Monday, August 24, 2009

Perfect 10: Better Questions Yield a Better Resume

To get resume writing help, you could hire a professional resume writer, or you could get free resume help by asking yourself these 40 probing questions.

Perfect 10: Better Questions Yield a Better Resume
by Bridget (Weide) Brooks, editor of Resume Writers’ Digest, and “Write Great Resumes Faster”

A great resume can be the difference between getting called in for an interview, and hearing nothing at all from a prospective employer. But coming up with information to include in your resume — especially attention-getting accomplishments — can be difficult. These questions, compiled from professional resume writers, can be a great starting point to help write a good resume.

Questions to Assess Your Job Target/Desired Job
These are questions to clarify your job objective:
  • What specific job titles are you targeting? (Please be specific regarding level, functional role, industry, and any environmental factors that are important to you.)
  • How realistic is that goal, do you think?
  • Can you identify 1-3 job postings for the type of position you're interested in?
  • If you had all the money you needed and you didn't need to work, what would you do?
  • In your performance reviews, in what areas did you receive the highest scores or the most positive feedback?
  • What do you want to be "when you grow up"?
  • If the "ideal" position were to become available, how would you describe it?
  • What type of job are you looking for - and with what type of employer?
  • If you could customize your career and create your own job, what skills would you use and how would you apply them?
  • If you want to make a transition (new industry or job function), how can you make that shift?
Questions to Capture the Essence of Your Current Job
If your current job is relevant to your target position, spend some time identifying the key areas of expertise in the job you have now:
  • When a stranger asks you, "So, what do you do?" what is your answer? If an interviewer asks you the same thing, how would your answer be different?
  • What is the most important part of your current job?
  • Can you tell me about a typical day in your own words; what is predictable, what is difficult?
  • What was the company's purpose in hiring you: What were you brought in to do? (And were you hired, recruited, or promoted into this position?)
  • Can you name three critical functions of your job that would impact the company/department if you were not at work one day?
  • What do you enjoy most about your current position? The least?
  • What percentage of time do you spend on the "A," "B," and "C" aspects of your job?
  • How does your current job fit within the context of the organization? Who do you work with? What other areas do you support? What interactions do you have with customers?
  • What are you accountable for?
  • At the end of the day, what makes you feel good about what you've done?
Questions to Elicit Information About Your Accomplishments
Accomplishments are the most important part of the resume. Gathering relevant, quantifiable accomplishments can be a challenge:

  • What have you achieved in your job - have you saved your employer any money or achieved any other quantifiable measure (helped the company make money, become more efficient, improve safety, improve customer service, etc.)?
  • What do you do for the company that someone else did not, or would not, do?
  • How was your performance measured in reviews - and what was the outcome (awards, recognition)?
  • What key problems did you identify - and how did you help solve them? (Please describe in the Challenge-Action-Result format.)
  • Were you chosen for any additional assignments? (What were they?)
  • What would you rate as your top three skills?
  • What have you done that has broadened your responsibilities?
  • Why are you good at what you do?
  • What do others say about you and your work?
  • What have you introduced at your firm that has never existed before Sˇ or what did you improve upon?
Other General Questions
Sometimes there are questions that don't fit neatly into any other category, but that can help improve the overall resume:

  • Do you have a copy of your job description or any performance evaluations?
  • What are your top 3-5 strengths and personality traits?
  • What are you best known for at work?
  • How did you find your most recent job?
  • What sets you apart from other candidates for this job?
  • Why are you a good employee? Why are you better than average?
  • If you were asked to select your replacement, what qualities would you be looking for?
  • What will be different about your next job?
  • Is there anything that you don't want to do in your next job? (Especially something that you might be good at, but that you just don't enjoy doing?)
  • Anything else you'd like to add?
Using Your Answers
Getting good information from is just the start - how you incorporate the answers into the resume will help determine how effective the resume is. If you’re having difficulty putting the pieces together, a professional resume writer can help you turn your answers into an interview-winning resume — so you can have a great resume that will get you your next job faster!

— Bridget (Weide) Brooks, CPRW is the editor of Resume Writers’ Digest, a trade newsletter for professional resume writers. She is also the author of “Write Great Resumes Faster.” She can be reached via e-mail at

Other posts on how to write a good resume:

5 Ways to Spotlight Transferable Skills on Your Resume
Quiz to Uncover Your Skills
Third-Person Technique for Resume Statements
How to Pick a Professional Resume Writer


entry level resume said...

I used these questions before creating my resume, and I think it really helped a lot. In fact 6 of the 7 companies I contacted, contacted me back! I do not believe I am that much more qualified than my peers, so I truly believe it was your post. Thanks!

james said...

Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.
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