What to Put on Your Resume: Questions Your Resume Must Answer

There’s a solid maxim in the job search process: Resumes get interviews, interviews get jobs. Job seekers hoping to get to the interview stage must be mindful of what the typical resume reader is really after. Recruiters and hiring managers often share a few very specific concerns about applicants; being mindful of these can enhance your resume immeasurably. Questions your resume should answer include:

Can the employer quickly pick up what you can do to help the organization generate more revenue or operate more profitably? Resumes these days most often lead off with backward looking “summaries” that provide specific information about the writer’s functional and industry experience, along with a sampling of both technical (GAAP accounting procedures, Excel) and soft (attentive to detail) skills. “Objectives” (Seeking a position with a progressive company…), by contrast, are less in favor currently, as they don’t provide this important snapshot of the applicant’s background. Write this brief summary as if this is all the information the reader might use to decide which pile to put you in.

Have you included the key words that reflect specifically the skills and requirements they are looking for? Copy and paste any ad you intend to respond to into Wordle.net or Tagcrowd.com to generate a “tag cloud”. This useful little app will identify and highlight the keywords that surface most frequently in the text. You can then simply sprinkle these words/ phrases liberally throughout the resume.

Where have you worked before? Prospective employers want to know who you worked for in the past, what your roles were, and the positions you held, so present this information clearly. There are a few resume formats (functional, for example) in use these days that tend to mask this information purposefully. These have generally fallen out of favor in recent years, so be careful with non-traditional formats.

Do you have experience relevant to their needs? Demonstrating that you have produced measurable and quantifiable results in the past, for other employers or in other settings, is key to responding to this question. The “voice” best suited for this is that of accomplishment statements, in which you clearly identify action steps you undertook, and the specific results that these efforts generated. (Ex: “Increased sales and growth by 5% in 12 months by developing and managing a new process that improved customer order services.”)

Do you have the education and credentials to do the job? Certain employers and positions require specific education and credentials. Degrees, licenses, certifications, ongoing technical / professional training, and other forms of professional / continuing education all fit the bill here. Go easier on the “soft” skills/training (Leadership Strategies for Managers), heavier on the “hard” stuff (CPA license number, MS Office updates, newer PeopleSoft modules, Professional Engineering designation). Should you suspect you have too many to list, emphasize those attained most recently, and/or those most directly related to the positions sought.

What to include in a resume is equally as important as what to omit. Consider the guidelines above, and that coveted interview might just be yours.


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