2 Phrases Currently Sabotaging Your Resume

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If you're looking for an easy way to make sure your resume is up to par, look no further. A quick scan for the following two phrases will tell you everything you need to know.

But before we get to that, let's quickly agree on one key point: A resume is not about what you can do, what you're supposed to do or what you should do, given your professional title. It's about what you have done – concrete examples of your career achievements.

Most resumes outline specific employment information and then provide a list of three to five bullet point statements for each position held. These bullets are the real meat of the document. They tell people what you did, how you did it and the impact your actions had. Unfortunately, I see a lot of bad practices in this area.

The two phrases below are key indicators that your resume might be working against you. When I see these phrases, I can guess that the resume in hand will be one of two things: a bland restatement of a job description or a generic list of skills that the writer may or may not possess.

In either case, these phrases are warnings that revision is probably needed. Take a peek and then check your resume. If needed, take some time to rework your bullet points.

1. "Responsible for..." This phrase is a neon sign that tells the reader you're listing job duties and not accomplishments. For example, consider this resume bullet point: "Responsible for completing monthly inventory audits."

Reading this bullet point, few recruiters or hiring managers would be impressed. In fact, it might have them scratching their heads. You were responsible for it, but did you actually do it?

Instead of focusing on the task, why not focus on how you did that task in an exceptional way and achieved something special for the organization?

Perhaps your audits revealed inaccuracies in the tracking systems, for which you were then able to recommend improvements. Maybe you identified some kind of fraud or recognized a problem with over-purchasing.

It's also possible that you never encountered any abnormalities at all, and the best you can do is point to your record of timely completion and meticulous attention to detail. That's okay, too. Include it. Just rephrase the sentence and start it with a powerful action verb.

2. "Ability to..." This phrase suggests that you can do something but it doesn't actually say you've done it. It's a broad statement that points to a skill but offers no tangible proof. For example, consider the following resume bullet point: "Ability to gain consensus and work well in collaborative environments."

It sounds lovely but is essentially meaningless. How does the person reading the resume know this is true? He doesn't. You're asking the reader to take a leap and just trust you.

Instead, why not articulate a specific time in which you actually did gain consensus? Or mention a project in which you successfully collaborated with a team. Even better, see if you can identify a specific result that came of that experience – something that positively impacted the organization in some way. Reword the sentence so it starts with a powerful action verb and provides evidence for the skill you claim to have.

If you can't cite a specific instance in which you successfully used the skill, it's not something that belongs in the bullet point statements on your resume.

Remember that when revising a resume, the vast majority of your time should be spent on making those bullet point statements really pop. It takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it. Remove these two phrases and you'll be one step closer.
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