Resume Writing: Accomplishments, not Responsibilities

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:

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

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.