Why Task-Based Job Descriptions Aren’t Helping Your Resume and What Can

CN_Marc_v1_eI was speaking with a resume expert, and she told me that many people still write their resumes as if they were listing a description for the job, rather than what they accomplished. In fact, I found out that job seekers actually google sample job descriptions to find phrases to use!

PLEASE STOP THAT! You don’t want canned phrases from other people’s resumes or job descriptions. You want resume achievement phrases that describe what you did – in a way that makes you stand out from all the rest.

What do I mean by using job descriptions to write a resume?

When you list a job on your resume and then underneath describe what you did while you had the job, do you simply list basic things like “answered phones” “wrote business plans” “handled customers” “prepared budgets” “managed people” “raised funds”?

Those phrases aren’t telling an employer much about you, other than you performed some of these tasks. We don’t even know if you did them well!

Examples of “achievements” rather than “job descriptions”

Achievements use action verbs (in the past tense for previous jobs) to describe what you did. Think about what you made happen above-and-beyond the absolute minimum requirements for the job (such as the ones listed above).

  • Did you solve problems?
  • Did you create anything new?
  • Did you increase revenues?
  • Did you lead a project?
  • Did you save the company money or time?
  • Did you manage a multi-line Cisco phone system receiving over 200 calls a day?
  • Did you develop a 5-year business plan that resulted in attracting new investors to the firm?
  • Did you manage a $20,000,000 budget, meeting all your targets for projected cost savings?
  • Did you discover new funding sources that brought in over $500,000 for a children’s library?

NOTE: Achievements are more powerful if they match what the new employer is looking for. Although, presenting an over-all picture of a resourceful, dedicated person looking for ways to help the company is pretty much always a good thing.

But don’t I have to tell them more about what I did?

Good question. Yes, you do need to give them an idea of your basic duties and responsibilities, especially as they speak to the requirements of the new job you want. But don’t stop there. And don’t make mere duties all that you list under each job. Where you can … use your words to tell a little story.

An example of what I mean about telling a bit of a story (we don’t want a novel) would be: “Managed multi-line Cisco phone system receiving over 200 calls a day.” If you’re applying for a receptionist job, that’s a lot more impressive than simply “answered phones.”

I hope that helps. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in comments. For more help writing your resume:

=>    Tips for Resumes & Cover Letters (with Samples)


EXTRA:   Resume Summary: What To Use Instead of a Job Objective