How To Know If Your Resume Needs Help and Where To Get It

Cut to the chase… your resume always needs help, so you already know how to know if you need help. Do you have a resume? Then you need help. This is particularly true if you wrote it yourself having no background in resume writing, had a half-assed self-proclaimed professional do it for you, or got some bad advice on how to embellish it to get an interview. An ADP survey reported that 46 % of employment, education, or credential reference checks conducted revealed discrepancies between what the applicant provided and what the source reported. Think you won’t get caught? Think again! Unless you are really good at what you do and can survive explaining that little white lie, the trouble is not worth the effort. Most companies have a zero tolerance policy on application lies and in a worst case scenario termination for cause can create insurmountable problems in an already tight job market.

  1. Everybody is an expert [he said sarcastically] – There is no shortage of advice on resumes and even the real experts may disagree on some of the basic characteristics of style and format. For every question asked by a job seeker there will be multiple answers. Often the conflicts are about some miniscule tweak that probably doesn’t make any difference either way, but proponents of one style or another will go toe-to-toe in mortal combat to prove their point. The best advice is to listen to all advice and then make your own decision, but keep in mind that each tweak may be appropriate for one situation and not another. The classic of all heated arguments is over using the title “Objective” for the introductory paragraph in a resume. As a recruiter I can say that I have never passed over a resume because of the use of the word “objective,” but I have heard others state emphatically that it is grounds for immediate shredding. Knowing that you will probably not burn in hell for misusing a popular word or phrase may be comforting, but if you know the preferred way just do it.
  2. All knowledgeable people are not experts [he confessed blushingly] – Recruiters are notorious for writing horrible resumes. They are experts at knowing how to assess talent, but if you were to look at their own resumes most of them will break all the rules. They are job seeker advocates and can be a key source of information on how to navigate the confusing world of the job search. Make sure they have resume writing experience before asking them for help in writing a resume. Stepping back to the lowest common denominator, a laid off or out of work human resources generalist is usually not a resume writing expert. With a desperate “any port in a storm” the pretenders hang out a shingle and open shop while looking for work themselves.  This is an age of specialization. The HR community is full of bright and dedicated people, but nobody is the expert on all things HR. Like most things in life, the subtle nuances of a craft are learned by practical experience, practice, and patience. For medical treatment, a general practitioner is best until a cardiologist or oncologist is required.
  3. Certified Resume Writers are the true experts [he said respectfully] – There are a select few people who qualify to call themselves resume writers. You can ferret them out through their web ads and the usual criteria on a search engine, but the ones who care are often visible on Twitter chats where they dispense knowledge freely without ever soliciting your business. They do this for a living, so their formal services are not free. For the average job seeker this may be overkill, but anyone suffering from long term job search malaise would be wise to seek their help. Anyone in an executive search should never attempt to go it alone. There are probably only a handful of these pros that I would trust with my resume, but that short list for me probably wouldn’t apply for you. They all subscribe to a code of ethics and will provide a polished resume with the advice on how to apply it in real life. Always ask for references and know the costs up front.

The landscape is littered with amateurs and professionals alike, but even a close friend or associate can be a good sounding board. Pick someone trustworthy and ask them to brutally red-line your masterpiece and then thank them for their time. Sometimes the best advice comes from a set of new eyes with no pretense of expertise.

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