There are many mistakes you can make when preparing your resume. But the biggest (and totally avoidable) mistake is to frame your resume around past job responsibilities, rather than professional accomplishments.
Your resume exists for just one purpose: to showcase your unique value to prospective employers. When you focus primarily on previous work duties, you’re merely describing past jobs, not defining your professional skill set. Even if you had significant formal responsibilities in a previous position, a mere listing of these tasks tells the reader nothing about how well you actually performed your duties
This is why you should always frame your resume around measurable, quantifiable, and impactful accomplishments. This is how you illustrate that you excelled in past positions, rather than just a met the basic job requirements.
Why achievements matter
Here’s a short example to illustrate this point. Imagine if Babe Ruth had to write a resume to land his first job after baseball. If he focused on his past professional responsibilities, his resume might look something like this:
- Responsible for using a wooden bat to hit balls thrown in my direction
- Collaborated with colleagues to run around the bases and score runs
- Proven team player
- Other duties as required by the manager
Pretty mundane, right? The emphasis on responsibilities tells you almost nothing about the unique greatness of a player once hailed as the “Sultan of Swat.” And, without any supporting evidence, the listing of soft skills (in this case, being a “team player”) rings hollow.
Now, here’s what the Babe’s resume might look like when framed around accomplishments:
- Maintained a .342 batting average, successfully getting a hit in over one-third of all at-bats across 22 seasons
- Set league records for career home runs (714), runs batted in (2,213), and walks (2,062)
- Hit 40 or more home runs in 11 different seasons, and 20 or more home runs in 16 consecutive seasons
- Was an integral member of seven world series champion teams, across two different franchises
See the difference? By highlighting accomplishments, The Babe has has described his responsibilities in a way that is meaningful and measurable for the reader. Even soft skills are given a quantifiable context. The result is a much more compelling argument for his value to a future employer.