The Questions Your Resume Should Always Answer

When a potential employer looks at your resume, there are some questions you must answer. If you keep those questions in mind as you prepare your resume, your resume will be more successful at capturing the right kind of attention—attention that leads to an invitation to interview!

Does this person understand what we need?

You have two opportunities to answer this question—your cover letter and your resume. Mess up on either, and your chances of securing an interview drop.

So how do you show that you understand what the employer needs? You read the job description, then use the keywords in that description in both your cover letter and your resume. Show that you read the job posting!

In most cases, if you understand your career well, you can write a resume that will work for many employers. Yet never overlook the value of tweaking your resume to match the expressed needs of a specific job. While your cover letter will give you the opportunity to tweak your message directly to the specific job posting, subtle tweaks within the resume can make a major impression.

Does this person have the skills we need?

Once again, paying attention to the job posting cannot be emphasized too much. If a skill is listed, and you have that skill, make sure it shows up in your resume!

Has this person produced results in the past?

All employers fear hiring someone who becomes a liability to the business. For this reason, you can expect them wonder if you have been a productive team member in your prior positions. Don't make them wonder. Answer the question by including quantifiable results from your contributions to previous (and current) employers.

A good way to accomplish this is to use Problem-Action-Result statements. State the problem that you faced, the action(s) you took, and the results.

Is this person committed to this career?

This can be a tricky question. If you have held many different types of positions, or changed employers frequently, employers may wonder if you have trouble sticking with anything. You want to avoid sending this signal.

If this has been your past, then you want to de-emphasize this in your resume. If some of the jobs lasted a very short time and are unrelated to the career path your resume is focused on, there is nothing that says you have to list every job you have held (unless you are applying for some government jobs). Stick with jobs that demonstrate the skills related to the job you are applying for.

Another strategy is to show how each of your diverse jobs related to your strategy to enter this career path. Accomplish this through your Problem-Action-Result statements. Why not reframe the perspective of the potential employer by emphasizing those aspects of a prior job description that transfer to the new career?

Is this person responsible?

This is another tricky question. A person who has changed employers frequently may be seen as irresponsible. A number of assumptions, none of which may be true, may pass through an employer's mind.

  • Do you have trouble getting along with others?
  • Do you have trouble handling authority?
  • Do you have trouble making it to work on time?
  • Do you miss work without warning?

There are several strategies that can help you.

  • You can choose to drop jobs that didn't last very long (unless this leaves large gaps in your resume).
  • You can create an aggregate title for the positions you held. Establish a timeframe for the heading instead of the individual jobs. Then list the businesses in which you held that position.
  • Consider listing positions held during college if they are important to proving your qualifications.
  • If your current work history is strong, create a secondary section in your resume that lists previous positions without any details.

Another strategy you can use to emphasize the fact that you are responsible is to develop your Problem-Action-Result statements so they reflect increasing responsibilities as you move up your employment history. A person who irresponsible isn't going to "climb the ladder."

Can this person meet deadlines and handle high-pressure situations?

This is an important question to answer, if the job you are applying for involves deadlines and pressure. Answer this question using Problem-Action-Result statements that demonstrate your ability to do this. Remember, claiming that you can do something isn't as good as showing you can do it.

Most hiring managers make a decision as to whether to pay attention to a candidate within the first 10 seconds of viewing a resume. This means your resume may only get a quick glance. If you answer these questions within those 10 seconds, you will improve your chances of getting a second glance.