Resume Writing: Accomplishments, not Responsibilities

January 4th, 2013 by Lynx, Inc.

I read a LOT of resumes, and they’re easily divided into two types: those that aren’t much more than a laundry list of someone’s job duties or responsibilities, and those which paint a compelling picture of a track record of accomplishments.

What’s the difference, and how can you use this distinction to craft a better resume?

When you’re reviewing your own resume, look carefully at each bullet point (you are using well-written bullet points to make it easier to read, aren’t you?) Is each point something that anyone in that type of role would be likely to be expected to do, or is it something unique to you, something that wouldn’t have gotten done if you hadn’t been there in the job at that time. A good clue is that you usually want items that start with an action verb, such as “designed”, “developed”, or “implemented”, rather than “responsible for,” although even then, you need to be specific.

Let’s look at some examples from actual software resumes I’ve got. We’ll start with some of the “duties and responsibilities” types. These aren’t likely to inspire anyone and do nothing to differentiate the individual candidate:

  • Responsible for development & management of web applications for the department
  • Worked on mobile application that utilized HTML, JavaScript, CSS3, SenchaTouch, WCF and .NET
  • Designing and developing retail point-of-sale systems
  • Actively worked in an agile software development environment which utilized the Scrum process

Now, let’s consider some more vibrant alternatives, again from actual resumes:

  • Redesigned the data model to conform to relational practice and installed keys and constraints. Sped up average product performance by a factor of 10
  • Spearheaded the development of the process-automation tools used company-wide, enabling order-of-magnitude faster throughput of market-analysis data
  • Designed and implemented a web application in PHP that streamlined new hire IT resource configuration and allocation. This application cut setup time by 98% and significantly reduced human error.
  • Developed the framework for the next generation of the company’s web applications. Designed and implemented the SQL Server database tables, stored procedures and functions for the applications. Designed and implemented in C# the class libraries for the SQL Server database access layer and ASP.NET controls and web pages for the framework.

Before you send out your resume, take a hard look at it – or better yet, have a knowledgeable friend review it objectively – and make sure you’re highlighting your accomplishments, not your responsibilities.

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