Monthly Archives: September 2014

There’s Nothing Special About Being a “Self Starter”

I used to spend a lot of time looking for ways to describe clients as “industrious” “detail oriented” “fervent” or “driven”. Soon I realized, though, that this type of descriptive language offered no meaningful information and obstructed clarity. Besides, reading the same words and phrases over and over bored me. Clearly, if such language taxed my patience, then human resources people handling piles of similar materials every day must be annoyed too.

Why describe yourself as a self starter if everyone coming before and after you offers the same trait? Using such trite terminology on a resume is akin to assuring your reader that you have a birth certificate or are a carbon-based life form. She already assumes that you, along with all other candidates, can offer these qualities. Telling the reader that you are motivated, or a go-getter, or a people person will not gain you any points, but may just make her regret your thoughtless waste of her time.

If you have X-ray vision, though, feel free to throw that in, since presumably most other candidates can’t offer that talent.

Tell Me What You Actually Do, Not Just What You’re Responsible For Doing

More than half of the resumes brought to me for updating mention “responsibility”: “I’m responsible for supervising, organizing, selling, buying, managing, training, building…”

I cringe at “responsibility”, and you should too. Here’s why: On seeing a list of responsibilities, your reader can get distracted daydreaming about how often you dropped the ball. One of the fundamental rules of marketing yourself is that if you distract your reader, you may lose her attention for good.

We all have responsibilities. We are responsible for driving the speed limit. We are responsible for paying for purchases. In my house, we are responsible for putting away shoes and clothes. Do we always do what we should? Does it make any difference if our responsibility is spelled out in a law, contract, or chart? Of course not. Just because you say you have an obligation doesn’t mean you carry it out correctly, reliably or admirably.

Much more impressive than having a responsibility is following through on it. The reader must understand how you fulfill your duties. So don’t hesitate to brag on your successes. A list of accomplishments makes you memorable, since other potential employees may have responsibilities like yours, but none can flaunt the same combination of achievements.