us from all the other candidates who went to school, went to some dojo for 6 months and your stereotypical ditzy cheerleader.
- 3.85 GPA says I know how to study for the long haul of 4 years. I didn’t just get lucky and I will be successful with your company’s training program and learn new topics. I’d rather have 3.85 GPA over C grades any day.
- National Champions practice at a different level than your local cheerleading squad. The teamwork and trust required to make it to this level is literally “next level”. I’d rather have National Champion over the local squad any day.
- Black belt: Do I need to say anything more? This is about both the mental and physical discipline. Of course, if someone goes postal in the workplace, I know who run to and hide behind.
Most candidates wouldn’t usually have any one of the above and I just scored the Trifecta on a single candidate! With a high GPA, a Black Belt and a National Champion title, no matter what this person does, the odds of success are super high.
After we worked on the resume we went to phase two and practiced the interview questions. To her credit, the answers I heard consisted of the humble following:
- I practice martial arts
- Worked hard for good grades
- Participated on the cheer squad
Do as I say, not as I do
For the record, if you were to ask me about my skill with fly fishing, playing the cello or this HR blog, you would hear about someone who participates. You would not hear about passion or someone who might be considered “accomplished”. This is appropriate for social gatherings over drinks or coffee. In this case, we are talking about AN INTERVIEW and the hiring manager is not a mind reader! Some outgoing and energetic fraternity boy who went to the dojo for 6 months, got C’s in school and can do a black flip will essentially have the same answers as we do if I don’t quantify our answers. Their enthusiasm WILL get the job over us.
In her answers, I repeatedly heard about “participation” but I never heard the actual accomplishments. When I asked her about the absence of accomplishments in her answers, I was expecting that she was going to say “I don’t feel comfortable bragging”. Oddly, this was not the case. To her credit, this candidate just DID NOT consider the above accomplishments.
She was proud of what she did. She explained that she worked hard for the end results, but she didn’t think it was special enough to be mentioning. It turns out she was the youngest black belt to take the test and held a leadership position on the cheer squad. She was also an instructor in martial arts. HOLYYYY SHE-EYE–t Batman!!!! I think in her mind that there was someone out there with a 4.0 GPA, there were other black belts and her entire squad won the Nationals. She didn’t think this was that special. In a self-deprecating sort of way, I get it.
After practicing the questions a couple of times, the quantifiable’s, “3.85”, “Black Belt” and “National Champion” were still absent from her answers. To her credit, she was SO accustomed to not talking about her accomplishments it was a real shift for her. I literally asked her if she was Asian and was raised by a Tiger Mom. For the record she is Caucasian.
It wasn’t that she felt like she would be bragging if she quantified her accomplishments. She was proud of her accomplishments and more specifically, she was proud of the journey to accomplishment. She just didn’t look at them as special compared to her peers. And when I looked to her side and saw our mutual friend who introduced us, I got it. Her peer group is all hard-working, dedicated and highly accomplished.
Compared to the rest of the candidates, she is a SUPERSTAR!
I am flattered
I share this NOT to embarrass the candidate. It is the LAST thing I want to do so if you are reading this, please don’t take it this way. I am super flattered to be part of your job search and hope that someday soon we will be working together. Yes, would love to be the hero recruiter that brings you to the hiring manager or CEO.
I share this because I believe that there are a lot of others out there in very similar situations, myself included. We don’t always realize that we need to quantify our accomplishments. If we are fortunate enough to realize we need to quantify them, we don’t know how. I know I was in this same situation early in my career and to this day, the baggage still weighs me down. Thankfully, this was explained to me early in my career and I blogged my personal story here: http://hrnasty.com/great-career-advice/
Accomplishments, not the journey
So, if you are interviewing or talking with a manager, think about the accomplishment and not the journey. Resume and interviews don’t just care about the journey. Resume’s and interviews care about the results. Stay tuned for the next couple of posts to find out more ways to bring out your accomplishments in ways that don’t sound conceited, or timid. We need to find the happy medium, and use it in the best way.
See you at the afterparty,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
Update: Since the initial draft of this post, our candidate landed a position with the finance company she was interested in working with. Congrats Gurl! And to her sidekick who introduced us, thanks for correcting the grammar, spelling and additional wordsmithing on this post. You guys will accomplish #EpicShit!