Has Your Resume Been Sabotaged? Print E-mail

by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Creating a resume from scratch may seem like a snap for those who mistakenly believe some random samples found online will guide them. Not only is much more strategy required, but just two simple words found in many resumes -- maybe even yours – could sabotage your presentation.

It may surprise you to learn the phrase that should be scrubbed from your resume is “responsible for.”

Though widespread and seemingly harmless, here are four ways this standard wording will paint a pretty unimpressive picture for employers -- and how you can fix it: 

It reads like job description.
Read most job postings, and you’ll see a laundry list of duties a hired candidate will be expected to perform. That’s perfectly fine for a job posting—not for a resume. Sure, employers want a candidate to be able to perform a particular set of functions. The problem is, particularly in a competitive job market, you’ll be only one of hundreds of candidates claiming capability of doing so.

What will make a candidate grab an employer’s attention? Demonstrate a history of success, rather than simply a lengthy string of job duties. The best way to exhibit the ability to thrive while performing these duties is to cite specifics.

Stating you were “responsible for all phases of project management” simply isn’t enough – at least not if you want to stand out from the rest of the candidate pool. “Spearheaded a $50M project, completing all phases two months ahead of schedule and 20% under budget,” will show you are not only experienced, but you are good at what you do.

It bores the reader. 
Starting off every description of each job you’ve held over the course of your career with “responsible for” is obviously repetitive, but that’s not the biggest problem.

Even if limited word options exist to convey your strengths, the phrase “responsible for” is so common employers won’t be impressed. Remember, your main goal is to convince employers in under a minute why your resume shouldn’t be tossed into the garbage. After all, most resumes will be since employers can’t interview every candidate.

That’s why the language you choose is so important. If the writing doesn’t engage the reader, the content doesn’t matter. An employer may easily give up on reading a boring resume long before learning the applicant is a perfect candidate.

It lends a passive voice to your overall presentation.
To really “wow” an employer, convey your enthusiasm and ambition not only in your words, but in your tone. If your resume lacks excitement, it will come through the final product.  

Starting your phrases with action verbs lends an active tone to your resume and makes a strong impression, even if you limit supporting details. Consider the following example of a sales manager who wants to showcase leadership skills:

“Responsible for a top-performing sales force of 50” versus “Command a top-performing sales force of 50.” 

The second part, which starts with an action verb, clearly packs more punch than the first despite the fact that not a single piece of information is different.

It doesn’t actually say you did anything.
Lastly, stating you are responsible for a particular duty still doesn’t say you actually performed the task. Think about a child responsible for making his bed every morning before school; in reality, the bed could remain messy for days even though his list of chores remains unchanged. 

The same logic carries over to adulthood and your career. You are responsible for getting to work on time, but that doesn’t necessarily always happen. 

Rather than explaining your obligations, employers will be much more impressed learning about what you actually did. What statement is more impressive? “Responsible for generating new business.” or “Generated $5M in new contracts in 2009.”

In the interest of being “responsible for” a successful job search, be sure to make every word on your resume count!