Résumés Are Not Obituaries

One of the most common mistakes I see in résumés is that the person has provided essentially a laundry list of what they did in a job.


This might be suitable for European-style curriculum vitae and highly technical résumés which thrive on miniscule details, but American-style résumés have turned the corner from the mundane daily job tasks. They have become a valuable tool and key place to illustrate value to a prospective employer.

If there was ever a time for proverbial chest-thumping, this would be it. You HAVE to toot your horn, as you are the only person who is the 100% devoted advocate for yourself. No one else is ever going to do this for you, and you can’t assume that an interviewer is going to know all fabulous things that you’ve done unless you tell them!

How to put this into writing? Think ACTION (what did I do) and RESULT (how did it impact the employer’s bottom line or corporate objectives).

Here’s an example:

• Assist with multi-state payroll processing bi-weekly
• Update employee changes for 15 company codes using ADP
• Prepare payroll reports for services auditors bi-weekly
• Assist human resources with open enrollment selection

Managed all aspects of payroll cycles, delivering accurate and timely payroll management for 150-900+ employees in a variety of corporate settings, including input of payroll data, human resources and benefit information, garnishments, expense reports, 401k elections, life/medical/flexible spending, direct deposits, employee bond purchases and workers compensation reporting. Within first week of employment, identified and corrected employee healthcare payments to pre-tax (instead of after-tax) deductions.

One of the things that came out of the client interview in this case were some of the actionable items that the person did. With the rephrasing, we created a better picture of what they did in terms of delivering a significant impact to the company.

See your résumé as a critical tool as to how employers perceive your value. They want to know what you did in your previous job and how you helped a previous company’s bottom line as a way to evaluate what you might be able to do for them.

By showcasing what you accomplished in an action-and-result format, you are creating a dynamic document rather than creating a static recitation of what your job entailed. Don’t let your old résumé become your obituary!