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6 Questions to Ask When Writing Your Resume

key with question mark tag indicating questions you can ask when writing your resumeThroughout your career, you’ve been an exemplary employee and a top performer. You’ve successfully led teams, delivered impressive results, consistently met and beat deadlines, and have been recognized for your achievements. But would a potential employer know this by looking at your resume?

Asking yourself thought-provoking questions is the first step to writing a good resume—a resume that makes your accomplishments clear to a reader. Precise language that includes context strengthens the quality of your application documents. Below are six questions to ask when writing your resume to ensure that your value, achievements, and skills are evident and unmistakable to your readers.


Asking yourself thought-provoking questions is the first step to writing a resume that makes your accomplishments clear to a reader.


Compelling Questions to Ask When Writing Your Resume

How does the reader know I was good at this job?

Even if you don’t automatically think in terms of accomplishments, you will likely be able to explain why you are good at your job. To help you articulate this, you could ask a trusted friend to take notes about what you share with them. After, review their notes and determine what would be beneficial to include in your resume.

Was there anything going on at the company that made my work particularly challenging?

This could include mergers and acquisitions, downsizings, aggressive growth, changes in leadership, and/or reorganizations. The larger context of your success in a role can be underscored by noting situational factors you had to face while still performing well or going above and beyond.

What were the results of this task?

Thinking in terms of specific results can help you demonstrate successful outcomes. Were your efforts rewarded? Did you complete the tasks on time or ahead of schedule? How important was the particular task in relation to the company’s larger objectives?

How did I mentor my staff (or lead the team)?

Describing how you did something can reveal greater context and demonstrate your approach to your work—in this case, how you lead people. You can also ask yourself this question in terms of your role—whether you were a team player or supported the work of others—or your accomplishments, such as finishing a particularly challenging project.

What did it feel like when I did ______?

Explore what motivates you and makes you feel particularly proud when you accomplish a goal or complete a particular task. Consider how you might incorporate that information into your resume in a way that complements the strengths and abilities you offer an employer.

How many? What was the monetary value?

Quantification provides clarity to a reader. “Led projects” and “Led 19 projects concurrently (values: $500K–$23M), completing each on time and within 2% of projected budget” each take up one line on a resume, but the latter provides details and speaks to a person’s skill.

Takeaway

If your resume is only a list of responsibilities and basic tasks you’ve completed, your contributions and value to a company are open to interpretation. This is why having a list of thought-provoking questions to ask when writing your resume can be helpful: clarity of writing aids the reader and eliminates ambiguity. You never want a potential employer to have visions of the turn-of-the-century classic movie Office Space when reading your resume, leading them to wonder: Is this person like Peter Gibbons? Only doing enough to not get fired?

Asking yourself thoughtful questions when writing your resume reduces the chances this problem will occur. The process can also give you a confidence boost when you see how impressive you look on paper.

Heidi Scott Giusto, PhD

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses succeed when the stakes are high. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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