This Phrase Can Hurt Your Resume: How to Avoid “Responsible For”

Oct 29, 2021 | Resumes

What to say instead of responsible for

In order to keep your language active in your resume, you should avoid phrases like “responsible for.” Read on for ways to use more impactful words instead.

By: Shyene Joubert | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

There’s a great piece of advice I was given when practicing better self-talk: Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to your friend.

I think this is a useful maxim to remember when writing your resume as well: Speak about yourself the way you’d speak about your friend.

Think about how you’d promote your friend to your supervisor if they applied for a position at your company. You wouldn’t say “Timmy is responsible for his client’s investments” because it’s too general and underplays Timmy’s impact. A better way to explain Timmy’s career would be that he “championed a $3 million portfolio for a Fortune 500 company.”

So how do you promote yourself that way on your resume?

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Highlight Achievements, Not Responsibilties 

person with fist in air. Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Using synonyms for responsible will activate your resume language and highlight your accomplishments. Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

While collaborating with my clients, I’ve discovered many of them struggle to highlight their accomplishments instead of their everyday responsibilities on their resumes. Some chalk it up to being in their roles for so long that their workday activities feel mundane. Others say, “You know, I thought that was important, but it’s nice to have someone else tell me this is worth showcasing.”

This is precisely why you should avoid the phrase “responsible for” on your resume. It doesn’t allow for specificity. Recruiters and hiring managers will glaze over accomplishments attached to this phrase because it’s dull and overused.

Follow these tips to get rid of “responsible for” and improve your resume’s phrasing!

Banish “Responsible For” From Your Resume

Bullet points in your Key Achievements or Professional Experience sections should always start with a strong, active verb. These action words make your achievements exciting and impactful to the reader.

Verbs won’t only make your bullet points be more fun to read, but they’ll also hone the focus on your achievements.

An active verb describes exactly what you accomplished in your role, pinpointing how you contributed and key metrics. This ensures you’re not just giving a dull overview of the responsibilities anyone else in your position would have.

Below are some alternative words to include on your resume instead of “responsible for”:

  • Implemented
  • Collaborated
  • Initiated
  • Audited

Implemented and Initiated tell the reader that you led these projects and saw them through completion. This demonstrates leadership, initiative, and successful integration of a new process or software.

Collaborated is an important active verb because many jobs require teams to work cross-functionally. It’s awesome if you can handle a task on your own, but what’s more impressive is collaborating with multiple stakeholders because it takes communication, alignment, and empathy.

Audited illustrates an active verb specific to the daily responsibilities a person carries out. As opposed to wasting space on your resume with an opening like “Responsible for auditing gift cards”, it’s better to immediately jump into the action you performed and its outcome. After all, resumes for individuals with 10 years or less of experience should usually be kept to one page.

Now that you added active verbs to your toolbelt, how do you use them in your bullets?

Pair Active Verbs with Accomplishments

Using the suggested words above, I chose actual achievements from my past clients’ resumes while redacting any information tailored to them or their companies.

  • Implemented property management company’s Total Rewards program from ideation to execution, using employee surveys to design benefit package
  • Collaborated with public officials to ensure agency’s $26M annual budget was properly allocated for long-term infrastructure projects aligned with departmental strategic plan
  • Initiated data-based processes and performance improvements to increase efficiency and minimize cost
  • Audited issuance of gift cards and resolved duplication issues, saving company $25K

Notice any similarities? The bullet points are focused and direct. It goes back to this formula:

Active Verb + Contribution and Skills Used + Result/Metrics

(P.S. Want a deeper guide into that formula? Download our free eBook on it!)

Avoid Repetition

Beware of using the same active verbs over and over, though, especially if you are an executive and have more experience to discuss.

If you are in a managerial role, it is easy to slip into mindless repetition and start every bullet point with the word “manage.” Luckily, you do more than just manage a project or a 12-person team, so you can pick some more exciting words.

It takes some effort to phrase your achievements with unique verbs, but it will make a big difference to the person scanning your documents.

In case you get stuck, here are some synonyms for commonly repeated words I find on resumes:

Synonyms for Managed Synonyms for Increased Synonyms for Developed
Directed Boosted Designed
Oversaw Skyrocketed Created
Led Enhanced Established
Administered Improved Generated

The Key Takeaway

coffee cup says go get em.  Say thanks 🙌 Give a shoutout to Kyle Glenn on social or copy the text below to attribute.  Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Your resume is your chance to brag about all you’ve acheived in your career so far. Don’t let your language sell yourself short! Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

A person’s professional life isn’t just the sum of the responsibilities in their job description.

You should be proud of being crowned Teacher of the Year during a challenging pandemic in which you had to recreate your entire curriculum for blended learning.

👏 You deserve to be recognized for spearheading Lean operations by redesigning inefficient processes, saving $100K annually. 👏

Recruiters and HR personnel want to celebrate these achievements with you!

A resume is a marketing tool, so it must contain specific details that demonstrate why an employer should choose you over hundreds of other applicants.

Don’t scare them away with the phrase “responsible for.” Instead, start every bullet point with an active verb that draws attention to your qualifications and accomplishments.

As a job seeker, you are your best friend in this process, and you know your skillset and achievements better than anyone. Treat yourself as such (while using first-person pronouns, of course)! Talk about yourself like you’d talk about a friend – including on your resume.

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