Identify Your Achievements for CV & Interview

Your achievements – both at work and in your personal life – are helpful clues to the sort of job that’s a strong match for you and obviously great material for your CV and interviews, so there’s plenty to be gained from identifying them. But many of you may well be thinking “yeah whatever – all sounds well and good, but I don’t really have any achievements”.

We asked experienced career coach Michelle Bayley for her tips on how to identify the achievements that can help you to get ahead in your job hunt….


“When I ask the (bright, successful) clients who I coach around career change about their achievements at least half of them start off by saying they don’t have achievements because they didn’t make their first £1m by 25 or run a marathon last year. Mention achievements and most of us think about what others would find impressive and decide we don’t measure up.

So, if achievements are worth exploring, what’s the best way to think of them?

The short answer is as highly personal to you, forgetting how others may or may not judge them. One way to unearth them is to think about what you feel proud of and another is to think about when you’ve felt challenged. What have you done that’s put you outside your comfort zone, that’s stretched you to do something you weren’t sure you could do?

And remember one person’s achievement might be someone else’s business as usual. So someone who’s much happier dealing with figures and analysis than other people’s questions, might say that making their first presentation to the board felt like a huge achievement. For the person who’s comfortable with presentations but feels slightly queasy at the sight of a spreadsheet, the first time they filled one in to forecast a budget might be right up there on their achievements list.

So, it’s good to a) think personal to you and b) stop thinking that something has to be wildly impressive to others to be classed as an achievement.

And what else helps you to identify your achievements?

  • Think about all of your jobs to date, including the early part time ones, and list your achievements in all of them. Jump in a time machine and take yourself back to how you felt before you did something. All too often, once they’ve done something people forget how much of a stretch it was and then move on to the next thing without acknowledging themselves.
  • Dig out past job reviews or appraisals and look at the sort of objectives you had and what your managers acknowledged you for achieving. And apply the time machine test again.
  • Ask friends what they see as your personal achievements – they’ll be able to remind you how stressed you were by the thought of doing something before you did it. You can also offer to do the same for them.
  • And if you’re in touch with ex colleagues ask them what they think your work achievements are – they’ll often remember things you’ve long since forgotten. Like your friends, you can offer to do the same for them.
  • Think about “sub achievements”. You might have delivered a big project which is an obvious achievement but what were the smaller achievements that were part of this? Maybe along the way you helped a team member to improve their performance or there was a meeting where you won over that picky senior person with a fantastically well argued case.

When you’ve captured all the information you can about your achievements, ask yourself what they’re telling you about what’s most satisfying for you about work. What sort of skills are you using in them? What sort of strengths are you playing to? What’s motivating for you? Squeeze all you can out of them.

Whether you want to stay in the same sort of job but join a new company or you’re looking for a bigger career change, by spending some time thinking about your achievements you’ll be able to talk more easily and convincingly at interview about you at your best and you’ll get clues to the sort of work that feels most fulfilling for you if you. And hopefully, you’ll give yourself a confidence boost along the way.”

Michelle Bayley is an experienced life and career coach who balances running her own consultancy – Find Your Way Coaching – with a role as joint director of communications for a Government agency.