How to Talk About Your Achievements on Your Resume to Impress HR

When talking about professional experience, it is important not only to list what you did, but also to tell how you did it. Modest mentions of success will not help win over a recruiter – he needs to offer a real story.

The art of self-presentation is very important for a career, says Stephanie Sword-Williams, entrepreneur and lecturer. She created an entire F*ck Being Humble platform to teach people to be proud of their accomplishments. Her book “To hell with modesty! How to overcome insecurities and start promoting yourself” talks about it in detail. With the permission of Alpina Publisher, Lifehacker publishes an excerpt from the second chapter.


If you look closely at the constant struggle between Apple and Samsung for dominance in the mobile phone market, you will find that Samsung products are superior in quality and performance to Apple products, but many of us prefer not to believe it. For all the nasty iPhone problems (low battery, limited storage, easy-to-break screens), Samsung has solutions.

But there is one thing that Samsung fails to perfect: the ability to win hearts, not minds. While Samsung is campaigning by flooding Times Square with billboards filled with glossy, pretty pictures and the slogan Do Bigger Things, Apple is sharing amazing customer photos showing how the product has enabled them to actually do something more. Samsung tells, Apple shows.

What is instructive about this example? You see, I always meet people who talk about what they do, not about why they do it so well. Again it comes down to modesty and our inability to recognize or even remember our own contributions to the project. So, women are better at recognizing talent in others than in themselves.

Social psychologist Adam Galinsky calls this the “mama bear effect”: women are protective of others so they don’t appear selfish, while men tend to overestimate their performance by about 30% (according to a Columbia Business School study ). Well done men! This is clearly working for you. Women, learn from experience!

Too often we focus not on storytelling but on commenting. We’re talking about the plot itself, not why it increased revenue by 50%. And we do not mention that if it were not for our participation, there would be no repeat orders, the project would not look so attractive, and the company would not proudly set our work as an example.

Are you petrified by the fear of being seen as an asshole? But this exercise in articulating one’s own accomplishments is for something else: it’s about seeing one’s own contribution to the cause and understanding how best to communicate it.

At 16, I worked for Barratts Shoes (a British shoe retailer far from glamorous), and we were forced to sell shoe care products. You know those suede protection sprays that no one wants to buy? Well, if we turned out to be the worst salesmen of the “protective product of the day”, we had to vacuum the sales floor. Now I’m not sure if it was legal, but I still did it for about eight weeks straight.

One day I got tired of dragging a vacuum cleaner along an obstacle course in the trading floor, and I decided to study shoe care products in detail. Just name it, and I already know it! And this became not just an addition to the act of sale and purchase, but its “trick”. I studied all the troubles that can befall shoes if they are not smeared with one or another agent, and chose the specific problem that needs to be solved, depending on the buyer.

I eventually became the top seller of shoe care products, and my vacuum cleaner walks were a thing of the past. While this may not have been a career-changing turning point, I still tell this story in interviews today because it reflects my understanding of commitment and purpose. It’s not about how I became a sales leader, but about the path I took to get where I wanted to be.

So, let’s see how you can insert a professional example into your resume and improve it by moving from commenting to storytelling. Let’s say you wrote:

How not to write about yourself

I supervised the creation of a publicity brochure for the university, including photography, design and replication.

No doubt, the information is true, but stated too literally. And it doesn’t explain why it was your involvement that affected the project you were on or the business you worked for.

By giving an example of your work, you should make it clear what exactly went into project management. How tight were the deadlines? What was the scope of work? How did this affect the client or the company you worked for? What have you done to surpass yourself? With all this in mind, let’s try again.

How to write about yourself

To provide a comprehensive overview of the university’s offerings, I conducted 17 interviews in four weeks that determined the creative and content direction of the prospectus and other brand communications. I also coordinated three shoots, managed external vendors, and provided the client with a data bank of over 300 pieces of content.

See the difference? By describing the process of working on a product you are proud of, you immediately increase your level of involvement and emphasize points that you know will impress the reader. This doesn’t mean you have to remember every little detail when you’re asked about your latest project, but thinking about them is a great way to make sure you’re ready to talk about them at any moment.

It’s like meeting with an ex- lover who asks how you are doing. If you answer “fine”, it will certainly not impress him and make him throw himself into your arms again. But in 10 minutes you’ll remember a million different things you’ve done and could brag about, and everything would sound a lot better than “normal.”

It is worth writing down everything interesting that you have done lately so that you are always ready. By turning the experience into a story, you will engage your readers with it and begin to realize your own value and speak more clearly about it. This is important not only when you need to fill an awkward silence in an interview or presentation, but also to get the recognition and money you deserve.

The way in which you will fix your own contribution, choose at your discretion. But if you only write down your accomplishments when you’re about to apply for a new job or approach a potential client, you risk missing out on something important that demonstrates your ability.

Just in case, I would recommend doing monthly reviews, from which it is clear what is going well, what can be improved and what lessons can be learned from.

The more you reflect, the fresher the achievements will be in your memory, and you will not miss the opportunity to share them when the moment comes.

If you haven’t done that yet, no big deal. As I said at the beginning of the book, if you haven’t been taught to talk about yourself, where are you going to be able to do it well? If the world were perfect, someone would be constantly telling you about all the amazing things you can do; but in reality, this kind of analysis is possible only if you yourself are not too lazy to figure out why your skill is truly unique.

If you want to overcome shyness and stop being afraid of self-promotion, “To hell with modesty!” you will definitely need it. Sward-Williams shares inspiring life stories, practical tips, and even some easy exercises to practice.

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