Posted by Brian McCullough
This is a post that I literally could have written on day one of this blog. I’ve held off because, as most of you know, I’m the founder a resume writing company, so I didn’t want to look like a shill. Too much, anyway.
But last weekend I was brought in to look at the resume of a friend. It was downright terrible, and I was horrified to hear that the friend had already sent this lousy resume out dozens of times. This drove home to me the fact that this is still a problem that needs to be addressed.
So, at the risk of compromising my integrity in the mind of the readers, here’s why EVERYONE needs help with their resume.
A Second Set of Eyes
Any time you write anything of importance for public consumption, you should have someone come behind you and read it over. For errors if nothing else.
If you’ve done any amount of writing in your life then you know that you can rewrite and edit a thing 8 times over and still miss an error or two here and there. It’s human nature. You wrote the thing. The sentences and the cadences are in your own mind. You eye might skip over something that’s right in your mind, but wrong on the page. (Like I just did with the “you” at the beginning of that sentence. Should be “your,” but I’m leaving it in to make my point.)
So, it’s just common sense. Have someone read it over. Maybe they can alert you to that “their” that should be “there” that you’ve overlooked time and again. Maybe they can tell you that your opening paragraph is weak and needs a stronger re-write.
And Unbiased 2nd Opinion
Let’s face it. The resume is about you. It’s about your professional life and your accomplishments. You are not exactly unbiased about you.
When people try to write their own resumes with no outside help, they tend to make one of two common mistakes.
Either they try to describe every little thing they did (every job, every little detail, task, duty, reward, award, etc… these resumes can run on and on for 3 or more pages and read like a boring diary) or they miss the most important things they should be highlighting (I’ve evaluated the resumes of Fortune 500 CEOs that read like this: “Then I was in charge of sales. After that I took over all international accounts.” When I would talk to them and find out how they transformed entire divisions, saving the entire company from bankruptcy, I’d want to scream: why didn’t you put that in your resume?!).
So either people seem to be unable to edit themselves, or else they are so close to their own careers that they can’t see the bigger picture of what they’ve done.
Having anyone… a friend, a co-worker, a colleague… look at your resume can provide you with that critical eye you need. They’re not afraid to cut the things that are unimportant or redundant. Furthermore, they can give you an outsiders perspective on what is truly impressive about your career.
An Organizational Assist
So going to a friend or a co-worker to give your resume a once-over can help you catch errors and give you some perspective and judgment on how you sell yourself.
But some people just can’t write good resumes. Period. I’m not talking just about people who aren’t good at writing. The best novelist in the country might be bad at organizing and writing a resume. Resumes are a weird, stilted and somewhat promotional medium… it’s part advertising sales pitch and part formal business document. It’s not an easy thing to wrap your head around, even for the Shakespeares of the world.
If you know anyone who has the reputation for this sort of thing, go to them. Oddly enough, I’ve found over the years that the lay-people with the best advice and best cold-resume writing abilities are secretaries and executive assistants and the like. In other words, someone who has experience with forms, and business documents might be the person you ask to lend a hand.
Or, Call In The Pros
And finally, you have the option of going to a resume writing professional.
This is also common sense. A resume is a marketing document. You need to sell yourself… almost like a product.
When Apple or McDonalds or GM come up with a new product, they don’t just go out in the back parking lot and shoot the commercial themselves. No, instead, they hire professionals who’s job it is to know how to sell a product, to market something.
A resume writer is like your own personal marketing firm. A resume writer makes his or her living by understanding how to market candidates to potential employers. They do this day in and day out. They know what works and what doesn’t. They know what is important and what isn’t in your career history. They know what to cut and what to highlight.
More importantly, they know what works right now. Let’s say you’re in a tough job market like real estate sales. Somewhere out there, there are dozens of professional resume writers who specialize in resumes for your industry. They’ve done 9 other real estate resumes this summer alone. They know what has worked for recent clients and what hasn’t. They have an idea, probably better than you, what hiring managers in your career field are looking for right now.
And chances are, if you don’t use the assistance of a professional resume writer, you’re probably competing against the resume of someone else who did.
So that pretty much sums it up. If you’re looking for professional resume writers, believe me, one trip to google and you’ll find plenty of qualified people.
But if you take nothing else away from this post, just promise me you’ll have someone at least look at your resume before you send it out.