Monday, January 5, 2015

The "Then What?" Question Strategy for Collecting Client Accomplishments

Sometimes when you're trying to collect accomplishments from clients, they can't think of anything that they would consider an "accomplishment." This strategy works with people at all levels of employment and is best utilized to get accomplishments out of people who aren't used to quantifying what they do.

I call it the "Then What?" question strategy.

Let's say you're writing a resume for a preschool photographer. I chose that by going to and looking for the first non-sales job I found in Omaha, Nebraska, where I live. It's much easier to get accomplishments from sales people than from people in the "helping professions." I'm not sure if "preschool photographer" is a helping profession or not, but it's one where you might have a hard time getting accomplishments out of the client -- but also a job where asking the right questions can yield some good stuff.

So, I ask my preschool photographer client about her work, and she says that she takes photos of all the kids in a preschool class. I'll ask about how many kids are in the average class, and how long it usually takes to shoot a class. Then I might ask directly about an accomplishment — for example, "Tell me about what makes you good at your job." The client may say something like, "Well, sometimes the kids don't want their picture taken. They might be shy, or just not like photographers. I'm good at getting them to smile."

I'd say, "Okay, so let's say little Timmy is clinging to his teacher and doesn't want his picture taken. Then what?" She might respond, "Well, first I'd put him at ease. I keep a little box of puppets in my photography bag for that very reason. He might not want to hear from me, but he'll listen to Mr. Monkey."

"Okay, so you bring out Mr. Monkey. Then what?"

She replies, "Well, I put the camera down and put on Mr. Monkey — he's a hand puppet — and I have Mr. Monkey explain — in a funny voice, of course — that he wants to be able to remember what Timmy looks like, and could he get a picture of him? Sometimes that works directly, but sometimes I have to give Mr. Monkey to the child and have Mr. Monkey agree to get his picture taken with Timmy first."

"Great," I say. "So then what?"

"Well," my client says, "At that point, they're usually smiling … or sometimes laughing … because I'm still using my Mr. Monkey voice, and I can get a couple of shots off. And because we shoot all digital, I can see right away if I've got the picture. In three years of doing this, Mr. Monkey has never failed in getting me the shot I need. Sometimes it takes 5 or 10 minutes, but I always get the photo."

And from there, I'm able to write some strong, employer-oriented accomplishment bullets.

Want to learn more about the "Then What?" question strategy? Purchase my teleseminar, "Ask Better Questions, Write Better Resumes" or download the "Write Great Resumes Faster" book.

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