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the six words you can’t say on a resume April 6, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Hired.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

If George Carlin had been a recruiter instead of a comedian, he might have written something decrying the six words that make your resume suck. Instead, Squawkfox did it. By all means go and read the rest of them, but I’d like to focus on “responsible for”. Here’s what she said:

My lips pucker and make sour sucking noises when I read “Responsible For” on a resume. Of course you’re responsible for something. But how many? How long? Who? What? When? Rather than waste the hiring manager’s time reading a vague list of responsibilities, be specific and use quantitative figures to back up your cited skills and accomplishments.

When we’re in college, we’re trained* to use analytical language and make our arguments clearly and without bias toward any gender**. Our resume-writing talents — and if you’ve ever read a stack of resumes all in a row, as I have, you know how loosely I’m using the word “talents” — are also developed in college. As a result, we find ourselves writing our resumes in an overly-flowery, overly-passive style where we are “responsible for” things. The only time you’re ever responsible for anything, resume-wise, is when you manage a team, and in that case you would say something like “led a team of 10 programmers in building CServer 2.0, a major application in the field of corporate communication”.

CC-licensed photo by Ryan Junell.

CC-licensed photo by Ryan Junell.

  • used (not a good one, I admit)
  • planned
  • scheduled
  • developed
  • designed
  • built
  • created
  • liaised
  • organized
  • wrote
  • edited
  • completed
  • fulfilled
  • covered
  • translated
  • produced
  • oversaw
  • input
  • monitored
  • assisted
  • hired
  • trained
  • surveyed (or surveilled, if you prefer)
  • launched
  • provided
  • worked
  • revised
  • collected

I’m sure that, if you use that list as a jumping-off point, you can find ways to make your resume writing more active and less responsible.

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* Ostensibly.

** Gender-neutral language and pro-feminist rhetoric was huge in my college, and not just in the English department. But since I worked for the English department, a little of it rubbed off on me. Now I’m just bitter about how much of my time was wasted learning feminist language theory instead of technical writing.


1. the six words you can’t say on a resume « corporatespeak | The Online Folio - April 6, 2009

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