If You Want Your Resume Read Do Not List Job Duties

burning resume

One of the most common frustrations in job transition is sending out resumes and getting no response.

Nada.  Zip. Zilch. Not even one little nibble on jobs you submitted to that are an exact match of what you are doing now.

You begin to think that your resume is leaving your computer and immediately sucked into some black hole.  Are they even getting it?  Do they even read it?  Is anyone out there?

They are out there, they are getting it yet they are probably not reading it if you are one default action: describing your jobs by listing job duties.

But wait – shouldn’t you tell them your qualifications by showing what you do or did? Yes.

And listing job duties is describing what you did, right? No.

Listing job duties is telling the reader what you were hired to do.

No one cares what you were hired to do, they care what you did.

If a job posting is requiring a resume, you would not send it an application; yet that is pretty much what you are doing when you list job duties.  It tells the reader what you were hired to do.  It does not mean that you actually did it or did it well.

The reader cares about value.  It is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world – they want to know what you can do for them.  Listing job duties is not a compelling reason to talk to you.

Job duties are a place to start – but to get their attention you have to tell them the value you bring in doing these things.  That is what will get attention.

Describing your value demonstrates your skills and expertise – this is critical in communicating your value effectively because the reader is not going to believe you are amazing at something just because you said so.  You have to prove it.  They read a lot of resumes and everyone says they are amazing.  They will pay attention to the ones that prove it.

Transition your bullet points from stating to demonstration.

Which would get your attention, 1 or 2?

  1. Create reports for various departments as needed.
  2. Compile critical data by partnering with leadership in Sales and Marketing to produce accurate forecasting reports, define metrics for success and identify areas for cost reductions and risk mitigation.

Number 1 is telling the reader what you were hired to do, number 2 tells the reader the value you provide.

There is value to everything that you do, otherwise a company would not pay you to do it.  It is your job to identify the value and communicate it so the reader sees how it can be of value to them.

Start with your job duties, then dive a little deeper by asking yourself clarifying questions:

  • Who did you work with?
  • How did you work with them?
  • What did you do?
  • How did that bring value and to whom?

Start describing what you do and how you do it to demonstrate your value.  Begin as a conversation and then you can clean it up into more concise, resume language.

A conversation break down of number two would be:

Who did I work with: Sales & Marketing, managers or directors

How did I work with them: I got together with them to get their numbers, goals and expectations

What did I do: I put all the numbers together and created reports

How did that bring value and to whom: for those departments, it helps them forecast more accurately, we can find places to cut costs, determine what things would not be good to follow and we created checkpoints to make sure we are meeting our goals and going to hit them.

Your resume is your story about your value.  Demonstrating your value gives them a reason to read it – and contact you for further conversations.


As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

Embrace Your Inner Rock Star for Your Resume

Awesome guitar player jumps with passion in studioI grew up in the Midwest; I know meat and potatoes cooking. Beyond feeding my family, my son always had friends over so I fed many, many teenage boys. It is really nothing for me to whip up a good, old Midwest meal including a staple of meat and plenty of starches with some veggies thrown in.

Yesterday my guy and I decided it was a great night to stay in and catch up on some Netflix. I figured I would fix something quick and easy – pork chops and fried potatoes. You would have thought the man had never had real food.

Of course, this could have been a clever way to ensure he gets more homemade meals – and yes, he will. But he was quick to remind me that he exemplifies a typical single man – living on pop tarts and microwavable food. He was also genuinely appreciative and amazed at how easy it was for me. He made me feel like a rock star.

I never really thought about it, I know how to cook and the boys always gobbled up anything I fixed. I had never thought about giving myself credit for being a good cook.

It is all about perception and personal experience.

This is a perfect parallel to a major block people have when writing their resume: they don’t see their own inner rock star.

What they take for granted as just part of their job or just what they do are actually incredible points of value to others. We get stuck somewhere along the line in our career or paths as “just” a title, “just” doing a job, “just” anything. We lose sight of our inner rock star. We lose sight of the forest for the trees.

How do we block this and more importantly, how do we stop? There are three major contributors:

Duty vs. Value

One thing that I love about my job is hearing the stories of how people moved in and throughout their career. The different jobs, how they were thrown in and had to learn on their own, how they were influenced, how they figured it out and how they owned each step.

That last point is key: how you own it. What is it you do that makes a difference? It is the care and quality of your work, the steps you take to do it right.

When you have a thought, “I just do this” break it down. How do you do it, why do you take each step that you do? Dig deeper to find the rock star qualities that enable you to own it and do it so well. There can be other people that do what you do, but you do it different – you do it better.

What you were hired to do is a duty; how you do it in your own rock star way is your value.

Influence vs. Lack of Title

Many times we feel that if we do not have the fancy title, then we are not leaders. “I am not a manager so I can’t or don’t add much value.” Bull.

Some of the most influential people in my life have not been bosses, but peers or people that reported to me. They influenced me in some positive way that was not in direct alignment with their title.

This is the second form of how: how you influence others. Take the task performance out of it and think about how you influence others to do better. How you work with people, communicate, lead or inspire that makes a difference to others in getting things done.

Do you have a knack for taking very complicated information and explaining it to others in a very easy to understand way? Are you able to find a common thread for people to attach to and come together to get a project done? Are you able to point out the positive in other people to inspire them to improve?

This is the interaction part of what you do. If you are a natural leader, let that shine through. Rock stars shine and let that light serve as an illumination to others, not blind them with it.

Environment vs. Reality

This can be a tough one on many: where you work is detrimental to your inner rock star.

You may be doing spectacular things but the environment in which you are accustomed is sucking the life out of you. Maybe you have a boss that thinks if they complement you then you will slack off so they continue to point out the negative even when you are performing like a rock star.

This is also why I listed this point last: you have to have appreciation for your inner rock star to get over the naysayers that are around you. It is natural to want acceptance, praise or recognition. Unfortunately, there may come a point in your career where you work in an environment that provides none of those things and that can shake your confidence.

Before beating yourself up, take a look around you. A good, hard, honest look. If you know you did well and still got chewed out about a minor detail, look at it for what it is – not what it was presented to you.

Your boss may be jealous that you can do their job better than you, there may be a favorite in the office and it just isn’t you or maybe you are surrounded by idiots. Who knows, more importantly, who cares? Inner rock stars do not let others dim their light. They keep burning brightly and draw the right opportunities to them.

Write down your last five accomplishments on an index card and keep it in your wallet. After another horrible meeting, take five minutes to take it out and remind yourself of your value. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, “All the water in the world cannot drown you unless it gets inside of you.”

Take Action

Now that you can see your inner rock star light shining it is time to put that into your resume.

Transform your duties into value: instead of describing what you were hired to do, tell them what value you provide.

Before: “Tracked inventory and purchases.”
After: “Maintained meticulous inventory and purchasing schedule streamlining processes that improved efficiency, significantly reduced costs and ensured appropriate part counts.”

Insert your influence that lends value.

Before: “Trained employees on new safety policies.”
After: “Motivated employees through effective training resulting in greater engagement of new policies and decreased safety issues.”

Every once in a while when you are writing your resume you might hear that little nagging voice in your head that is coming from your environment. You might write a great, value driven statement and all of a sudden that little bugger immediately condemns it and tells you that you are bragging. Well, you just tell it to shut up. If you are writing facts then it is not bragging, it is describing a truth!

Write on Rock Star, write on!

It is Your Story, Stop Letting Others Define It

dead end signI am not a fan of titles.  Often times they are misleading, meaningless or misunderstood.

Often they give a false sense of security, importance, expertise and value.

One of my favorite examples is a scene from the West Wing, one of my all-time favorite shows, in which President Bartlet meets a radio talk show host, Dr. Jacobs.  In the beginning of the scene, he asks if she is an MD, she replies she has a PhD.  He asked if it is Theology, Psychology or Social Work; nope, it is in English Literature.

He tells her that he asks because people call in to her show for advice she goes by name Dr. Jacobs and wondered if her listeners were confused by that and assumed she had advanced training in Theology, Psychology or HealthCare.

That scene never gets old.  Of course, Sam taking her crab puff at the end was the cherry on top.

Back to my point and to bring us to today’s topic: standing behind a title alone does not convey your value just as using vague or generic terms does not convey your value.

Examples of titles and general words include Sales Representative, Manager, manage and support.

What you are actually doing when you use these words or title is allowing the reader or listener to assign value to you based on their own experiences and understanding.

I had Managers in the past who were great mentors, they rolled up their sleeves and pitched in and they made sure we all understood our role and the greater mission.  I also had Managers that barely spoke to the team and told us to just get it done, went in their office and shut the door.  If you are a Manager, which one are you?  If you do not tell me then you are allowing me to assign your value based on my experience.  What if I have only experienced terrible Managers?  Then your value is significantly decreased based on my own interpretation.

Using non-descript words in your resume to define your duties follows the same principle.

If you state that you ‘supported a group of clients to receive the tools needed to achieve their goals’, what are you really telling me?  My concept of support may be vastly different from yours.  Do not assume I know what you mean.  It is your story, tell me the important points in the way you want me to interpret and understand them.

What does support mean?  How did you support them?  How active was your role, what were your contributions and what value did you bring to the venture?  As a side note, I would also ask if the clients achieve their goals or just got the tools they needed.

I am not advocating eliminating words such as manage and support.  Instead, use them in describing and demonstrating your value rather than detail your duties.


Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



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