Resume Killers: “Responsible for…”

Take this phrase out of your resume vocabulary forever:

“Responsible for…”

In terms of resume writing, it’s a kiss of death and absolutely should never be used. You may ask why. Isn’t it a perfectly normal way to express what you did on your past job? Allow me to go into Lewis Black mode for a moment…”no…NO…..NOOOOO!!!!” Don’t you EVER use that phrase again. Why? Because it’s LAME, that’s why.

Let’s say your last job was a project manager for a travel industry company. Let’s say your current resume looked like this:

  • Responsible for scheduling and conducting meetings between users and software developers.
  • Responsible for assuring projects stayed on track throughout the system life cycle.
  • Responsible for gathering requirements and building an Access database to track projects.

Well, so what!? If you were a project manager, the person reading your resume already KNOWS what the job entails. And if you’re applying for a new project manager position, the person reading your resume already KNOWS what the job requires. You’re not telling the reader ANYTHING they don’t already know.

What you need to do is very briefly describe the job and the company and then tell the reader what you ACCOMPLISHED so they can visualize your success in helping them fill their position. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview, not list your responsibilities.

  • Marshaled experts from each developmental area to create a clear and decisive road map for project success; established project scope and rules and enforced through continuous communications and peer review.
  • Obtained written buy-in from senior management for all projects, assuring the chain-of-command clearly supported project goals; publicized progress reports through the employee web newsletter, driving accountability for each project team member.
  • Managed an average of 3 concurrent projects to on-time, on-budget completions with zero interruptions to existing operations and processes. Recognized by board of directors with performance award and merit bonus.

It’s not WHAT you do, it’s HOW you do it and what you achieved. Show results using numbers, dollars, time saved, improved processes . . . show how you add value  to the bottom line, not just your list of responsibilities, and keep it brief, be concise, hit hard on the top half of page one. And ALWAYS adjust your resume to the targeted job – yes, it takes more work but it’s absolutely necessary. Use the keywords from the position description where possible to match to your experience and accomplishments. There’s so much more to winning resumes and cover letters but if you remember nothing else, remember what you’ve read here today.

Mark Holmes
Master Federal Resume Writer (MFRW)
Master Military Resume Writer (MMRW)
Master Federal Career Advisor (MFCA)
Winner (3rd Place) Toast of the Resume Industry (TORI) Award, Military Resume 2010

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