Writing your resume can be difficult. After all, you’re writing about yourself, and that’s hard for anyone to do! You’re too close to your career to write objectively. While you might know all the facts, it can be tough to put them in a format and in the right words that convey what you want to a potential employer. Some people also feel uncomfortable “bragging” about themselves in a resume, but resumes are for putting forward your accomplishments and conveying your skill set.
One way to make the task of writing your resume easier is to sit down and really think about what you are trying to convey. Asking yourself questions is a great way to get started. What kind of questions? Read on for some ideas.
Questions for Writing Your Profile or Summary Statement
At the top of your resume should be two to three sentences that summarize your professional expertise as well as your career goals. In writing this, you don’t need to be incredibly specific, but you need to be clear. These questions can help shape the message for you:
Where do I see myself in five years? Ten years?
What am I most proud of in my career?
Which of my skills do I feel most confident in?
Why am I applying for this specific job?
If I had to describe my work style in three words, what would those words be?
And, once you’ve written your summary, look at it and ask yourself, is this all adjectives?
Too many adjectives can actually weaken your summary statement. Use one or two adjectives per sentence, but make sure the sentence as a whole is making a strong point, not just using cliché resume words to describe you.
Questions for Your Education Section
For newer grads, this isn’t as tough as it may be for older people who have a long list of skills and experiences that they have accumulated since they earned their degree. Nonetheless, with degree requirements becoming a part of nearly every job now, you do need an education section on your resume. But what do you include? Think about these questions:
Does including my college major and not just the fact I graduated strengthen my resume for this particular job?
Have I earned any professional certificates that are applicable to this job and should be included?
Did I earn any academic recognitions that establish my expertise in a field or topic related to this job?
More recent grads should also ask themselves: Was I active in any organizations that relate to the job I’m applying for?
Questions for Your Work History Section
Here we are, the big one. This is where you have to determine most carefully what to leave in, what to add, and how to beef up the descriptions of the jobs you’ve held in the past. Have no fear, these questions will help get you started:
Was I hand-selected, recruited or sought out to fill this position?
What have been the most important responsibilities I’ve had?
Who have been the most impressive/well-known clients I have worked for?
What are my top five professional skills?
Is there a project/skill/responsibility I don’t want to discuss at an interview?
Questions for Determining Keywords
In writing your resume, you’re trying to build an impressive picture of yourself that will stand out to a hiring manager. One of the ways to do this is to use strong words that convey your skills and your accomplishments without sounding forced. To get at the keywords that will be effective for you, ask yourself these questions:
What are three of my best professional qualities?
What are three of my worst professional qualities?
If my current boss were writing my resume, how would they describe my work ethic and skill set?
If I were applying to my dream job—no matter what, NFL quarterback, movie star, stay-at-home mom—what words would I use to describe myself?
What values are important to the company I am applying for?
Questions to Articulate Accomplishments
Some of the questions under this section might sound similar to those in the work history section, but that’s because the two are closely tied together—and incredibly important. It can be hard to decide what accomplishments to include on your resume, especially if you have had a long career, but asking these questions for each position you’ve held can help you sort through which ones are most effective for your resume:
Which of my accomplishments are most closely aligned with the job I am applying for?
Which three accomplishments am I most proud of overall?
Which accomplishment took the most work to achieve?
Which accomplishment was easiest for me?
Which accomplishment would I have the most fun describing during an interview?
Which accomplishment would be the hardest to explain during an interview?
What accomplishment would my current boss point out?
How do I define “accomplishment”?
Questions To Convey Your Personal Brand
In the era of social media, this needs to extend to your LinkedIn profile as well as your resume, cover letter, and behavior at the office. But how do you figure out your personal brand? And then how do you convey it? Get started with the questions below, and perhaps even check out this free quick quiz from Glass Door, or these professional resources from DISC.
What is my dream job? How will I get there?
How do I want an administrative assistant to describe me? A CEO? My cubicle mate?
Am I a leader, a collaborator, or a behind-the-scenes worker?
What professional topic could I talk about for hours?
What motivates me to go to work? Money, coworkers, the work I do, ambition, etc.?
If I had a professional blog, what would the topic be?
If I wrote a book about my career, what would the title be?
What am I known for in my career?
What do people come to me for that they do not go to other people for?
Is there a common theme across my career that I see whenever I reflect on my different positions?
Just as scientists start experiments by asking questions, so too should you start the process of writing your resume. Brainstorm, put all the information on paper, and then go from there. You won’t use everything you wrote down, nor should you, but in the end you will have a resume that is stronger and more effective than you would have otherwise. If you get stuck, ask other people some questions about yourself. Perhaps you have a trusted coworker who knows you’re looking for a new job—ask them what they see as your professional strengths or your personal brand. When it comes to writing a resume, take your time and dig deep.
Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never breakthrough the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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