Writing accomplishments: What you did

UX designers are positively gushing when they talk about their skills and responsibilities, but when it comes to concrete accomplishments, the reservoir of words seems to dry up. The problem, I believe, is that many of us haven’t taken the time to think about what we’ve actually achieved on the job and what kinds of results we’re getting. We’re not good at recognizing our own accomplishments.

An accomplishment in its simplest form is: what you did and how well you did it. Where “how well” ideally means how it benefited the company.

In this post, I’m going to focus on what you did.

» Deadlines and deliverables

The first place to look for accomplishments is in your deadlines and deliverables. Did you deliver what you promised on schedule? Did you exceed the client’s expectations by delivering more than you promised? If so, you might write about it like this:

  • Exceeded client expectations by delivering five screen designs instead of two.

Were you asked to do an impossible amount of work, so you busted your butt to get it done on time? Were you well organized and able to get the project done early?

  • Worked weekends and evenings to meet a challenging 6-week development schedule.

Notice how short these accomplishments are? I’m not describing which screens were delivered, or why there was a 6-week development schedule. You don’t have to get into a lot of detail—you just have to write enough to pique the interest of the hiring manager. Believe me, I’ll call you if I want to learn more. Which is exactly what you want.

Continue Reading

“Expertise”? I don’t think so

“Expertise”? I don’t think so

Malcolm Gladwell famously said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve an elite level of mastery in a skill. Of course, most of us aren’t at an elite level in any skill. At best you could probably call yourself an expert in one or two skills or practices.

So, if it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery, how long does it take to achieve expertise—maybe 1,000 hours?

Now let’s look at the “Areas of Expertise” section on your resume. How many of the skills listed there have you spent 1,000 hours doing? Let’s say you have 12 areas of expertise—that’s 12,000 hours, or approximately 6 years of 40-hour work weeks.

How many years of experience did you say you had? I’ve been in UX for 7 years and I doubt I’ve done anything near 1,000 hours of user research, just to pick an example. I certainly wouldn’t claim to be an expert user researcher.

» Say more with less

“Expertise” means you’re an expert. And that means your list of expert-level skills should be short.

The same thing goes for “areas of specialization.” Specializing means you’re focusing on one skill to the exclusion of others. If your list of specializations has more than one or two items in it, that’s not specializing.

Continue Reading

Less wanting, more doing

Less wanting, more doing

A close cousin of the objective statement is the “I want” paragraph. Here are a few examples:

I Want #1

I Want #2

I Want #3

I can guess why candidates put this stuff in their resumes—they want to describe their passion for UX, their motivation, and their goals. Unfortunately, this content almost always comes across as egotistical and pretentious. I think we can agree to call bullshit on wanting to “continue to explore new methods of providing narrative in UX documentation.” Yeah, whatever.

The more you want, the more I think you’re going to be difficult to please.

Continue Reading

The objective statement, aka “I want a job”

Maybe there’s an effective objective statement out there. If so, I have yet to see it.

Because they’re so prevalent, I assume there’s some training or general wisdom out there that says your resume must contain an objective statement. Too bad whoever put that notion out there didn’t bother to tell you how to write one. As a result, UX job-seekers have come up with a thousand and one overblown, pretentious ways to say, “I want a job.”

For example:

To secure a UX designer role where I can utilize all my skills to help create delightful products or services.


I am looking for a job that will allow me to demonstrate my skills in visual design, interaction design, content strategy, and usability


A director, manager or senior level User Interface/Experience Designer position in an organization looking to leverage the depth of my design experience, leadership skills and proven track record, to deliver highly innovative user experience solutions.

Continue Reading

Avoid the #1 reason for rejection

Avoid the #1 reason for rejection

No matter what industry they are in, all hiring managers say that one of the top reasons they instantly reject resumes is bad grammar, spelling, or formatting. Nobody wants to read a poorly written or designed resume. The assumption is that if you can’t bother to proofread your own resume—which has a direct impact on your financial wellbeing—you’ll be probably be just as careless on the job.

As a designer, aesthetics and presentation ought to be important to you. Good design creates a warm and trusting feeling in the user—you don’t notice the design as much as you feel comfortable, cared for, and confident that you’re in good hands. That’s the feeling you want the hiring manager to have.

When I see a sloppy resume, my first thought is—“Oh boy, let’s see what else is wrong.” I’m immediately looking for more errors to back up my bad first impression. It’s the rare resume indeed that’s strong enough to overcome such a handicap.

Before sending out your resume, run through this checklist and make sure you’re not heading for the slush pile before the hiring manager has even read a word. (You can also download a printable PDF version if you prefer actual check boxes.)

» Proofreading

Print your resume out (don’t try to read it on screen) and proofread it no fewer than three times:

  • The first time, read it out loud.
  • The second time, start from the bottom and read every word in reverse order.
  • Then put it away for a few days and read it again.

While you’re doing that, find a friend whose command of spelling and grammar you trust, and have them proofread it. If you find mistakes, correct them and start at the beginning. (Pro tip: Getting your resume down to one page saves a lot of proofreading.)

Continue Reading

It’s better to reject than hire poorly

It’s better to reject than hire poorly

In the security industry, we talk about “fail open” and “fail closed.” Fail open means when you have uncertainty, you err on the side of letting things proceed—on the assumption that the risk is low. Fail closed means when there’s uncertainty, you shut down the process rather than risk a bad outcome—even if it means losing a possible benefit.

One of the reasons managers reject so many candidates is because the worst mistake a manager can make is to hire poorly—a fail closed situation.

If you’ve ever had to manage a difficult employee, then you know how stressful, frustrating, and overwhelming it can be. Managers who’ve been there are justifiably gun-shy—most of us would rather reject a candidate than risk making a painful and expensive mistake.

Continue Reading

5 reasons why infographics are a bad idea

Many, many sources on the web encourage you to turn your resume into an infographic, so you’ll “stand out.” Here are 5 thoughts on why infographics are a terrible idea that make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

1. A graph is a visualization of data. Your job history contains precious little data that can be visualized. Attempting to turn qualitative data into a graph only proves that you don’t know anything about data visualization.

Below is an example where the candidate has tried to put her personality traits into a graph. This fails as a graph because:

  • The data is completely subjective and unsuitable for graphing.
  • The pairs of words should presumably represent opposites, but they don’t (“steady” v. “sensitive”?).
  • A good graph should tell a story—but there’s no story here. The candidate is not even willing to commit to the qualities she herself chose for the graph, with the exception of “efficient.”
  • I can think of much more efficient ways to say “I’m efficient.”
  • The candidate’s personality traits, especially as presented here, have absolutely nothing to do with her ability to be effective on the job.


Continue Reading

Why managers are looking for top performers

Why managers are looking for top performers

My CTO used to tell us that in hiring you need to be selfish. What he meant by that was, “be picky and hold out for what you really want.”

What hiring managers really want are top performers—not just because they do the best work, but for the selfish reason that they make our lives easier. How do they do that exactly?

» Top performers make the hiring manager look good

Nothing makes you look like a genius more than hiring a top performer.

  • The ability to find and hire top talent is extremely valuable to the company.
  • When top performers work for you, their successes are your successes and their good ideas are your good ideas.
  • Top performers push the whole team to be better because they are never satisfied with their own work.
  • All of the above make your boss look good, and that’s good for you.

Continue Reading

Wireframes are not an accomplishment

Standard advice for writing about job history in your resume is to briefly describe your responsibilities, then list some key accomplishment bullets. The problem I see over and over with UX resumes is that they contain ONLY responsibilities and NO accomplishments.

Responsibilities are what you get hired to do. Responsibilities are what someone who got fired from your position could honestly put on their resume. If all you talk about in your resume is responsibilities, then you look exactly the same on paper as that loser in the next cube who always comes in late and does the bare minimum.

Your accomplishments are what make you better than him. You’re accomplishing things, and he isn’t.

Think of responsibilities as the “must-haves” and accomplishments as the “delighters.” (If you’re not familiar with these terms, I encourage you to read up on the Kano two-way model—there is no more useful model in design, in my opinion.) An easy way to distinguish must-haves from delighters:

  • Must-haves are the tasks that you will get fired for if you don’t do them
  • Delighters are the things that nobody asked you to do and/or that required you to go above and beyond—that produced a good outcome for the project or the company

Continue Reading

Cut to the chase: one page is best

Cut to the chase: one page is best

Most hiring managers will make a decision about your resume within a few seconds. In other words, if you don’t hook them on the first page, you’re done. So why would you submit more than one page?

» Nothing says bad UX like a long resume

Long resumes are self-indulgent and lazy. A long resume says it’s all about you, you, you. A long resume implies that everything in your career is so meaningful and important, you couldn’t possible cut or edit any of it. It demonstrates you don’t care about my time, and you don’t know what I’m looking for. It tells me you don’t know much about effective business writing.

» Put your best material up front

Since you know most hiring managers aren’t going to get to the second page, it pays to put your best material up front. Your best material is your most recent and significant accomplishments. If you can’t fit everything onto a single page, make sure at the very least that your two most recent jobs are on the first page.

Continue Reading

My goal is to help motivated UX job-seekers present themselves more effectively so they get the best jobs they are qualified for.

Writing from the point of view of the hiring manager, I provide insights into the hiring process, what managers are looking for, and why so many resumes get rejected.

Enter your email address if you'd like to be notified when UX RESUME publishes new articles.