Don’t Focus Your Resume On Your Responsibilities

Apr 9 2012 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

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We were taught how to write a resume that focused on our responsibilities.

This is traditional job search 101.

This made sense for a long time, when there were candidate and skills shortages. When there were skills shortages, it made sense to focus on your skills.

However, now that we have a shortage of jobs, not a shortage of candidates, focusing your resume on your responsibilities doesn’t work.

Take out your own resume to compare – Here’s how to tell if your resume is focused on your responsibilities:

  • You focus on the company: In the first sentences describing each job you’ve held, do you start out by describing the company? So you want your next employer to hire your company (or ex-company), or you?
  • Using verbs like led, responsible for, managed, oversaw, hired/managed/trained: These describe responsibilities, rather than accomplishments or value.
  • Writing a job description: When you describe your past jobs by writing a job description, you’re listing responsibilities.

Since there’s no longer a shortage of candidates or skills, employers are no longer searching for skills. Applicant Tracking Systems to a good job of finding candidates who meet minimum skill requirements.

By the time a hiring manager reads your resume, it’s already been pre-screened for skills by an ATS and a recruiter/HR rep (or an admin in a small company). So the hiring manager assumes that all the resumes they’ve received have the minimum skill requirements – so they don’t have to search for skills.

Hiring managers are searching for something extra today. What they are really looking for is to find someone who has already solved the problems and met the goals they face today and for the upcoming year. Typically, a hiring manager’s goals revolve around one of these areas:

  • Increasing revenues
  • Decreasing costs
  • Increasing profits
  • Getting past roadblocks

So what a hiring manager is really looking for is a candidate who has already solved similar problems to increase revenues, decrease costs, increase profits, or get past similar roadblocks.

What’s so bad about responsibilities?

When you describe your responsibilities, you describe what you do on an average day. You describe you at your average. That’s fine if you’re writing a diary, autobiography or filling out a time sheet.

However, when hiring managers read a resume, they aren’t expecting candidates to describe themselves at their average. Hiring managers expect candidates to put their best foot forward, to describe themselves at their best.

Hopefully you can see that if you describe yourself at your average, when your hiring manager expects your description to be you at your best, you’re destined for job search failure. When your hiring manager compares your average to other candidates’ at their best, you undersell yourself.

This is especially true when the hiring manager doesn’t already know you, as discussed in my earlier article“The Huge Risk When Hiring Managers Employ People They Don’t Already Know” at .

Selling yourself as a commodity

Even worse, when you focus on your responsibilities, you look like everyone else that holds a similar job.

This isn’t an accident, it happens because you’ve left out what makes you superior to other candidates (that you’ve provided value by solving similar problems). Instead, by emphasizing responsibilities, you’ve focused your reader on what makes you look like a commodity (responsibilities that are similar to other candidates).

How can you hope to stand out? How can you hope to differentiate yourself when your resume makes you look just like everyone else?

Does this affect your job search?

So take a close, hard look at your resume – right now.

Are you focused on your responsibilities? Or on the problems you’ve solved (and value delivered) that are similar to the hiring manager’s priority problems?


Want to do more than just complain about a bad economy?

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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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