The ABC’s of Resume Writing | “M” is for MIX

M: Don’t MIX responsibilities and accomplishments.

Just as oil and water don’t mix, responsibilities and accomplishments don’t (or shouldn’t) mix either. One of the worse things you can do when writing your resume is to mistake responsibilities for accomplishments. While it is true that accomplishments are the result of carrying out your duties or responsibilities, accomplishments are what set you apart from your competition.

In my resume practice, I see this all the time. Clients send me their resumes for review and in their professional experience section, they have mixed their position responsibilities with their position accomplishments. The problem with this is that accomplishments need to be separated from their lesser-known cousins, AKA responsibilities in order for you to stand out as a potential employee.

So what are responsibilities?

Responsibilities are your job duties, things you were hired to do. These job duties can be found in most job postings in the Requirements section. Sometimes your employer will provide you with a job description once you come to work for them. Most job seekers simply take old position descriptions and cut and paste the requirements into their resumes as bullet points. They will sometimes weave in actual accomplishments as well, watering down the affect that accomplishments are intended to have.

Example responsibilities for an accountant:

  • Prepare, examine, or analyze accounting records, financial statements, or other financial reports to assess accuracy, completeness, and conformance to reporting and procedural standards.
  • Compute taxes owed and prepare tax returns, ensuring compliance with payment, reporting or other tax requirements.
  • Advise clients in areas such as compensation, employee health care benefits, the design of accounting or data processing systems, or long-range tax or estate plans.
  • Develop, maintain, and analyze budgets, preparing periodic reports that compare budgeted costs to actual costs.
  • Analyze business operations, trends, costs, revenues, financial commitments, and obligations, to project future revenues and expenses or to provide advice.

It should be readily evident that the items above represent responsibilities (duties), things that an accountant is expected to do. As written, they do not provide any insight as to how effective the person is/was in carrying out the duties.

So what do you do with responsibilities?

My recommendation? Use your responsibilities to write your position descriptions, the brief paragraph following the name of the company and your position title. This is the perfect place to include this information because it gives the reader a snapshot of your day-to-day responsibilities. Pretend that you are describing what you do to someone off the street. What would you tell them? How would you describe what you do? This is the information you would list in this section.

And what about accomplishments?

Once you have squared away your responsibilities, you can then use the bullet points strictly for accomplishments, where you can display your value and expertise. Write your accomplishments using the C.A.R. method where you describe the Challenge, the Actions that you took to meet the challenge, the Results of your actions. Remember to lead off each accomplishment with action verbs (do a Google search for popular lists) and put the goodies up front (see previous post).

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