Avoid Responsibility (At Least, Linguistically)

As a job-seeker, avoiding responsibility probably seems like the worst bit of career advice you’ve ever read. It would indeed be terrible guidance if we were suggesting that you start shirking your duties and placing blame on others for your shortcomings. Fortunately, that is not the goal of this post. In this week’s installment, we are merely proposing that you stop thinking about your job responsibilities as something to include on your resume. Why? Read on for the rationale and the best way to describe your work experience.

A common resume practice is to describe the job applicant’s previous work experience with a sentence beginning with the words “Duties included.” An even more common practice is to omit those words but still include a list of duties. This might be beneficial to a hiring manager if the job is obscure and/or the job title does not immediately make the responsibilities obvious. However, in most cases, hiring managers know what a job entails just by looking at its title. They are not interested in a description of the duties you performed as an assistant manager, for example, because the duties of assistant managers are largely the same across the board. Yes, hiring managers want to hire people with experience in their industry, but to go into detail on your resume about something the hiring manager can safely assume is a waste of the six seconds he or she will spend looking at it. How, then, should you describe your work experience to maximize the likelihood of an interview? Capture the hiring manager’s attention by demonstrating how you can contribute to improving the company’s bottom line and/or culture. This is best executed by including measurable numerical data wherever possible. “Saved the company money by cutting costs” is not as impressive or informative as “Identified and eliminated areas of waste, saving the company $250K over the previous year.” “Developed and conducted training sessions to 100+ employees across three districts” contains more information about the direct impact the applicant had upon the company than “Developed and conducted training sessions.”

The goal of your resume is to advocate for you, the applicant, as an ideal solution for the company. It should be more persuasive than descriptive, and numbers can help achieve this goal without discoloring the professional tone of your resume. Instead of stating that you managed staff, express how many people you managed. If you are in sales, perhaps divulge the revenue you generated. A marketing manager might articulate a percentage of increase in web traffic. A teacher with particularly impressive student scores or improvement percentages on a standardized test could include such data. As long as the information you include is truthful and quantifiable, it is infinitely more effective on your resume than a simple copy and paste of your job description.

If you feel as though your line of work does not lend itself well to numerical data, check out this site and this one to help you brainstorm (the second link even includes a place where you can copy and paste parts of your resume and opportunities to include measurable results can be found for you!). In addition, here is a site that will help you think of ways you might be able to incorporate numbers and here is another resource you can use to find opportunities to highlight your contributions in non-numerical ways.

Whether you are writing your resume yourself or hiring someone (like us!) to do it, your resulting document will be much more likely to get you an interview if it presents you as someone who achieves results instead of someone who merely performs the necessary job duties. If you’ve looked into the resources mentioned above and still feel stuck, feel free to contact us for help or drop us a line in the comments below.