The ultimate two-word question to evaluate your resume

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In the job search process, your resume provides the key link between applying for a job and getting that first interview. There is a whole world of resume tips, including tips on formatting, rules to live by and many others.

In the end, all the rules can drive you crazy because they are all about rules (should your resume be one page — or two? Show all your jobs — or just the last ten — or fifteen — or twenty years worth?) and not about effectiveness. And effectiveness means getting interviews. If your resume is not producing interviews, your resume isn’t doing the right job for you.

How do you know your resume is as effective as it can be?

You start by asking the ultimate two-word question after every line on your resume: So what?

Your resume needs to show your work

By asking the “so what?” question, you are forced down the path to getting what you have on the resume mean something to a potential hiring manager. Hiring managers are into results, not just the chronology of your employment life. They are into your motivation for doing the work, not just some listing of jobs. They want to know how well you will fit into the team, not just some drab list of job skills.

Without your resume showing this information, your resume won’t get you interviews.

Ask the “so what?” question about your work

The results you produce are the “so what?” points of your resume. If you say that you reduced costs by 1% for some aspect of your work, you need to ask “so what?”. The number by itself doesn’t mean much — 1% could be worthless in one situation and critical in another. By not getting what the real benefit was of the 1% reduction in costs, it means your resume hasn’t gone far enough to show the results of your work. More needs doing to get your resume right.

What you are trying to produce is a benefit to the hiring manager to interview you over everyone else that applied for the job. If there is no benefit the hiring manager can see from the resume, there is no reason to do an interview with you.

In the end, your results need to have benefits to the business

By continually asking “so what?” on each line of your resume, you will get to the point where there is a genuine benefit to the business (or your current management team) for the work you do.

It’s not just resolving a ticket at a help desk, for instance. Resolving tickets resolve problems your customers are having. Your benefit to the business is increased revenue, decreased cost, or increased customer satisfaction in some form to your customers. By asking “so what?” enough times, you get to the point where the benefit to the business — and the hiring manager shows.

Most people won’t go through the effort to answer “so what?” about their resume

Because most people think the work is done when the first draft of the resume is completed, Cubicle Warriors get an unfair advantage when it comes to getting the interview. Cubicle Warriors change their resume to answer the “so what?” question for each line of the resume so they have a better shot at getting the interview than someone who simply lays out their positions over time and follows all the “resume rules” out there.

The resume isn’t about resume rules. Resumes are about getting interviews.

Does your resume answer the “so what?” about your work?

  • […] I was helping a client with her resume. Let me tell you, resume rules suck. Should it be one page, two pages or more? Should it be formatted this way or that way? Should […]

  • Rick — as always, a good insight into a post. These are spot-on. If you ask these three questions and then ask “so what?” you will get the benefit to the business from your work and really stand out from others.

  • Nice stuff Scot! (and Happy New Year!) The three questions every job seeker should ask when they're doing their resumes: (1) How did I make money for my employer? (2) How did I save money for my employer?, and (3) Did I make a process more efficient to help improve productivity?

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