Job Hunting: Including Job Duties on your Resume

Job Hunting: How to List Your Job Tasks and Duties

I love writing career-related posts, and while I’m still no expert career lady I would definitely say I’m up there when it comes to resume and cover letter writing (check this and this out if you want more on that). I’ve read a lot of resources on the topic, attended a lot of career workshops, and asked for feedback from all of my many employers once I was hired, and one thing that’s stuck with me was the advice from my former careers counsellor during my post-grad studies. The topic was resume-writing, and we were working on listing job duties on your resume. And before I give you the complete goods, I’m going to tell you what I knew about listing job duties before coming into the workshop, just so we’re all on the same page.

When listing your job tasks out under each past employment term, the number one thing you need to do is evaluate their relevance to your current position. For example, I once was in charge of hiring referees for my university’s intramural flag football program, and I received a resume that listed working at a nursery as a past job – tasks included “inventory” and “cleaning the aisles at the end of the day”. As the hiring manager, all I see is menial tasks that aren’t at all relevant to the position I’m hiring for; in short, that experience looks as good to me as no experience, because it doesn’t make you a better candidate in my eyes.

So when you write your job tasks, word them so that they’re relevant to the position that you’re applying for. Had the person written that they “take inventory of all items on the shop floor on a weekly basis, recording missing items and noting which reorders need to take place” then I’d probably say “you’d be a great equipment manager and I can use that”. Same task, word it differently, and suddenly I see why you’re great. And if you’re not sure what will make you relevant, the first place to start is the job description. Look at the tasks listed, think about what skills you’d need to do them, and write your resume accordingly. You really would be surprised what a world of a difference this can make!

Next thing, when listing your job tasks, start each bullet point with a verb, and keep the points succinct (i.e. no fluffy adjectives). A friend of mine was told by someone to use fluffy words to show enthusiasm in her resume, and it ended up with a bunch of tasks listed like “happily monitored the canning machines for errors” and “enthusiastically cleaned the store each night after closing”. When hiring managers read resumes like that, they think two things: 1- this person is using fluffy words to cover up the fact that their experience is lacking, and 2- this is wasting my time, get to the point. So start your points with verbs, i.e. what you did, and keep it to the point: “Maintained the clean and uncluttered aesthetic of the shop throughout the course of my shift”.

Also note that it’s definitely okay, and in fact a great idea, to list one or two noteable achievements/recognitions in your job tasks, and I usually choose to list those last for each role. For example, when I was serving, I included “received three written commendations from regular restaurant patrons for my excellent customer service”. The people hiring you should know that you do your job well!

Tips for resume writing

The above tips are my hard rules for resume-writing, and they got me pretty far in my career. But when I walked into that workshop a few years ago, resume in hand ready to be critiqued, I’ll admit that I thought I was invincible. But my advisor (he’s a great advice giver!) gave me a new way to spin my work: quantifying my successes.

This isn’t going to be possible with every job or every resume, but when it is, it’s extremely effective. Quantifying your achievements specifically tells your potential employer that you’re not just an “effective communicator”, but that you “decreased errors in monthly reporting by 20% by improving communication across the team during weekly meetings”. If you know you’ve made something better, faster, more efficient by being innovative and thinking up new ways to carry out your job (something that’s pretty easy being that we’re a very tech-savvy generation), do your best to quantify it (slight estimations are fine in my opinion) to give a number on your resume. People don’t argue with numbers!

Here’s an example: instead of saying you “saved the company money by finding a better way to carry out financial reporting”, be specific and give an approximation of how much time/money you saved. “Saved the company 20% by designing and implementing an excel spreadsheet to track financials throughout the course of the project”, or “Reduced time required to carry out monthly revenue recognition by 15% by creating a standard methodology that can be used across all projects”. Quantifying your successes not only gives the hiring manager a good idea of just how great you really are, it seems a lot more believable and concrete than “improved efficiency”, which sounds generic and meh, right?

I hope this post helped clarify some resume-writing questions you might’ve had, and if you’ve got anything else to add, please let me know in the comments! Unlike most people, I actually love writing resumes, because I really feel that when you put some thought behind it, it can be pretty easy to stand out. What are your major gripes with resume-writing? Any tips for success or standing out? If you’re currently job hunting, best of luck to you :)

Images via Collage Vintage // Metro Mode

  • Danielle

    Erica these are such great tips! My dad was recently laid off and is now going through the process of re-writing his resume after 20 years. This article will be so useful for him, especially the extra bit about quantifying your efforts and demonstrating the effect of your achievements rather than simply stating them. Thanks for sharing!

    • Erica | cupcakes+coffee breaks

      Argh, so sorry to hear that’s happened to your dad! But in this tough job market, I like to think having a well-written and clear resume still a really easy way to stand out. Proofreading and making sure you don’t use the same adjectives and adverbs too frequently is a big one, but definitely for someone like your dad who likely has lots of experience to draw on, I’d say quantifying is key, as is catering the resume to the job and choosing skills to highlight that are very transferable to the new roles is definitely going to be his best bet in getting re-employed.
      All the best to him!!

  • Karrine Beasley

    Stumbled across this post by accident and am so happy I did. Currently applying for jobs and this post is so relevant! I wish I had a way to quantify what I do as a casual teacher in order to land my dream permanent teacher position. The rest of the tips I will totally consider though :)

  • rebecca

    Great tips – I believe its an important skill to have. I end up teaching (eventually writing) all my friends resume’s and cover letters.