The Three Questions Your Resume Must Answer

I was talking to a prospective client last week about his current resume.  When I was explaining how his resume could be coming across and the unanswered questions throughout his resume, he made the comment that I made it sound so easy.


Writing a resume is not easy, it is one of the hardest things a person can be forced to do for themselves.  Oh sure, we all think that we like talking about ourselves and it is easy to tell everyone else how wonderful we are – but putting it on paper…that is a whole other story.


It is intimidating, we sound like we are bragging and to top it all off there are all these rules out there that we don’t know but think we need to follow.  It becomes overwhelming and exhausting so most often we end up making it a very sub par version of what it truly could be, and should be.


He also made a comment that in hearing me discuss a resume – each part, each purpose and the overall project made it sound like an art form.  To a degree it is.  It is my art and craft – it is what I work on to perfect and educate.  So when I discuss it I can go on and on from an overall view to the intricacies of each section, each bullet point.


In a blog that will not help you much.  It is like me trying to read about and master woodworking by reading an article about it.  I like building things, I’m not great at it, but I can get the job done.  I know the basics and by trial and error learn a little more with each project.


However, if I want a certain piece made I know it would be in my best interest to hire a professional.  It would take me too much time, effort and energy to try to learn how to build this item and in the end it still would not be of the same quality that I desire.


But if I want to start on a smaller project and practice, then I can look up the basics and start from there.  Today, I’m giving the basics on beginning the rework of your resume by giving you the most important three questions that must be answered:


What do you want?

So what?

What can you do for me?


The underlying theme in answering all these questions is to make the job of the person reading your resume easier.  You do not want them to have to think about trying to find the answer to any of these questions – you are providing all the pertinent information right up front.



What do you want?


The recipient of your resume gets a lot of resumes, and not always just for the position for which you are applying.


Make their life easier by letting them know which position you are applying for by either using it as a title or including it in your opening statement.


If they have to guess what job you are applying for they may guess wrong.  Or, worse yet, they may not want to have to figure it out and your resume ends up in the wrong pile.



So what?


Every single item you list on your resume should have a purpose.  It should either showcase your talents or support an item, skill or purpose.  Your resume is a blank slate of valuable space – do not waste any of it.


For each of your bullet points you want to make sure the reader never asks this question.


Now, wait a minute – you might be saying – I thought you said this was a question we were supposed to answer.




If you answer the question within the bullet point then the reader will not ask it at the end.  Clear as mud, right?


If your bullet points include the relevant information as to what value you brought, whom you worked with or what you accomplished by performing these actions they will have no need to say, “so what?” after reading them.  Let me give an example:


Maintained all company files – so what? – instead write:

Developed, organized and managed filing system for all company files including financials, organizational and client communication which ensured accuracy, completion and timeliness in required responses.


See the difference?  In the second you are eliminating possible questions about why and what.  When you leave room for questions it leaves room for doubts.


What can you do for me?


This is the biggie.  This is the one that should be addressed right up front in your opening statement.  Know their problem and present yourself as the solution.  When it all comes down to it this is the most important factor – what can you do for them.


Can you increase profits, make systems more efficient, motivate employees, streamline processes – what is it that makes you valuable to that organization?


In telling the reader in the opening statement this sets the stage for the rest of your resume. When you let them know that you are a driven, organized and efficient leader than everything else should support these items.


When detailing your past experience highlight how you took charge, held everything together and got the job done above and beyond.  Each bullet point should speak to what you can and will do as their next valuable asset.


Know what you have to offer and then let the reader know in a demonstrative, cohesive way.  Your resume should all support your value statement, your skill set and where you want to go, rather than where you have been.


When you can answer these three questions you are well on your way to setting the stage for further communication.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

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