Responsible for... Print E-mail

One of the most common problems we see in resumes is concentration on job duties rather than performance. Phrases such as “responsible for”, “duties included”, “assisted with” or “served as” are not powerful, descriptive or persuasive in a resume. They always make me think of an observation I made while on a trip to Eastern Europe several years ago…

While traveling in the former Soviet Union states, I had occasion to visit several public restrooms in restaurants, train stations, museums, etc. Older ladies – “babushkas” – always sat at tables near restroom doors collecting money from ladies on their way out. The door babushka wasn’t doing anything except sitting there; she wasn’t handing out towels or toiletries as we see with powder room attendants in swanky hotels or restaurants here in the US. At the time, I guessed you had to pay to use the restroom so I watched to see how much the lady in front of me gave her and then paid the same amount.

Finally, I asked one of my travel companions, a native Ukrainian, about the “bathroom babushka” and he explained her role to me. Supposedly, the bathroom babushka’s job originally was to maintain the restroom and as a reward, the venue would allow her to collect money from patrons for her efforts. At some point through the years, the “work” part of the equation disappeared and it became simply a matter of sitting at the door collecting money for, well, sitting at the door. Bathroom babushkas figured out they didn’t actually have to do anything yet they still got paid.

“Responsible for maintenance, upkeep, and cleanliness of ladies’ restroom in busy, metropolitan restaurant. Assure adequate supply of tissue, soap and towels. Provide customer service to enhance patrons’ experience. Respond to questions regarding local points of interest.”

Yes, they were responsible for maintenance, etc. but they didn’t PERFORM it. An “adequate” supply of necessities meant a sliver of bar soap and that was it. You were out of luck on paper needs. Customer service consisted of growling at you as you came in and not even saying “thank you” when you dropped coins in the bucket on the way out. And responding to questions? That was generally a sharp, sarcastic retort. Technically, the job description is accurate in the section above but the picture of performance quality is totally missing.

Contrast those bathroom babushkas with the restroom attendant I recently encountered in the Atlanta airport. She saw me coming and with a sweet voice cried out “Oh honey, I have a room all ready for you! Right this way!” She then proceeded to open a stall door, activate the auto-flush thing, wipe down the seat with an antibacterial wipe and place a fresh seat cover on the toilet – all while I stood there with eyebrows raised and my jaw dropped. She stood back with a smile, held the door for me and then made sure I could latch it before moving to the next incoming “customer”. After I finished, I went to wash my hands and she had a fresh paper towel all ready for me so I didn’t have to touch the dispenser; she turned off the tap for me; and even gave me a little squirt of hand sanitizer to top it off.  I was completely astounded. What customer service!

Keep in mind, she was NOT a bathroom attendant. She was the custodian lady who pushed the mop cart around! She was the one emptying trash cans. She had just decided to take what most would think of as a mundane, minimum-wage job to another level entirely. And her initiative was paying off! I gave her a $5 tip and I saw several other ladies handing her money! If I were to write HER job description, it might sound like this:

“Exceeded all customer expectations in maintenance of public restroom facility in one of nation’s busiest airports. Maintained exceptional cleanliness of over 20 individual stalls and corresponding hand basins. Assured plentiful availability of supplies and necessities, achieving 100% stall readiness throughout entire shift. Delivered outstanding customer service and one-on-one attention, assisting with whatever needs presented ranging from airsickness to assistance with Diaper Deck manipulation. Greeted passengers with a smile and helpful attitude, always ready to answer questions or provide information.”

Do you see the difference? The “job description” of both these women – the bathroom babushka and the Atlanta attendant – was the same. The difference was PERFORMANCE. It is performance that makes a resume stand out. Performance makes one candidate better than another in the hiring process. Unfortunately, most job seekers forget about performance while trying to capture duties! Are you a bathroom babushka on paper? Your resume should reflect your outstanding performance, not just what you were “responsible for”.