Resume Magic Part II – Accomplishments vs. Responsibilities

You’ve been working on creating the perfect resume.  But something seems to be missing. What is it?

For most resumes that I see, what is missing is context.  Someone tells me they managed this, or implemented that, but there is nothing to suggest that they managed it well or implemented it successfully.  Without the context, their “responsibilities” are empty statements.

A list of accomplishments tells the recruiter what you’ve done and how successful you’ve been.  The theory is: what I’ve accomplished for my prior organizations, I can accomplish for you.  The good news is that theory often holds up.

Rather than highlight your career and various functions you’ve been responsible for, your resume needs to quantify what you’ve accomplished.   Your resume might say “Responsible for managing a staff of 14 with an operating budget of $500,000”, but what it does not say is if you did those things well.  If instead it said “Successfully managed a staff of 14 with an operating budget of $500,000 with turnover substantially below the organizational average and expenses within budget” then we’d know a lot more about you.

Showing that you’ve improved operating margins by X percent or reduced expenses by $xxx gives context to your statements.  Tell the recruiter how much you increased sales or profits, reduced expenses, expanded market share, etc.  That is what will open their eyes, and get you the interview.

Here are a few more resume guidelines to consider:

When emailing your resume, send it in a PDF format rather than in Word (or your word processor’s format).  This will ensure that it looks like you want it to, rather than how their word processor formats it.  This also avoids problems if you have a newer version or an incompatible software.  (There are several free software packages to publish your documents as PDFs.)

While a well formatted resume is great, often times a company wants you to copy and paste your resume into a text box on their website.  That typically means that all formatting is stripped away and your once beautiful resume is not very functional.  So, keep a .txt version handy.  After you’ve “finished” your resume, convert it to plain text and clean up the formatting so that it looks good again.  This will ensure that those nasty uploads work well and still look good.

Back in the day when I was starting out we were taught to put a “Career Objective” as the first thing on our resume.  We’d craft a bold statement like “To use my education and analytical skills to allow me to grow with a strong and forward looking company.”  While that might have been good advice in the early ‘80s (emphasis on might have been) it’s not anymore.  Now recruiters want to see a 2-3 sentence (or bullet points) elevator speech that tells them exactly who you are and why they need to read the rest of your resume.  Words like proven, experienced, customer-focused, market leader, etc. show energy and drive.  Craft your summary so it makes peoples say “wow, tell me more.”

I imagine some of you are shaking your head or rolling your eyes.  I’ll admit, some of these suggestions are a lot easier for me to say than they are for you to do, but trust me, they work.  If your word processing or editorial skills aren’t up to the task, get some help.  Find a friend who can help.  If necessary, use a consultant.  But if you get help, make sure they give you “your” resume and not “theirs”.  Make sure it reflects you, because that’s what you’ve got to sell when you land that interview.

A great resume can open doors.  Spend some time on yours and you’ll get more interviews, which will lead to getting the job.  Happy Holidays!

3 Comments on “Resume Magic Part II – Accomplishments vs. Responsibilities”

  1. Great comments on an effective resume. The bullets that get noticed are the ones that include evidence that shows ability to perform.

  2. […] Go to and join – it is free. Start with creating a profile. Make it complete – add a professional photo (not a photo taken by a professional but one where you look professional – this isn’t Facebook) – build in your career history and education (include what is on your resume – these two things should match – see Resume Magic I and Resume Magic II). […]

  3. […] (and I encourage you do that) you’ll find lots of good information. Resume Magic Parts I & II and The Second Most Important Bullet in Your Gun are great starting points. But for the impatient […]

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