Struggling To Uncover Your Key Achievements? 25 Questions to Help Identify Your Strengths

Struggling To Uncover Your Key Achievements? 25 Questions to Help Identify Your Strengths

Most career advisors, HR professionals, and recruiters suggest including information about your key accomplishments and achievements in your resume or CV.

Why?  Because you may have as little as 6 seconds to impress a hiring manager or recruiter as they ‘scan’ through a pile of resumes, selecting candidates to take through to the next stage of the process.

It isn’t uncommon for recruiters and employers to receive literally hundreds of applications for a single advertised role. If your application is one of those, then you want it to be noticed, right?

Including compelling and evidence-based examples of ways that you have achieved strong results, demonstrated superior performance, and added value to an organisation will definitely help you to stand out.

So why don’t people include key achievements in their resume?

Here’s the thing.  In my experience working as a career coach and outplacement specialist, I’ve found that the majority of candidates don’t include information about their key accomplishments and achievements in their resumes, even when they KNOW that this is important.

Many people really struggle when trying to identify what they’ve achieved throughout their professional life – even those who have a highly successful ‘track record’.

Why?  Here are some reasons.

Some people forget.  Often people simply forget what they’ve achieved throughout their career.  Anyone who has ever been through a robust recruitment and selection process in the past has probably realized that keeping track of your key achievements as they occur is areally great idea.  However in reality, this rarely occurs.  Life is just too busy.

Others underestimate themselves.  Sometimes people just don’t recognise that their past efforts and successes are significant and worth mentioning when trying to ‘sell’ themselves to a potential employer or recruiter.  This is particularly common amongst people who are extremely driven and achievement-oriented in nature, and always work hard to deliver outstanding results.  In the past, I’ve regularly helped people who fit into this category to realize that the things they’ve done are actually pretty incredible.

Some are lacking self-confidence.  Others just don’t want to ‘sell’ themselves or talk about why they are better than other candidates. It simply makes them uncomfortable, so they avoid it.  Consequently, they find it difficult to put their achievements down on paper (or talk about them in interviews, for that matter).  It is well known that women are particularly prone to this ‘confidence gap’, regularly downplaying themselves when compared to men.

Do any of these sound like you?  If so, read on.  Hopefully I can help.

25 Questions to help you ‘brainstorm’ your key achievements

Over time I’ve developed a list of questions that I regularly use during career coaching sessions when trying to uncover and explore any significant achievements, successes, or milestones that people have achieved throughout their career.

So far this list has proven really useful, so I’d like to share it with you.  Feel free to share it with others, too.

Ask yourself each of these 25 questions when developing a list of key career achievements and accomplishments.  Hopefully some ‘gems’ will emerge!

In the past, have you ever…

  1. Identified a way for a company to reduce costs or save money?
  2. Increased sales or market share through your actions?
  3. Managed a particularly large or complex work project?
  4. Improved productivity or operations within your area?
  5. Enhanced the accuracy of an existing process for analyzing data?
  6. Demonstrated exceptional leadership or people management skills?
  7. Exceeded the expectations of your customers or colleagues?
  8. Identified or implemented a more effective work procedure, process, or system?
  9. Dealt with a particularly challenging or demanding stakeholder?
  10. Taken an action which was ‘above and beyond’ in order to deliver good customer service?
  11. Generated a creative or innovative solution to a problem?
  12. Improved customer satisfaction by more effectively meeting customer needs?
  13. Successfully led a team through a particularly challenging problem or situation?
  14. Motivated someone who required some additional encouragement or support?
  15. Overcome a particularly challenging obstacle or barrier to success?
  16. Turned around a failing business unit, division, or company?
  17. Worked exceptionally hard to deliver strong results?
  18. Outperformed all others when meeting targets or quotas?
  19. Stayed under budget for several years in a row?
  20. Consistently surpassed previous performance against set targets?
  21. Received formal recognition or an award for your efforts?
  22. Been promoted very quickly due to outstanding performance?
  23. Gone out of your way to train, coach or mentor others within the workplace?
  24. Been elected the spokesperson or leader of a group you were involved in?
  25. Significantly contributed to a charity through volunteer work?

Of course, don’t limit yourself to answering only these questions – they are simply designed to get you thinking of specific situations that you may be able to write about.

Some final tips

A couple of final tips – it can be useful to employ the ‘STAR’ method when trying to recall important details of key achievements – that is, to describe the Situation or Task, the Action you took, and the Result of the actions that were taken.

And wherever possible, results should be explained in specific, concrete and quantifiable terms (e.g. numbers, percentages, ratios, financial figures, etc.).