The interview before the interviews.

Questions to ask yourself while preparing the experience section of your resume.

Whether you are starting from scratch or making improvements to your current resume, you may be wondering exactly what kind of details you should include when describing your career history. How much is too much? What exactly do employers want to know? Can I just use the content from my company’s job description?

When describing your work history, it is easy to either 1) include so much detail that your resume is long, uninviting to read, and repetitive, or 2) include insignificant information that leaves the reader unsure of who you are. Your resume is about your specific experience and should tell your specific story. Your job duties and responsibilities may be similar to others, but no two job seekers are exactly the same. Consider the details that are unique to your experience.

Conduct this self-interview (or have a friend take notes on your answers) and you’ll have pages of details to work from in determining what to include in your resume. I’ve always found that paring down substantial information and selecting the “best of” is much more advantageous vs. struggling to create resume magic with just a few details.

  • Who did you work for? What did your employer do, make, or sell? Where did your company stand against its competitors? How many people were in the company? Who did you report to and who reported to you? By describing the various environments you have worked (and excelled) in, you’re telling the reader interesting details about your unique experience.
  • Why were you hired? It may be simply because you fit the qualifications for an open position, or perhaps you were hired for a specific reason: to open a new location, to turn around struggling operations, to help support sudden growth, etc. By disclosing why you were hired, you can tell a complete story from beginning to end.
  • What were your duties/responsibilities? The challenging part in answering this question is finding the balance between too much and too little information. Think about your audience and the types of responsibilities required for the position you are targeting. Include those relevant job duties plus others that showcase your comprehensive abilities. Think of the “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” For example, “Generated monthly reports” doesn’t tell the reader much, however “Generated monthly inventory reports for executive team in support of key operational decisions” tells so much more. It may be tempting to copy/paste your job description here, but you’ll quickly lose yourself in the minutiae of tasks and your resume will lack creativity and be easily forgotten.
  • What were your major achievements in this role? This is the final and most critical question to answer. Your accomplishments are unique to you and are the key highlights that will stand you out against your competition. Be sure to include specific measurements whenever possible – percentages, facts, figures, etc. – to further emphasize your impact. Think again about why you were hired. Did you meet/exceed those expectations? You’ve already described your daily duties – how well did you perform them and what were the direct results of your efforts? Even if you are unsure of the monetary effect you had, think about how you improved a process, achieved greater responsibility based on performance, expertly handled conflicts, and/or managed extremely heavy workloads. Relevant accomplishments will vary by position and industry. Always think of your audience and the details that will excite them.
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