how to put outcomes on your resume when you’re not sure how to measure your work

Here’s an exchange I had with a reader recently which I thought might be helpful to other people.

Reader: I have a question regarding resume writing. As an autistic person, this process is like pulling teeth for me. I understand all of the concepts behind how to write a good resume, but I deeply struggle with figuring out how to put it into practice (the “how” of it vs the “what” or “why”).

I am specifically struggling around figuring out how to articulate the outcomes of the work that I’ve done, particularly when there isn’t a quantifiable data point attached to it. For example, in a previous position, I created workflows and processes in various areas of the business where they didn’t previously exist. But I really struggle with figuring out how to articulate what the benefit of that was, I think because it is glaringly obvious to me. Like, you need processes and procedures in place and documented so that people know what to do and how to do it. And that’s important because people don’t like feeling stressed about not understanding expectations. And you can’t expect people to mindread what your expectations are or to be able to intuit how they should do something. So, if you want things done at all/correctly and if you want employees to want to stay with your company long-term, and if you want employees to not be stressed and frazzled, then you need to have processes and procedures in place. And you should want your employees to not be stressed and frazzled because that stress will bleed into customer interactions and the quality of work you are able to give clients.

But that is not a quick little bullet point I can put into a resume. I’m also sure that isn’t what is meant by “articulate the outcomes.” But I can’t figure out how else to articulate that. And I can’t figure out how to crack the “coded language” that I know is often used on resumes in these types of situations.

I guess, basically I’m trying to figure out how to learn the language around resume writing without hiring a literal interpreter (ie some kind of resume writer). Are there any resources or ways of understanding this part of resume writing that are very specific in how you actually articulate these kinds of things?

Me: Sometimes it’s helpful to think about what would have happened if no one had done that work, and compare that to what happened because you did do the work — and that can help you see the “outcome” of your work more clearly. Or, imagine someone bad at your job doing those things — how is the way you approached it different from that, and how did that affect the outcome?

Does any of that help? If not, tell me what feels fuzzy and I will keep trying!

Reader: I really have trouble coming up with a more specific/professional descriptor than just “better.” Like, what would have been different if I hadn’t come up with a particular workflow? Things would have been chaos and everyone’s work would be harder … A lot of the work that I do is often like doing UX but for processes and workflows within a business. In the same way that good UX in an app is almost unnoticeable until you use an app with bad UX. And when you’re asked to describe why one app is better than the other, you can only say that it’s easier to use or a better experience. Sorry; my brain is better at explaining things in metaphor, but you can’t use metaphor in a resume bullet point lol.

Also, I feel like it might be important to point out that I am very sure that when I do this work, I do an exceptional job. Everyone always remarks on it, but once again it’s always with vague descriptors like “Wow, this is so much better than it was before.” Or “Wow, this makes my work so much easier.” “Wow, you’re really good at this.”

People will also suggest that I make the results I achieved quantifiable like: “how many hours did it save the team” but I also find that incredibly difficult to estimate. Like, everyone works at a different pace; I don’t stop and measure how long it takes everyone to do things before the improvements and I don’t measure after. Also, a lot of the time there is no standardized practice when I create workflows and procedures, so that makes it *extra* difficult for me to figure out improvement metrics. Is there some sort of guesstimation equation that people usually use that I’m just not aware of?

Me: I think with stuff like “without me, things would have been chaos and everyone’s work would be harder,” the key is to flip it and describe it in positive terms. So maybe it’s “By troubleshooting, monitoring for problems, and providing an accessible admin presence in the office, ensured a busy team ran smoothly and effectively, with a minimum of crises.” Or “monitored process X to spot potential problems before they blew up, ensuring team members could focus on client support.” Or “proactively identified ways to make employees’ lives easier, such as X and Y.” Or so forth.

And you can cite those compliments — “garnered regular, unsolicited praise from colleagues for X and Y.”

And yeah, re: quantifying things, lots of jobs just don’t lend themselves to that and there is not a secret guesstimation equation to use. If your job doesn’t lend itself to quantifiable measures, don’t worry about trying to do that; it’s okay to focus on descriptive measures instead.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. KB*

    Thanks to the letter writers and to askAmanager for asking and answering a question that I have never even been able to articulate!

    1. TiredToday*

      LW, why not list how many workflows and/or processes you implemented (ever, or avg. X per month, or avg. X per project, etc.) that led to the specific outcome(s) (e.g. improved experience for clients, saved client $, saved company $, helped EEs do job quicker, etc.)? Its ok that you cant quantify all the outcomes with #s – but you certainly can quantify your volume of work.

      1. Bee*

        Right, I feel like “created effective workflows to streamline processes, including X, Y, and Z” is itself the bullet point! I agree with the OP that the benefits are pretty obvious, lol.

        1. Indubitably Delicious*

          Another detail: “Created, monitored, and revised workflows” or something similar. Anyone can create a process. Ensuring that it’s adopted and that it persists is the more impressive great, to my mind.

        2. Alexander Graham Yell*

          I also think there is space for something about “Improved business continuity and training plans by documenting X number of processes” because documenting the process doesn’t just help the current team, but anybody that might have to step in and perform the work. Worth highlighting that not only are the processes better now, but they’ll be easier for everybody going forward.

    2. Cats and dogs*

      Yes I have three degrees and don’t have autism and have never understood how to use this advise until now.

  2. Cherry*

    I’m autistic too. In my last job, I had to do this kind of thing a lot – as well as comparisons between past and future, it’s okay to say things like “created a smooth interface to enable clients/users/bees to navigate both payments and troubleshooting”, or whatever it is you did. I really like the word “enable” for this, because it’s not negative on what your team did in the past, but also shows how you unlocked an entire new capability for them (if you did).

    I also hate that “saved X hours” thing. Unless you can actually prove that, it smells of massive BS to me, and I don’t use it unless I really can get most of the way to quantification.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        If you use the word “facilitate”, make sure to be clear about what your actual role was. Otherwise it’s kind of nebulous.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      “Streamlining” a process is where my brain goes for all those little things that facilitate others’ work but don’t have easily quantifiable results other than “it’s so much easier”. (They’re one of the things my manager is good at and I am not. I will try and do the process I am given as smoothly as I can, but she will find the right way to change the process.)

    2. Koalafied*

      Yeah, there are very few things where you can really quantify hours saved in a credible way, and it’s typically limited to:
      1) billable work or work processed through ticketing systems where hours are actually tracked that closely by category, or
      2) work that makes up such a large proportion of one person’s job on an ongoing basis that they could legitimately be saving at least one hour a week (i.e. an amount of time they would very much notice having freed up for something else).

    3. Alexander Graham Yell*

      One thing I did when I was doing some casual process improvement was look at other metrics than hours – were there fewer emailed questions about the process? That’s a quantifiable measure. (One process I helped design cut email communication by 1/4 team-wide and you can bet that’s on my resume!)

  3. Juniantara*

    Can I just say that if you are doing UX/UI/Process design, it is often a really good idea to measure this stuff, even informally? Pick one person who seems like they work at “average” speed, have them do the old process and time it, then the new process. It can seem silly, but data can really be useful internally to justify raises or additional hires or cost savings, as well as being handy for resume accomplishments.
    Another great metric to use is how often the process fails – even if the process takes a little longer, users report 5 fewer problems per week with the new process/interface/design.
    Not everything is quantifiable, but sometimes even some rough math like this can help you put the work in a new light

    1. J*

      Yes, even if the process is now updated, asking someone to role play or give feedback about the timeframe of doing the work before is a useful metric. No one is going to look at your resume and be like “well we talked to Doreen in intake and she said Betty is a liar and the process before only took 6 hours, not 8” but if you ask Betty or Doreen yourself, you’ll probably get 6 hours from one, 8 hours from another and can use an average of 7 as your before stat. Or maybe the improvement isn’t in time specifically but in fewer inputs/mouse clicks or not putting in redundant data on 5 different screens which didn’t take but 30 seconds more but was just annoying each day.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Yes! Like streamlined process from 20 pages to 1 intake form would be an example an outsider could grasp. Or redirected workflow so duplicate work among 5 team members was eliminated, saving 40 man hours a week (that could be used for something more productive).

        1. TechWorker*

          Very minor gripe but I try to use ‘person hours’ where I can! Or engineer hours, or whatever makes sense in context.
          (Yes ‘man’ can mean person, but for most people and in most contexts, it means man)

          1. Short’n’stout*

            Thanks for bringing this up. I like “staff hours” or “team hours” as additional alternative phrases

            1. just some guy*

              I don’t know how widely understood the terminology is, but in my neck of the woods we talk about “full time equivalents”/”FTEs”.

    2. Anon user*

      I was going to suggest maybe asking a few people how long it used to take them using the old system and how long it takes them now. Not exactly scientific, but may be helpful to get some metrics you can use.

  4. Cranky Chemist*

    I’ve struggled with using achievements in my resume as well since my work is mostly technical. There are some things that can lend themselves to achievements, such as process improvements, but the vast majority of my work is “I tested this sample using this method”. In a lab setting, it’s important for employers to know the types of testing done at your current job to know how similar it is to the job you’re applying for, but I struggle to reconcile that with Alison’s advice of not listing job duties.

    1. Panda (she/her)*

      Do you have any kind of performance metrics that measure how well you test the samples? Do you test more samples per day, or with a higher rate of accuracy? Is the testing method you use one that is tricky or not commonly known? If you have a performance review, what are you scored on? Have you identified any ways of improving how the samples are tested? I disagree a little that you should never list job duties – I think sometimes it’s really useful to know that someone has used a particular testing methodology, or that they have experience in a particular area. I think the advice should be more that the focus should be on your accomplishments, rather than just a list of your duties.

      1. L'étrangère*

        Yes, that’s a better interpretation of Alison’s advice, as I’m sure she would agree.

    2. irene adler*

      My situation as well. Also makes for a long-winded description of the job history. Which nobody likes.

    3. Ann Ominous*

      Can you somehow tie in how testing is related to your organization’s greater mission?

      Something like:

      – Tested 200 teapot paint samples using the cutting edge Alpaca-spit process, allowing the Teapots Organization to evaluate the impact of Alpaca spit on teapot glazing.

      (And if it turned out the new process was bad, that’s a great outcome! “Saving Teapots Inc x workload hours and money by recognizing and reporting early that Alpaca spit is not compatible with Unicorn Glaze”
      And then based on whether you proposed a fix or implemented the fix:
      “Proposed solution X which was adopted company-wide” or “key player in implementing solution X”

      1. Nicosloanita*

        Yeah one thing I’ve noticed about neurotypical folks, is that they highly value proof that someone else bought into something, perhaps more than what you did or how good it was. I think it feels more objective to them (which doesn’t quite make sense to me, because senior leaders are often wrong?). So “Proposed solution X which was adopted company-wide” is impressive, because it implies other people agreed with you. And Alison’s suggestion of quoting a boss saying you “achieved the impossible” below will also be more persuasive than data about how good your product was.

        1. OP*

          I also feel like the underlying message is that everyone has to be a singular standout in their previous job in order for them to be competitive for future jobs, which is a pretty exhausting proposition when you think about it. For most people, in most positions, you are only ever given the opportunity to fulfill expectations, not exceed them or to create new ideas or improvements. The system is just not designed to allow for that, nor do managers even want that (the phrase “don’t rock the boat” comes to mind). I think in the vast majority of jobs, what managers *actually* want is someone who will onboard quickly, be a “team player,” meet expectations, and be flexible when changes happen within the organization.

          I think it’s a really interesting idea to consider in conversation with this wave of “quiet quitting” we’re seeing (which, as we know, is just appropriate boundary setting). Why are we driving for exceptionalism in the hiring process when that’s not actually realistic and how is it hurting us as workers?

          1. Nicosloanita*

            Yeah, I often struggle with this. You need teacher’s recommendations to get ahead as a student, and then you need references to get ahead as an adult. Two problems with this: 1) it ensures the status quo will continue – only those who please authorities will be able to advance 2) it seems like references need to be exceptional for everybody. Everyone in the comments seems to be a rockstar, best in their department, responsible for more sales and faster process than anyone, never got crosswise with a boss unless it was zero per cent their fault, etc etc. It seems like even a positive but neutral reference is a career killer now, as is too much bouncing around, not enough bouncing around, etc etc.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I don’t think everyone is a rock star, but everyone has a strength they can lean into. I pass typing speed and accuracy tests by the skin of my teeth, but (partly because of my own typos), I am an excellent proofreader, for numbers and words alike. Need someone who can get through a huge pile of data entry with excellent speed? You want Julie over there, not me. Want someone who can go through an account to find the one error 4 months ago that has the payments and invoices so mismatched? That’d be me.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I hear you on that one. “Find the four entries where the drivers bought unleaded for their personal cars instead of diesel for the company trucks”.

                That one was fun…

          2. CoveredinBees*

            This is definitely an issue and I hate it. I’ve heard it called The Lake Woebegone Problem (“where all the children are above average”). I’ve definitely included descriptors in my applications that I find excessive because that is what is expected.

            There are jobs (like lab work and software engineering) where the most important thing they’re looking for is years of experience with a specific technology or procedure. I can imagine certain lab tests take a prescribed time (e.g. growing cultures) and you can only process as many as come in and the physical setup will allow. In software engineering, it is fantastic if you launch a lot of code without bugs, but that doesn’t have the same sparkle as what people are encouraged to write.

          3. Divergent*

            I try to tie into your “what people actually want” in my cover letter – when I was doing bush work/landscaping in the rainy pacific northwest, my first line was “you want someone who will show up every day, with rain gear, and actually stay to work in the rain” and that got a ton of positive responses.

            I came to this by listening to what landscaping employers griped about (no-shows, people who came unprepared) and what seemed to be a normal part of the job but that many people didn’t do (working in the rain). I think there’s space for this “exceptionalism” in doing normal parts of the job (fulfilling expectations, as you say) that a lot of people just don’t do or kind of ignore. Not everyone will fulfill every expectation, but if there’s an area where you will and many people won’t, that can sometimes make folks take notice.

            (My context is that I’m autistic and have difficulty distinguishing between what people say they want and what they actually want, so I try to pay attention and analyze those differences. I’m frequently thrown off by trying to “meet expectations” in every area where employers say they want certain expectations met, but then no one else meets them and the employer doesn’t seem to care. Figuring out which expectations people actually care about, and learning how to code that into my resumes, has been Quite A Project but helpful)

            1. OP*

              You’re response really resonated with me, especially your context/last paragraph, because YES this is SUCH a huge problem for me as autistic in the workplace and it has had a very real impact in my ability to perform easily in the workplace. I mean, that’s a whole other ball of wax regarding what it means to *actually* support/accommodate neurodivergence in the workplace, but I won’t get on my soapbox here lol.

              Also, I really liked your approach to your cover letter. I think that’s a great strategy for someone like me and it seems like it would be very effective (I would hire you based on that line from your cover letter!).

              1. Alexander Graham Yell*

                Divergent’s comment is brilliant, and I think it could be useful as a screening tool the other way around, too – if what you want is a place that values the fact that you’re really good at streamlining a process and creating documentation (for example), you can include that in your cover letter. “I think workplaces are most efficient when there is a clear, standard, and easy-to-follow process, which is why I developed X number in my current role. It makes onboarding new team members much easier because they know exactly what’s expected and how to produce it, and my team has said X/Y/Z complimentary thing about the processes I’ve worked on once I was done.”

                Maybe not every manager will want that, but it shows what you care about and what you’re good at and you don’t have to necessarily quantify the results in the same way as you do on your resume. It also shows *why* you’re focused on that part (you care about efficiency!), which shows your motivation and that you’ll keep doing the same thing for them.

              2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                This goes back to what Alison always says about your resume and cover letter being marketing documents. It’s not that you have to be exceptional to be hired, it’s just that you have to present yourself in a way that stands out in a hiring manager’s mind as someone who is more likely to be an answer to their search.

                Probably almost everyone who does get hired anywhere has average application materials that don’t stand out. And they get picked, almost at random, from among a pile of applications that are also average. Hiring managers just want some assurance that the one they pick, based on limited information, is the best choice they could make with that limited information. That’s why you want to make sure your hiring materials stand out.

                YOU know you’re a good worker, but you need to demonstrate that somehow, and you need to do it as early as possible in a way that resonates. That might be through metrics showing you have better results, that you are exceptional. But it might also just be through writing something insightful that makes the hiring manager think, “This person gets it.” And it’s not that you necessarily “get it” more than anyone else. It’s just that you’re the only person in their pile of resumes (or one of a few) who was able to communicate that through your application materials.

                That’s what Divergent’s line does. That’s also what Alison’s “magic” interview question does, only that one comes after you snag an interview. Interviewers who are thoughtful themselves hear the question and think “This person cares about being a good performer. This person understands work and good performance well enough to know that it can look different at different places. This person is smart enough to articulate a question that gets to the heart of that issue. And, presumably, this person will use my answer to either evaluate whether they have the strengths needed for this role, or to employ the correct strengths to prioritize the correct things once they are on the job.”

                Being a little more sure that someone will be successful in the role, through evidence of either talent/qualifications or reliability/understanding is what savvy employers want when choosing a candidate. It’s your job to just make sure that is obvious in your application materials, so that you increase your own odds of being asked to interview.

            2. JSPA*

              This may be the single most helpful comment I’ve read here, and I only wish I’d read it 20 years ago.

            3. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

              Oh wow. Oh wow wow wow. I feel like this comment helped me understand SO many confusing/frustrating job experiences in my past.

            4. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

              I find this comment super useful, thanks Divergent!

              And I SO get the that last paragraph! I’m fortunate that I haven’t had occasion to job search recently, because I feel like the biggest part of my job is figuring out how to balance expectations that are actually important with what people in authority *say* is important in both what I do and how I present it. And that’s both hard to sell on a resume, and a whole new learning curve for each job change with its change in expectations and people doing the expecting.

          4. Anna Badger*

            I don’t think workers are expected to be singular standouts at everything, but having worked with a broad range of people I feel pretty confident in stating that most people are standouts within their department at *something*. part of developing a career is moving the kinds of work you do so that as many of your tasks as possible are in the areas where you are strong or have the foundations to become strong, and as few as possible in the areas where you are just never going to shine. part of that is highlighting your particular strengths on your CV, so that you can have good conversations with employers who are looking for those particular strengths.

        2. Ray Gillette*

          It’s not so much that user adoption is “more objective” than other metrics of success, it’s an important piece of data in its own right and is often easier to quantify than other metrics like “time saved.” If your process is technically very good but nobody follows it because they find it too annoying, the company isn’t actually going to see the benefits.

        3. Adam*

          I think it’s generally valued because frequently that’s where your value as an employee comes from. If you come up with solutions that are wonderful along some axis but nobody uses for some reason, that has just as much effect on the company’s goals as someone who comes up with bad solutions that nobody uses.

    4. Plumbum*

      My CV has a few bullets of responsibilities and a few bullets of achievements under each job, I can’t imagine a CV making sense if you don’t know what the jobs involved. I’m in data/systems/software, so there’s also a “skills” box that lists the software/languages I have experience with.

      I’ve had compliments on the layout, so it’s clearly not done me any harm.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*


        As with most (all?) advice, it’s not applicable with every situation. Technicl skills are worth a 1-2 bullets or a skills section.

        An example bullet might be:
        *Ran ELISA and PCR for tissue samples in a sterile (biohazard class II) settting.

      2. L'étrangère*

        I have a one to two line ‘tools’ section at the end of each job. So it’s easy to know I used Oracle rev n so many jobs ago for so long. One big paragraph at the end wasn’t clear enough in terms of version or skill freshness, and too much of that in the job description itself interfered with legibility. Plus where would you put “yes I used complex version control back then”, its not a direct job skill but it’s good if you already use the same we have

    5. hbc*

      I think those are the cases where you have to lean on what a mediocre-to-terrible employee would look like, and elaborate the differences. This can be really hard for diligent people to write down, because those things seem so obvious to you, but every manager has had the people who simply didn’t get it. So did you never have an issue with cross-contamination because you’re diligent with your samples? Did you troubleshoot basic problems with your equipment to decrease downtime? Have zero cases where someone had to come ask you the result of the test because your report wasn’t clear?

      1. OP*

        I think this actually really good advise. My brain still struggles with this a little bit, but I think it’s a good place to start and at least gives my thinking some structure.

    6. Koalafied*

      I’m in digital marketing, and on page 2 I have a section for “Marketing Software & Skills” that’s just two bullet points. The first bullet is a comma-separated list of software packages (with certifications noted in parentheses where applicable) and wraps to a second line. The second bullet is a comma separated list of programming languages in which I’m proficient and only takes one line.

      Would something like that work for testing methods? Just calling them out as methods you’re proficient in, separate from the jobs in which you learned them?

  5. Panda (she/her)*

    My additional suggestion – use specific examples of the processes you implemented: “Designed and implemented a new help desk prioritization process which drastically improved IT staff response times” or “Led an organization-wide workflow standardization project for X, including complete documentation of processes and policies which reduced onboarding time and reduced user errors.” If you add Alison’s suggestion regarding praise and acknowledgement, I think this does become measurable. If I saw this on a resume I would be interested, and would likely use interview questions to evaluate the outcomes – like asking what went well, what did you find challenging, what was the most surprising outcome.

    1. just some guy*

      A further thing that can be useful here is talking about *why* you did a particular thing, especially when there were choices to be made – if I have to pick between “I used Method X because it has benefits y and z which match our project needs” and “I used Method X because it’s the one I used in my last job”, I’ll take the former.

  6. ecnaseener*

    For people who have trouble coming up with the descriptors like “troubleshoot” or “monitor” – there are big lists of ~resume words~ online that I’ve found helpful for brainstorming! Go down the list, look up a word if you’re not sure what it means, and ask yourself if it describes any of the work you do.

    The more common way to use those lists is probably in the opposite order – write your list of accomplishments/tasks and then translate it into jargon – but flipping it on its head works better IME.

  7. Ben the Project Manager*

    First of all: Thank you so much for this, it’s been one of the bigger challenges I’ve faced with my own resume and this is such a relief to read.

    Second: How do you approach this when you haven’t actually made things better, but prevented them from getting worse? My own specific example: a few years ago, I was asked to take over leadership of a project that was struggling badly. I delivered it late, way over budget, I think we broke even at best, and everybody involved felt exhausted and burned out. On the other hand I delivered it at all, we didn’t get sued, and nobody quit. Our leadership praised me and told me I had ‘accomplished the impossible.’ The CEO left a fancy bottle of champagne on my desk. I’m incredibly proud of the work I and the team did. But also, not a single thing went *well*, it was all some version of “could have been so much worse.” How do you describe that kind of accomplishment on a resume?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can probably come up with something better than this because you have the specifics and I don’t, but the general approach I’d use would be, “Selected to take over badly struggling project and shepherd it through highly challenging constraints; recognized for ‘accomplishing the impossible’ by senior leadership”

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      You say that you took on a complex project that had many challenges, turned it around and made sure that it was delivered. In a case like the one you mentioned, finishing the project IS the accomplishment. And this is a great example to use in interviews when you get asked about how you handle difficult situations and challenges in your work.

    3. Ann Ominous*

      Actually that’s pretty awesome. Focus on outlining the skills you used to figure out how bad the issues were, organize and motivate an exhausted team, and drag the thing over the finish line.

      “Hand-selected/requested by name to lead X project which was well behind schedule and risked the loss of $x (or whatever the impact would be)”

      “Reviewed xx outstanding invoices, researched relevant case law, and coordinated with xx people to determine scope of requirement to ensure project completion”

      “Motivated exhausted team of 3 people across 2 states to ensure project completion”

      “Prevented collapse of the entire industry/allowed company to maintain its contract with major client/whatever the overall outcome would have been if the project had flopped”

      Also say “received personal accolades from CEO who said I “achieved the impossible”

    4. J*

      I’d acknowledge the project outcome as minimizing risk of legal exposure or minimizing risk of increased turnover, while being recognized by senior leadership. It’s probably because I work in house now but the minimizing risk of legal exposure thing is a catchphrase that goes over really well. I was showing a budget line item and they were shocked and horrified but when I reframed it against the cost of a lawsuit, they loved it and it’s now become a go-to interview example.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      I agree I think you wordsmith the exact thing that you said here.

      -Recognized by Executive Management Team for “Doing the Impossible” after reassignment to previously failing Project X; realigned budget, resource, and timeline and led team to complete milestones to bring project to close.

      Basically this is one that you want your interviewer to ask you about. Think of it like writing a clickbait headline. Then you have a built in

  8. Bananarama dingdong*

    My autistic self was just editing my resume this morning and wondering the exact same thing, absolutely fantastic timing. Thanks for posting! And thanks LW for writing in!

  9. Michelle Smith*

    “If your job doesn’t lend itself to quantifiable measures, don’t worry about trying to do that; it’s okay to focus on descriptive measures instead.”

    Thank you! First person I’ve ever heard say this. It’s really difficult in some jobs and it’s so frustrating to me when all the advice is just “think of numbers to include to show the impact.”

    1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      Hear, hear. This has been a big struggle for me as I job hunt this year — doubly so because I’m moving from an industry that doesn’t really keep metrics to an industry that does, and I feel like it puts me at a real disadvantage in getting my resume seen.

    2. Bear Down for Midterms*

      Yes, I brought up this very concern in the open thread awhile back — that all the resume chatter these days is for quantifiable achievements but even the annual goals for my editor job barely have quantifiable metrics — and the responses I got were that, basically, I’m wrong because you can always quantify achievements. (If I myself am not impressed by how many times a year I change “i.e.” to “e.g.” [and it’s a lot!], I can’t imagine an employer will be.)

  10. HowdyHelp*

    Hi from another autistic friend! I just want to say that your contributions are awesome and valuable, just like you!

    1. OP*

      Thanks :). I’m late diagnosed, so going through the job search for the first time with this new knowledge of myself. It’s been…..interesting to say the least. At least it makes more sense now why people’s job search advise has always seemed clueless and never really worked for me haha.

  11. Llama Zoomer*

    This sounds like the work of an industrial engineer :-)

    YMMV for different types of roles, but if the person were indeed an industrial engineering (or adapt for your field), I wonder if another source of ideas for outcomes would be accreditation or certification requirements in your field? Those (hopefully) would thoughtfully lay out the types of outcomes that are expected from excellent professionals in that role? (I’m actually very far from an industrial engineering, but my field’s guiding principles/values would be a good source of ideas).

    1. OP*

      I’m not, but now I’m like…hmmmm maybe I need to look into industrial engineering. Trying to find a job/career that fits the way my brain works (basically system improvements all day, every day) has been difficult as I don’t know anyone else in real life with a brain like mine. I’m curious what your field is?

      1. Px*

        Anything along the lines of business process improvement, some kinds of operations roles, LEAN (if you’re in any kind of engineering type field) fits what you like. The problem is that the title often varies massively by industry. In my corner of the world, industrial engineering is a completely different beast.

        I’d say spend time on job boards/LinkedIn searching by key words like “efficiency” and “process improvement” and you should find titles that fit hopefully.

        1. OP*

          Thanks! Yeah, I’m trying to find a position in operations analysis right now and it’s a bit difficult, mainly because I’m not sure where the disconnect is between myself/resume/experience and the jobs that I’m applying to.

          1. PX*

            Yeah, having been through this myself recently, I just accepted needing to read a LOT of job descriptions to filter out the ones that sounded like what I wanted to do vs the ones that just had the “wrong” title.

            But I’d also say this is one where if the description seems close enough to what you want (vs the title) – apply! You can probe further during an interview if you get it, and the practice can be good at helping you articulate exactly what it is that you want.

  12. sequitur*

    As another autistic person in a role that isn’t easily quantifiable, thank you, this is so helpful!

  13. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Resume writing is REALLY hard – I know zero people who enjoy it and very, very few people who are good at it without at least a second pair of eyes to help them out.

    I really wish we could overhaul the whole system tbh.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Just thinking about putting together a resume is stress-inducing for me – like actually measurably increases my heartrate and blood pressure. But barring the introduction of telekinesis and/or Veritaserum to hiring managers I really don’t know if there’s a better way. There’s improvements that could be made to the current process certainly but those are more in what you do when you have the resume rather than in the writing of it.

      1. OP*

        Glad someone else is going through the same thing. I’ve been trying to explain to people how uniquely distressing the job search is for autistic people. The best I’ve been able to come up with is, whenever you brain understands the world through patterns, you need enough data points in order for a pattern to emerge. And with the job search, you’re just putting your efforts out there with no returning data points and it really, genuinely feels like being trapped in a room with zero light and being told to just…shuffle around and find the door. I get the same physical feeling of slight panic and being trapped.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          For me it feels like trying to write party invitations in cursive with a tiny stick of lead while wearing heavy gloves. I struggle the whole time and then have to just send them out and wait.

          I really, really hope I can be happy at my current workplace because I think if I every really have to approach job searching again I’m going to start having actual panic attacks.

        2. Your Former Password Resetter*

          Resume writing is just the worst. The stakes are high and you only get one shot, so it has to be perfect the first time around. But nobody knows what perfection looks like or what metrics you’ll even be judged by.

          It’s an abstract assignment where you have to deliver a really concise and polished and in-depth letter to convince a random stranger how twenty years of your life experience fit into this job that you only have a surface level understanding of.
          And everybody has different ideas on what information is important or relevant, and you just have to guess what this strangers priorities are.

          It’s just one massive guessing game and the stakes are half of your life.

      2. OP*

        Glad someone else is going through the same thing. I’ve been trying to explain to people how uniquely distressing the job search is for autistic people. The best I’ve been able to come up with is, whenever you brain understands the world by seeing patterns, you need enough data points in order for a pattern to emerge. And with the job search, you’re just putting your efforts out there with no returning data points and it really, genuinely feels like being trapped in a room with zero light and being told to just…shuffle around and find the door. I get the same physical feeling of slight panic and being trapped.

        1. Koalafied*

          Thank you for sharing. I think I’ve experienced something similar before, when I was a brand new manager and I couldn’t quite figure out yet how I was supposed to know what my report was doing with his time (obviously ruling out “watch him constantly and/or make him fill me in on literally everything” as non-starters), if he had enough to do, if he was working at an appropriate pace. I really struggled to describe the disconcerting nature of that feeling at the time, that it was more than just a vexing logical problem but really unsettled me while it was hanging over me. I remember saying things to friends like, “I feel there’s just this… black box, or iron curtain, around his work and I can’t figure out how to see inside or through it!” It really did feel so physio-emotionally similar to the feeling of grasping around in the dark.

    2. Captain Swan*

      Resume writing used to drive me bonkers and I am pretty good at it for my field. The best solution I came up with is to always have a ‘street’ version of my resume on hand. (Street being one that you can send out to anyone versus any type of company version for internal use.) Then when you need to update you are only dealing with what happened in the last year and maybe updating a couple of places for new training/certifications/skills.

      I actually acted as resume writer for my daughter with autism when she started looking for part time jobs last year. Her resume it pretty short but it took some time for her to understand how to put things on her resume but we got there in the end.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, I kind of came to the conclusion that this is an area where I need someone to help/do it for me. I can write a really good B+ resume on my own, but to get it into A+ territory requires access to neurotypical thinking that I just don’t have. I won’t ever be able to navigate coded language that well. Which isn’t to say that other Autistic people wouldn’t be able to, we’re all different and have different strengths and weaknesses. But I think acknowledging that this is an instance where I need support besides just advice was really helpful for my mental health.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    OP – you could informally ask people who have benefited from your work to tell you what the benefits were. Eg. tell them that you’re trying to get a handle on the impact of X process but there’s nothing you can see to measure it. If anyone asks why, you can tell them that you’re looking for justification for continued improvements or that you want to know for your performance evaluations.

    You might hear some quantifiable things from the users of your processes. Perhaps it saves someone 30% of the time they used to spend on the old process. Or, you might hear that your process has made it much easier and more straightforward to do their job, and that all the right people are coming into the process at the right times. Both of these are improvements that you can articulate on a resume.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        And, for you/others who want to use this idea, you don’t need to let on it’s for a resume update – you can tell them you are looking for items to include on your review or even just say “to better understand my strengths”.

  15. Angry socialist*

    I feel this LW so much. I am fine at my job. If I didn’t exist, my boss would… do slightly more work herself? If I were way better at my job than I am, not much would change. If I were way worse at my job than I am, my boss’s life would be harder but everything would still get done. I am not a rockstar, I am a bench-warmer. Anyone with similar qualifications could do this job at least as well.

    This is all fine with me, as I have no ambition. But it sucks to try and make a resume. I hate it.

  16. J*

    A couple of “good outcome” things for process changes are adoption and longevity. People don’t like change and will stick to what they know if given half a chance, so if you can say that your new process had x% (80-90%?) voluntary adoption within the first x months, that will be impressive for anyone who’s tried to change processes before.

    Similarly, if it’s something you created a while ago and has been in place for years without ever needing updated (or only updated because of changing external factors), that shows the resilience of your design.

  17. ADHD & organized-ish*

    I had this issue before! In one of my recent jobs I was a jack of all trades. And, because I wanted my work to go more smoothly, I created a lot of processes, templates, documentation, and collaboration tools for our team. This was outside the requirements of my job. Sounds like maybe this kind of work is more of a key function of your position, but I think the same approach of highlighting what you did differently can work.

    I ended up saying something along the lines of:
    “created workflows, documentation, and digital tools to improve remote collaboration and streamline operations.”

    Let me try to “crack the coded language” of resumes for you:
    “Created” is an active word that emphasizes that you made the thing from nothing (or almost nothing). it can be overused on resumes, but if you don’t overuse it, I think it can stand out on an individual resume. And the outcome in this example was the “improve” and “streamlined.” and notice those are also active. I like using active words for qualitative results because it emphasizes the way it impacted the actions of others or ongoing result of the work.

    In your situation, I think you could say something similar, some combo of:
    – created workflows for key processes which allowed for improved…
    – evaluated workflow inefficiencies and created tools to….
    – … which increased productivity and team morale
    – improved cross-team collaboration by developing new workflows that…

    some results might be improving or increasing:
    – morale / decreasing stress
    – efficiency, productivity
    – ease of training, cross-training, filling in when worker is absent
    – response to bugs/crises with the work (time of response or efficacy)

    and all of the above could be backed up by referencing the unsolicited praise you received!

    Doing work that allows other people to do their work better is a big deal, but it can indeed be hard to explain. Be prepared to elaborate in your cover letter and interview, if these skills are important qualifications for your career.

    I hope this helps… sorry i wrote so much!

    1. irene adler*

      Please don’t be sorry. You post is quite helpful to me (no, I’m not the OP). I thank you and have printed it out for future reference.
      See I too, am a jack of all trades. I created and managed the entire QC dept. Most times when I interview, I cannot convey what that means. So it’s glossed over.
      You have given me insights as to how I might ‘showcase’ all the ‘something from nothing’ I’ve done in this role.
      Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!

    2. OP*

      We love a long comment in this house :).

      I really appreciated your list of possible results. I have a really hard time articulating those things besides just “things were better” so having a list to jumpstart my thinking is *incredibly* helpful.

      1. ADHD & organized-ish*

        yay I’m so glad! (my anxiety from my ADHD rejection sensitive dysphoria brain kicked in right after I submitted my post!)

        Another you can highlight is if you became a source of knowledge yourself. “de facto team troubleshooter” was once on my resume. Or, if there is something that people prefer you to handle over someone more expected – I had one job where clients preferred me to continue handling their case when there were complications, instead of escalating to my manager.

  18. Captain Swan*

    For non quantifiable accomplishments/outcomes, I like using words like ‘key’ or ‘ensured’. Statements like ‘Provided key input to ensure the Global Rice Painting Symposium registration system met user requirements’ or ‘Key contributor to the rice painting improvement process team’. These work especially well if you played a large role but didn’t lead the team.

      1. irene adler*

        yeah, agreed! And ‘key contributor’ phrases just beg for elaboration-so bring me in for an interview and I will do just that!

    1. ADHD & organized-ish*

      yes! emphasizing contributions in team effort is so important and I think an overlooked item in resume writing.

  19. Keyboard Jockey*

    > Like, what would have been different if I hadn’t come up with a particular workflow? Things would have been chaos and everyone’s work would be harder … A lot of the work that I do is often like doing UX but for processes and workflows within a business.

    I’d really encourage OP to look into “service design” and see if any of the language around that practice fits what they do or helps describe outcomes. I suspect part of what makes this difficult is feeling like the thing OP is doing is “just common sense” when there may actually be an entire discipline focused on it.

    1. random_object42*

      Came here to say this! I work as a service designer (came up from UX) and a lot of my job is what the OP described.

  20. Lady_Lessa*

    While I am not job hunting, nor intend to do (retirement is my next step), I can appreciate the challenges. I can make a good formulation, that meets the requirements, even cost, but if it doesn’t sell, I couldn’t put that as an accomplishment that had numbers.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, it’s so frustrating when you come up with something really good (for me, process improvements) and the company just doesn’t want to implement it. Not because it wasn’t good or you don’t know how to persuade people, but because the structure of the system doesn’t allow for disruption or improvement.

  21. Junior Dev*

    This is great. I’m really glad to see it addressed here, and the advice is helpful.

    Anyone have a version of this for software engineers? What’s the diplomatic way of saying “the code was an untested spaghetti mess until I came along, defined and implemented standards for handling dates and separation of concerns, and broke things up into small enough chunks it was possible to test them?”

    I think “added unit tests to untested legacy project” captures some of this, but the real thing causing bugs was a lack of conceptual clarity on things like treating dates as dates and numbers as numbers and not making the format something is displayed to the user affect the way it’s sorted, filtered, or sent to the API.

    1. SameSame*

      It seems like “standardized” would be a good word here. Maybe also “codified” but that’s a lot of the “code” root word ;)

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I don’t know a whole lot about software/coding, so change and adapt the wording as necessary:

      – defined and implemented standards for handling dates and separation of concerns in legacy project to increase usability (this is mostly your wording and I think it’s strong)
      – tested legacy code in discrete segments in order to find and correct errors

      I agree with SameSame that “standardized” is a good verb to use too. Maybe:

      – standardized logic in legacy code to increase clarity and to make future changes easier to implement

    3. Person*

      maybe something like “standardized and decoupled code base making it more stable and easier to maintain, troubleshoot, and test”

    4. Alpaca Bag*

      Optimized code for ease of editing in future releases. Enabled new team members to understand the existing code more quickly than others had before the updates, because of which the team now deploys X more features in our quarterly releases. Wrote unit tests and regression tests that reduced post-deployment bugs by X%. Since I established unit and regression test standards that are now applied to new projects, we have had no project failures and developer job satisfaction has increased.

    5. ADHD & organized-ish*

      would phrases like these work:
      – expanded upon…
      – … stalled legacy project
      – restructured (the project)…
      – …enabling relaunch of the project

      Also, consider if adding something additional about your contribution/ the situation would be impactful in the resume or cover letter:
      – did you come in and orient yourself without documentation or familiar coworkers to train you?
      – how quickly did you solve the problem?
      – did you initiate the creation of new quality control measures, or documentation or code structure systems?
      – what business problem did this solve? did your work allow the company to provide a feature that your customers really valued? did this being the project up to “industry standard”? did it allow for other teams to work more easily together on the project?

    6. The Person from the Resume*

      Also perhaps you can work in “software development best practices” because an untested spaghetti mess is the opposite of best practice.

    7. Java dev*

      Lots of good replies on this one already, so I’ll just add this— if your work uses any kind of static code analysis tool, that can be a useful source of objective metrics related to code quality. For example, % increase in code coverage, number of code smells fixed, % decrease of duplicated code, average code complexity of methods… But of course, only applicable if you use a tool that will give you that kind of data

  22. Twix*

    I like to use a What, How, Why approach.

    What = What you accomplished. The “big picture” goal of your work. This communicates what kind of work you have experience doing.

    How = How, in more specific terms, you accomplished that. This communicates how you approach problems.

    Why = Why you were doing that work. What the benefit was to the team/company/customers/etc. This communicates value added.

    An example would be “Streamlined business processes (What) by identifying and eliminating redundant steps and implementing clear business data handling policies (How) in order to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs (Why).”

    If you can offer actual quantifiable data about your job performance then by all means do so, but it’s definitely not necessary for most jobs. People reviewing resumes understand that that’s not something a lot of people have access to, and that the numbers people do list on resumes are likely to be very optimistic (at best).

    1. OP*

      Ooo, I really like this. It also makes it much clearer to me what information to include instead of just devolving into a word tornado (as is my want). I’m also going to keep it in mind for answering questions in job interviews.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I call this the “so what?” approach.

      The difference between: “Redesigned the intake questionnaire and data entry process” and “Redesigned the intake questionnaire and data entry process to reduce errors, decrease processing time, and reduce client frustration” makes it clear that why you did it and that there was a noticeable outcome, even if you don’t have numbers to back it up.

      Sometimes I tell job seekers to say “so what” at the end of every line of their resume, because either there’s more to say on the subject — or no one cares so it should be deleted.

  23. A Pound of Obscure*

    “Analyzed complex internal job functions and created procedural documentation that helped staff perform their duties more efficiently and with fewer errors.”

  24. AJoftheInternet*

    I’ve been meaning to ask this question for weeks and weeks now! My freelance job is usually measured in client satisfaction, aka the most subjective metric ever. I build systems for clients, but sometimes they don’t even use them! So I can’t say, you know, “Redesigned process X resulting in 4% more customer conversions,” because I redesigned X and then the client decided to go in Y direction… but still really liked what I made.

  25. Lacey*

    I’ve always struggled with this as well. I’m a graphic designer, there’s not a lot of quantifiable data that goes with that.

    Even when clients do track the numbers, they don’t do A/B testing to find out whether it’s the ad design or the campaign set-up that made the difference.

    In the past I’ve mentioned the sheer volume of ads I designed per cycle, the simultaneous deadlines I managed, and the specific companies/products I did extensive branding work for.

    I don’t know what I’ll do for my next resume though, because this job is a whole different beast and somehow even less quantifiable than the last.

  26. Bubbletea*

    I have exactly this sort of difficulty all the time. The more familiar with/good at something you are (well, I am – I think it applies to others too), the harder it is to express what it is you do. It’s what makes me a bad salesperson. It’s so abundantly and immediately obvious to me that X is worth buying that I can’t put it into words because it just IS.

    1. OP*

      Yes. Super relate to this. God, I am the worst sales person. Basically my brain is like: “Ok, here’s what the thing is. You know if you need it or not. You know if you can afford it or not. Let me know when you’ve made your decision.” Which…is not how good/affective sales functions lololol.

      1. nightengale*

        That sales tactic would work a lot better on me than conventional ones, where they don’t know about or don’t have the features that are essential to me while trying to tell me why I should want a whole bunch of features that are extraneous at best.

        (yes I am also autistic. . . )

  27. Adverb*

    As someone who has similar things on my resume, here’s what I have done:

    *Developed uniform processes to consolidate 5 unique-but-similar monthly workstreams into a single, well-documented workflow which reduced support, single-purpose code, and maintenance

    *Created new processes for llama-grooming department where none existed enabling faster on-boarding of new staff, consistent process across the department, and a quarterly reviews to ensure the existing processes are fit for the tasks as they evolve

  28. ThisIshRightHere*

    Would it help if you think of it in terms of “impact,” rather than “outcome?” I differentiate between these concepts a lot when writing my annual employee review. In my organization, it’s understood that more junior employees focus on inputs and outputs whereas managers focus on impact–and beyond that, senior managers focus on mission-based or organizational impact.

    Input (what I did/steps I took): I noticed the room was dark, assessed it was because of a burnt bulb, ordered a box of lightbulbs and requisitioned a ladder, and made a plan to replace the bulb.

    Outcome (quantifiable change resulting from my inputs): The brightness in the room increased by 50 lumens, which in turn allowed allowed colleagues to complete their work in half the usual time and reduced daily sight-related safety incidents to zero.

    Impact (far reaching effects outside your work unit, but within the company): Due to [outcome I achieved], our customers reported faster response times from their account managers, freed up time for sales staff to drum up new business, etc.

    Mission impact (effects outside the company incl. how you helped your company better achieve its mission): Other companies in the industry replicated the process I created, allowing greater stakeholder collaboration and streamlining fulfillment schedules for our suppliers.

  29. Dawn*

    I really feel like you’re overthinking it, LW! You already did a great job of articulating the outcomes here!

    “I created workflows and processes in various areas of the business where they didn’t previously exist.”

    “you need processes and procedures in place and documented so that people know what to do and how to do it.”

    “it’s easier to use or a better experience.”

    “when I do this work, I do an exceptional job. Everyone always remarks on it,”

    ““Wow, this is so much better than it was before.” Or “Wow, this makes my work so much easier.” “Wow, you’re really good at this.””

    “a lot of the time there is no standardized practice when I create workflows and procedures”

    A lot of your individual statements in here are pretty succinct and don’t need that much tweaking to turn into resume bullet points, you just need to stop explaining and adding caveats after the succinct statements. If anything, I’d say – pardon me for putting it this way – practicing shutting up (something that took me a long time to figure out in my own writing.) Say what you need to say about it and then just stop.

    You’ll get there. You’ve already got a strong foundation to work with here.

    1. OP*

      Actually, I think you’re on to something with the “stop explaining and adding caveats after the succinct statements.” Neurodivergent people tend to be overexplainers (for reasons that are both innate and socialized) but the more I’ve dug into how to best “market myself”, the more I’ve realized that the strongest marketing statements are definitive, broad, and not situationally specific. It doesn’t make innate sense to my brain, but I can definitely play that game for the job search.

      1. Dawn*

        Believe me, as a fellow ND person, I absolutely get it; this is something I’ve had to work really hard at myself and I know how it feels to Have To Get Everything Exactly Accurate Including All Caveats And Heading Off All Potential Vectors Of Criticism Or Pedantry so on and so forth.

        The trick for me, and your mileage may vary, was training myself for Hard Stops, and it’s a lot easier to do in writing.

        Maybe somewhat ironically because it’s not otherwise the greatest place for mental health, Twitter helped me a lot with this, especially in the 140 character days because it forced me to pare down a lot of my statements to the bare essential information. Writing as a journalist helped as well; when you’re communicating breaking news, what people want is a summary of what’s actually happening and what’s actually known.

        Another thing that can help the autistic brain (in my experience,) if you have problems pulling those statements out yourself, try to imagine/remember what an NT person would say if they were describing your work and what you’ve accomplished. Those statements from other people like “This really makes my work easier!” are a great place to base your bullet points, especially if you have the opportunity to ask a follow-up question like, “In what way did this make your work easier?” And to hiring managers, feedback from other people is frequently more compelling than your own opinions of your work in any case.

        Just to give you an example sometimes in my work we get customer feedback sent to us, and I’ve saved some of the best ones for insertion into my resume: a recent example read, among other things, “I manage a customer service department and I hope all of my employees are as helpful to our customers as Dawn was to me.” That’s a line I can almost drop straight in!

        Anyway. I’m the one getting into the weeds now; keep it short and sweet and reference feedback on the results of your work and you should be knocking this one out of the park.

        1. Tangential Tangerine*

          I’m super late / new to my own ND diagnosis and I am exactly the same impulse. My training tool (before Twitter existed) was writing haiku! Short and tight, no loops or caveats possible.

  30. lebkin*

    A tangential piece of advice: update your resume with your accomplishments as soon after they happen as possible. I keep a “living” resume that I try to review and update quarterly. If something major happens, I try to update it that week. This helps make sure fewer things get forgotten while allowing me to be close the metrics when they actually happen. Having the situation fresh in my mind really helps the wording come out more smoothly.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, this is something I really really need to start doing in my next job. I am verrryyyy bad at tracking things and remembering things (I’m not that kind of autistic lol) but I think developing a structure for it would help.

    2. OP*

      Yeah, I really really need to start doing this in my next job. I’m very bad at tracking things and remembering things (I’m not that kind of autistic lol) but I think setting up a structure/framework would help. Any advice appreciated :)

  31. Advice Please :)*

    As a slight tangent to this question, and especially the article Alison linked in her response, what do you do if you don’t set the goals, deadlines, etc in your work? I work as a paralegal and at least in my field of law, paralegals cannot give legal advice. That means I don’t tell clients what route we are taking in their case, how long it should take us to complete the submission, the fees for our work, etc. My coworker and I (it is just the two of us and our boss) complete our work before the deadline set by our boss, but that just means we did what is expected in our job. In our office at least, there are no bonuses or anything along those lines for completing the submission prior to the deadline, you just move on to the next batch of cases you’re working on. I understand I could discuss how I work with clients to get the necessary information, but at this point saying something about providing good customer service and/or working well with clients on a resume seems as generic as saying you’re good with Microsoft Word. Any advice?

    1. irene adler*

      What feedback do you get from the clients?
      My assumption here would be that a key piece of a successful case would be the managing of the client-yes? Can you list the ways this was accomplished/facilitated?
      Do you have a process -maybe something you devised- to assure submissions are on time? Maybe you improved this process as well?

      1. Advice Please :)*

        Hi Irene, that’s a good point. The client tracking isn’t super official, but I do have my own method I could discuss. Thank you!

  32. Sara M*

    Hello! Fellow autistic person here. Maybe I can help you.

    Have you been told “you take things too literally?” I have. And I think it applies here.

    You’re perceiving things like work-hours saved as a literal quantity with a “right” answer and if you give any other answer, it’s not accurate.

    This isn’t how resumes work. You are allowed to make an educated guess at these hard-to-quantify things. Educated guesses can be based on anything reasonable, and you’ve got a huge margin allowed for error.

    When I had to quantify my documentation writing and what I achieved, I asked my manager for help. “How much faster is that team working?” He compared to a few prior projects and said approximately twice the speed. So I could say “doubled” on my resume.

    For a job where I couldn’t ask anyone or access records, I did my best guess of how many candidates I interviewed in my assistant HR role and what percent of the total that was. They were guesses. Reasonable ones. If anyone did ask a manager, they’d say “that sounds about right” instead of “what?? No way”.

    That’s all you’re trying to do. Best educated guess. If anyone asks you in the interview, you can say, “That’s my best educated guess, based on X and Y.” But it’s unlikely anyone will ask.

    In short: where numbers cannot be found, it’s ok to use plausible estimates. (Many autistic people are highly ethical. Me too. But this is okay, I promise.)

    If you’re still struggling, ask an NT person for help. It’s okay. Good luck!

    1. ADHD & organized-ish*

      this is a great tip! I am pretty hyperbolic so I have to rein it in, but I could see some of my other ND friends getting tripped up on the literal-ness.

  33. Kris*

    Thank you so much for this question! My work is also not easily quantifiable. Essentially I advise my boss on a set number of matters per time period. That number doesn’t change based on how I work (so there’s no real benefit to efficiency as long as I get that set amount of work done). My advice is subjective and he may not agree; that does not mean my advice isn’t high-quality. There is no higher boss and no performance metric. The only thing that matters is what my boss thinks. My accomplishment is that for the last 10+ years my boss has trusted me to give him the best possible advice I can, and he’s very happy with how I’ve performed. I haven’t had a clue how I could present this on a resume, but this discussion has given me ideas and I will bookmark it for the future (though my hope is to continue in this role — which I love — until I retire).

  34. Texan In Exile*

    When I can’t quantify a result, I use co-worker quotations in my resume (and in my cover letters). I had just launched an internal newsletter (and knew I hated the job already and needed to start looking), so added these lines to update my resume:

    * [After publishing first issue], a reader said, “This is awesome! Really glad you brought some of [VP’s] flavor into the newsletter. Feels a lot more on-brand for the org than [the previous newsletter] did.”
    * Identified and wrote all the stories. A director said of the stories about her department, “WOW…all 3 were so perfect. Great voice, concise, relatable and I could go on and on. I can’t tell you how much this is going to help us and our brand to have partners like you and Alice.”

  35. Sunny days are better*

    I was trying to help an autistic person very close to me develop their resume and they did not want to accentuate anything to make themselves “stand out.” This was their first real resume out of school.

    As an example: They graduated with the highest average in their program. They did not want to list that “because it seems like I’m bragging and acting like I’m better than everybody else.” There were other smaller things too, but this was the biggie.

    I tried to explain that you want to take advantage of anything truthful that will make you stand-out in a field of candidates. That’s it’s important to brag about your accomplishments. It was like pulling teeth to convince them, but I finally won. And they got the job.

    There seem to be many members on the spectrum here in the comments and I’m wondering if this might be a rather common issue? Perhaps there is a tendency to unfairly sell yourselves short? I’m really curious to hear about how others feel about what they include in their resumes?

    1. OP*

      If it where me having that hesitation, it would probably be coming from a few places:

      1. Not having a reference for what is the norm in shouting yourself out. When does it come across as gross and bragging? What is the line between hyperbolic and the shared understanding of what it means to be proud of yourself? I think it’s a little like trying to pick out the right word to use in a description. Is red, corral, flaming, rosy, or puce the right word to describe an apple? What about the color of a very very angry person’s face? What about an embarrassed face?

      2. Autistic people are often made to feel very very very bad about the way the communicate the knowledge that they have. So if a teacher asks a discussion question in class and I simply answer the question fully, correctly, and factually, other people in the class will let me know that they think that I’m a show-off, a know-it-all, a brown noser, or just…different and weird from them.

      3. Autistic people tend to be very good at being clear eyed about what they know and what they don’t know. So adding things into a resume that might make it seem like I know more than I do is terrifying because my brain thinks of a resume as an objective list of what I can and can’t do. So fluffing myself up is terrifying because if someone believes that, then I’ll be expected to be able to do things I can’t. And I know that isn’t true, resumes are marketing pieces etc etc, but it’s really hard for me because it’s just so unnatural to they way my brain works. Autistic people’s natural default is “say what you mean, mean what you say.” It’s a bit terrifying when you realize that that’s not how the workplace runs.

      1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        Cosigning OP’s response, especially 2 & 3 (I don’t personally struggle so much with #1.)

        Also, there’s a special way 3 and 2 can synergize negatively for ND people, that can make trying not to stand out ( ike Sunny days are better’s friend) a rational and strategic choice.
        If we communicate accurately about our knowledge and abilities that differ from the norm, an audience uncomfortable with differences may blame their discomfort on the content or manner of our communication — claiming we’re lying or mistaken, or bragging/downplaying/unclear/bad at communicating — instead of recognizing the communication’s not wrong just because they don’t like to hear it. Both ND and NT people do this, but society enables NT people more when they do it toward a putatively-ND person (or when a majority person does toward a marginalized minority person; interpreting Black people’s neutral communication as aggressive when it makes Whites uncomfortable is a way this happens unrelated to neurotype).

        But it means there is sometimes no acceptable way for a person to communicate the bare relevant facts of their own experience without being blamed for someone else’s discomfort that difference exists. Most ND people I have talked to say this happens frequently to them, and many of us adapt our behavior and communication (called masking or passing, when one tries to appear nondivergent) to try to mitigate the negative impacts. Even those of us who don’t mask (much, intentionally) still find our social decision costs/benefits weighted differently than a person who is considered ‘normal.’

    2. ADHD & organized-ish*

      For the person in my life on the spectrum, I could see this being challenging because they have trouble discerning and interpreting nuance in social interactions, including judging what is appropriate based on the context of the conversation.

      In some contexts saying you were top of your class could be bragging & obnoxious, in another it could be slightly-weird over-sharing but benign, and in a third it could be totally appropriate or even necessary for achieving the desired outcome in the social interaction. (resume and interviews would be the latter situation.)

      Add on top of that that my friend has learned a lot of rules to navigate social things out of a survival need, and understandably they can be rigid about following them, AND also experienced bullying and were told often they were nothing special and their accomplishments and good qualities didn’t matter because they were too weird [worse word than that]. So they might not always recognize their own accomplishments nor be able to tell when to tell others about them.

      As an ADHDer, I’ve observed me and my ADHD friends tend to reeeeeeeally undervalue ourselves and our accomplishments because of horrible self esteem due to years of being told we’re lazy/stupid/should try harder, combined with the many failures and struggles experienced due to the challenges of having ADHD, especially if we didn’t have good support or even a diagnosis yet.

      So it doesn’t surprise me that you had that experience.

      1. Sunny days are better*

        I really appreciate the different points of view that you explained. Thank you!

  36. Lies, damn lies, and…*

    Did you:

    -synthesized operations by designing processes and workflows that increased efficiency for ## employees
    -interviewed 7-member leadership team to identify inefficient finance procedures and documented and designed a process to decrease time spent on x procedure by approx 40%

    It’s not just the “what” you did and the result, it’s also “how” you did the what to get there and who was engaged.
    It can be hard to quantify “made everyone’s lives better” but you can quantify changesd x processes or involved y people in design.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      This! Use the numbers to help a reader understand the scope that you covered (ie, how many employees you affected) or how you went about it (ie, “interviewed # of people on Y team to document and streamline accounts payable process”).

      If you’ve covered a lot of areas, that helps the manager know you’re familiar with lots of business terms. If you focused on one area, you’re more likely to have deep knowledge of that area, and to understand it well enough to find uncommon improvements. Neither is ‘better’ objectively, but each fits a different niche.

  37. Molly Moonbeam*

    Thank you OP and everyone who posted with suggestions! So many wonderful ideas!

    Wondering if every now and then perhaps AAM could sponsor a resume/LinkedIn/interview response workshop day where we can share assistance with wording/editing/ideas?

  38. TeaCoziesRUs*

    THANK YOU! This is great advice for some of our military members, too, who have to write bullets for their annual appraisals and award packages (for essentially employee of the quarter or to compete against other bases’ populations who do a similar job) but have more nebulous jobs whose impact is extremely hard to quantify but without whom literal national security measures would falter. It’s hard to compete against someone who is fixing the planes that deliver the water bottles and blankets after an awful earthquake to someone who makes the pay flow to pockets properly but no one will argue that both are equally valuable! It’s just that one is easier to quantify (i.e. fixed this widget so quickly that the plane was operational in one hour, bringing thousands more blankets to XXXXX more quickly vs. implemented new process that caught overcharges, meaning no one had to pay back $1k due to system errors). I’m sending this to my not-flashy friends. :)

  39. Fussy Tuxedo Kitten*

    A friend gave me very similar feedback and I’m not sure how to apply it. I have process improvement as a skill and I can point to templates and workflows I’ve done but I can’t legitimately say, “I improved efficiency by X%” because nobody is measuring efficiency.

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