Three Questions Employers Ask as They Review Your Resume
Modified from Danielle Barkley’s Virtual Resume Review Presentation
Your resume is usually the first opportunity you’ll have to make a good impression on a potential employer, and a well-crafted one should be more than just a list of previous positions and experiences -- it should be a persuasive “pitch” on your value as a prospective employee.
It is vital that you consider the perspective of the employer: How do they visualize their future teammate? What are they looking for?
Here are three key questions employers ask themselves when reviewing resumes. Taking them into consideration as you draft or refine your own may be vital in helping you land your dream job.
1. What value have you created in the past?
You might notice that this question is different from “What have you done?” Too often, we use resumes to simply list our work experiences, but this approach does not fully reflect an individual’s contributions and professional growth.
The best way to convey the value you have created is to use what are called accomplishment statements. Instead of simply describing your duties (eg: “Responded to client enquiries”) you state the value you created by performing them (eg: “Responded to client inquiries, thereby improving satisfaction surveys by two points over a one month period”).
Quantifying the value, as in the example above, can be helpful, but sometimes a qualitative description might be more appropriate. Either way, look for opportunities throughout your resume to highlight the value you’ve created for your team, customers or organization.
More information and examples of accomplishment statements can be found in the video “Resume 101: Accomplishment Statements.”
2. How did you get to this point in your career?
Employers want to understand how your career has evolved and why the job you are applying for is a logical next step. This does not mean you need to have a perfectly linear career history -- most people don’t -- but your resume should demonstrate why the position you are applying for makes sense as the next move in your career trajectory.
The best way to make sure it does is to highlight your relevant experiences. People often take a chronological approach to resume-writing, yet this doesn’t always paint the clearest picture of their worth to potential employers. This is especially true for applicants making a career change or for recent graduates who have had limited time and opportunity to gain professional work experience. In these cases, highlighting relevant volunteer work or student extracurricular activity might be an effective way to illustrate suitability for the job.
For example, have you had previous financial experience as the treasurer of a club? Were there specific courses within your degree program that align with the job requirements? Does a skill you developed years ago in an unrelated role happen to be relevant to the job you’re seeking today? Aspects like these are worth pointing out.
3. What is the bigger picture?
Once a potential employer knows about your accomplishments, skills, and previous work history, they’ll likely want to know more about who you are as a person. Sharing information beyond your academic and work history, such as a fun fact or information about your values, provides employers with a more personal insight. This can be vital in distinguishing yourself from other candidates with a similar skill set.
Depending on your field, you might want to consider including information about your hobbies and interests. If you volunteer for causes or communities that are important to you, sharing that information can indicate what your values are to an employer who may share them. Whether you’re an athlete, a musician, or an artist who sells your products on Etsy in an entrepreneurial side hustle, details like these will give an employer a better picture of who you are, and perhaps a reason to find out more through an interview.
Ultimately, potential employers are looking at more than just your direct work experience; they are evaluating your “fit” for the organization and the role. Standing out among a stack of resumes is about anticipating their questions and concerns and targeting your messaging accordingly.
The more your resume reflects your ability to contribute value, how your work and life experiences have prepared you for the role, and your personal fit for the team, the more likely you are to be selected for an interview.
About the Author
Danielle Barkley is a Career Educator with UBC’s Centre for Student Involvement & Careers who supports students with their career exploration and professional development.
Danielle has a PhD in English literature at McGill University and has previous experience as a university instructor and writing consultant. She is currently a coach-in-training, pursuing accreditation with the International Coaching Federation, and is a member-at large on the board for the Up in The Air Theatre Company.