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The One Question Your Resume Must Answer

October 23rd, 2015

Your resume will break down your assets as a candidate and describe them, point by point, in separate subheadings focused on your education, your work history, and your specific skill sets. But while each of these separate aspects of your profile will need to be addressed, your primary argument can be summarized with one question: Why should you be hired for this job instead of someone else? What can you bring to this role that no other candidate can? Here are few things to keep in mind as you build your document around this central point.

Answer before you write.

Before you take a single stab at the actual text of your resume, spend some time thinking about this question, and imagine how you might answer in person if you were speaking to an interviewer. What would you describe as you strongest assets? How would you list your most valuable assets? Keep in mind that the two lists may not be identical. For example, you may offer basic proficiency in a critically important skill area, but you may also be a high-level expert in an area that’s of secondary importance.

Separate your skills from your unique skills.

Think about the skills and accomplishments you plan to highlight in your resume and in the text of your cover letter. Then separate these offerings into two categories. If you’re applying for a mid-level accounting job, you may be very proud of your bachelor’s degree in accounting (and you should be), but there’s a strong chance that every candidate in the pool will also hold this credential. What are the skills and traits that truly set you apart? What have you done that few others will also be able to claim?

Keep these unique qualities at the center of your summary.

No matter how you choose to populate the subheadings of your resume document, you’ll need to focus strong attention on your summary, the short descriptive paragraph at the top of the page that most employers will read first. This short, hard-hitting statement should be built around the skills and qualities that help you stand out, not just the ones that help you fit in or meet the basic requirements for consideration. Instead of wasting valuable space in this section by calling yourself a “hard worker” or an “experienced professional”, cut to the chase: what can you bring to the table that nobody else can?

For more tips and tools that can help you create a winning resume and land the job you’re looking for, reach out to the career management team at Merritt.

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