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Recently I was asked how I figure out whether the resume I’m looking at belongs to an ‘A’ player or someone of a lesser grade. Here’s what I said:

A’s tend to list accomplishments, and they tend to have accomplishments that really stand out, even in their hobbies. You see stuff like 1st place in the Chicago Assembler Speed Competition on A engineers’ resumes. Designers point to a portfolio that you look at and go ‘wow’. Managers talk about team transformations or compelling business outcomes. ‘A’ product managers look like CEOs–they display strong evidence of vision, leadership, and meaningful outcomes.

B’s and C’s focus on duties instead of accomplishments. They try to make what they’ve done sound bigger by emphasizing the size of the team or company, but when you read between the lines you realize they just organize meetings and push documents around. Not that I have anything against documents and meetings (well, I do despise unproductive meetings), but those are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.