In today’s work-world, with high unemployment, limited job openings, and a challenging economy, it is critically important to learn how to articulate your value. You’ve got to “sell yourself” to the employer and differentiate yourself from other candidates.
The best way to do this is to tell compelling stories that highlight tangible, measurable results. And the best “tool” to use for this purpose is the Accomplishment Story.
The information below will give you a clear idea of how to develop and use your own Accomplishment Stories for interview success.
Each accomplishment you use should satisfy at least 2-3 of the following criteria:
- A work-related task or event about which you feel proud
- A situation where you went “above and beyond” the job’s responsibilities
- An example of taking personal initiative
- A time when you may have received special recognition or praise
Select 5 or 6 work-related examples from any time in your career, and answer the following questions to complete the “stories.” Each of your answers should constitute its own paragraph on the page (so each full story will be written in 5 separate paragraphs). Give a short title to each story, and type it at the top of each respective page.
- What was the problem, need or challenge?
- What did you do about it? (Not the team or department – YOU).
- How did you do it, specifically?
- What positive, tangible results did you produce? (Quantify if possible)
- What skills did you demonstrate?* (List 3-4 skill words for each story).
*Skill words include the following. Use only the words below; selecting 3 to 4 maximum per story, to answer question #5 above.
Management, Observation, Communication, Leadership, Presentation, Persuasion, Analysis, Innovation, Team-Building, Problem-Solving, Follow-Through, Organization.
A Checklist to Help Jog Your Memory about Your Accomplishments:
Was there ever a time when you …
- Managed teams, departments or projects?
- Saved money for your department or company?
- Achieved greater results with limited/fewer resources?
- Received special recognition, awards, or letters of commendation?
- Implemented new systems, processes or procedures?
- Opened new client accounts or expanded an existing one?
- Increased your company’s productivity or profitability?
- Solved an unusually challenging business problem?
- Increased sales revenue?
- Were promoted or given more responsibility?
- Achieved something that had never been done before at your company?
- Designed or developed something unique?
- Wrote papers or reports, or conducted presentations?
- Trained or mentored employees?
- Increased efficiency or speed?
- Recognized challenges before they became real problems?
- Improved safety standards?
- Brought-in projects under budget and before deadline?
- Exceeded expectations of the boss?
- Organized and carried-out new initiatives?
Putting Your Accomplishment Stories to Work:
By asking probing questions, you can uncover the “pain” of the interviewer and discover the company’s/department’s/boss’s biggest problems and challenges. Then, you can tie your relevant Accomplishment Stories directly to those pressing problems and challenges. When you can do this effectively, you will often receive a job offer! This is also how you can successfully differentiate yourself from all the other candidates. The process goes like this:
Candidate asks probing questions to get at the challenging issues/problems of the company. Candidate listens for, identifies, and confirms the specific need or gap, in the form of the skill words (Communication, Organization, Follow-Through, Analysis, etc.) Then candidate says, “Ms. Smith, it sounds like you have a challenge in this department with Organization, is that right?” (Or whatever the appropriate “skill word” is). Employer says, “Yes, we do.” Candidate says, “Well, I have very strong Organizational skills. In fact, I’d like to tell you a story about a time when I leveraged my Organizational skills at my last company, to generate exceptional business results in a similar situation. Would you like to hear it?” Employer says, “Sure!” Candidate tells the full Accomplishment Story in the five-part sequence (just as it’s written). Candidate concludes the Accomplishment Story by saying, “So as you can tell, Ms. Smith, the skills I demonstrated in this example include Analysis, Problem-Solving – and most importantly, Organization!”
If you develop and use your Accomplishment Stories in this manner, there will be a high likelihood that the employer’s will response will be, “Great! When can you start?”