The One Question Your Resume Must Answer

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In 1482, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote  what many consider to be the first modern resume. To this day, resumes remain the main tool people use to apply for jobs.

While there are all sorts of visual improvements and designs job seekers can use to catch an employer’s attention, the content of a resume is what really matters at the end of the day. The candidates who stand out are those whose resumes answer one key question:

How Is Your Previous Employer Different as a Result of You Working There?

This question may seem more suitable for an interview than a resume, and in many ways it is. However, beginning to answer it on your resume will give you a head start over other applicants.

But how, exactly, do you answer this question on your resume? Don’t imagine you’ll just answer it directly with a single bullet under each of your previous jobs. Instead, the answer should be woven into every part of your resume. Only this way can you show the impact you’ve had in previous companies.

First, think about all your responsibilities at previous jobs. Then, list out the results you’ve achieved by carrying out those responsibilities. If you’re having trouble remembering what, exactly, you achieved in previous jobs, jog your memory by reading old emails and searching through old LinkedIn messages.

Once you have your responsibilities and their connected results, you can write each bullet of your work experience section in a way that highlights your results. Remember: It’s about your impact, not your responsibilities.

You can do the same thing in other sections of your resume, such as your list of strengths, achievements, or side projects. For example, instead of just naming a strength, add a short description of the impact you made by leveraging that strength. This helps employers imagine what you could do for them if they were to hire you.

Beware of Seeming Arrogant

It may seem like this is a question about your specific achievements, but focusing too much on those can make you seem like a braggart. In reality, the question is about the companies you’ve worked for and the legacy you’ve left at each one. It is about the cumulative effect of your contribution and how the company changed because of you.

It’s great that you hit all your quarterly goals for the entire year — but how does that affect the company’s bottom line? If you were to write a bullet point focused on this, you’d want to frame it in terms of revenue, market share, or ROI for customers — in terms of the business’s benefit, not your own.

Example Resume Bullets

Here are a few examples of how to make sure your resume answers the all-important question:

  1. Developed a marketing strategy that took the company from 2% to 20% month-over-month revenue growth
  2. Built 6 websites from scratch; created 100 PowerPoint presentations; authored scores of newsletters; grew social media communities; as a result, our CRM grew from 0 prospects to more than 15,000
  3. 33 percent year-over-year improvement in department productivity
  4. Drove team to achieve the best direct rates in the building’s history

Writing a resume is like writing anything else: It’s always important to keep your audience in mind. By centering your resume on the question of how you have changed your previous employers, you are giving your readers the information they need most. This will help your potential employer understand what you can bring to the table and why you are a suitable candidate.

Tatiana Rehmova does media relations and content at Enhancv.

By Tatiana Rehmova