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Bush v. Clinton: Why Your Resume isn’t A List of Duties and Responsibilities

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton held the same job, but would present different resumes.

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton held the same job but would present different resumes. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

All the smartest advice on resume writing tells us that your employment history on your resume can’t be a list of the duties and responsibilities you managed in those positions, but I’ve never seen it explained quite the way Gary Capone did here.

Capone, in a post on “Individuality in a Job Search” to his blog Palladian Career Resources, imagined what the resumes of the five living U.S. presidents would have looked like had they only listed their duties and responsibilities as president.

Imagine the resumes of the five living U.S. presidents: Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama. Serving as president may be the highest level of responsibility possible today. A list of responsibilities would be incredibly impressive. Managed a budget in excess of a trillion dollars … leader of the free world … commander of the most powerful military on the planet. This is big stuff. Would you consider all five of these individuals as automatons that could be interchanged without a difference in performance?

Had their resumes explained their careers only by way of the duties and responsibilities they held, Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama would have appeared remarkably similar on paper. The budget numbers would grow, but little would change. But each can lay claim to unique accomplishment as president.

For instance, Bill Clinton managed a $1.6 trillion budget, not much different from the $1.4 trillion budget handled by his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, and almost half that of the $2.9 trillion budget managed by his successor, George W. Bush. To simply write, “Oversaw $1.6 million budget” would do little to separate him from Bush 41 and would put him at a disadvantage to the succeeding Bush 43.

A better rendering of Clinton’s resume would say something like “Balanced the federal budget for the first time since 1969 and recorded a $569 billion budget surplus in 2000.”

For more on explaining accomplishments in a Resume:

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One comment for “Bush v. Clinton: Why Your Resume isn’t A List of Duties and Responsibilities”

  1. [...] Bush v. Clinton: Why Your Resume isn’t A List of Duties and Responsibilities [...]

    Posted by How to Write the Start (and End) to a Resume Cover Letter | career-line.com | April 30, 2009, 12:22 pm

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