Open letter to resume writers: Stop stealing from your clients.
After reading the seventh professionally crafted resume that sucked it is time for me to hollar-back. When I see candidates being victimized by job search parasites I am enraged. Stop selling your services as a resume writer if you have never hired anyone. Don’t put up your shingle if you haven’t been in a professional role supporting those who do. Just because you can write or use a layout template doesn’t qualify you for the arcane art of resume writing.
You have no idea how resumes are read. You have no right to handicap candidates with your advice to include the number of years they have been employed in the opening section and even less right to encourage them to fill that same space with their own opinions of their dedication, skill and creativity.
When you sell a resume filled with cliches’ like “hands on” and “proven leader” or “broad range” you guarantee that resume with be filed in the digital circular file.
A resume writer charged $1000 for a technology executive’s resume that began thus,
Exceptionally creative and effective management executive with 11+ years of industry experience. Possesses a distinctive blend of hands-on technical, project management, and communications experience. Offers a broad range of skills that spans many industries and products. Fully fluent and proficient in software development languages, technologies, methodologies and tools. A proven leader with a strength for identifying talent, building and motivating creative teams that work cooperatively to achieve goals. Excellent interpersonal skills and a sincere passion for applying technology to current business problems.
You read the above and you say, “What’s wrong with that? It looks normal.” Well, you are right it does look normal. It looks just like every other resume that goes nowhere.
Here’s what’s wrong:
- Exceptionally creative and effective management executive – The candidate’s opinion of their work has no place on a resume. Good that they have that confidence but it is not data. Instead of opinions, use examples or outcomes that prove the point. Effective management style is proven with low turnover and ease of hiring/building a team, for example.
- 11+ Years of industry experience – No one cares how many years a candidate has done something. They do care about the success and outcomes. List those instead of vague opinions. Also, never use + or etc. If it is more, say what it is.
- Offers a broad range of skills that spans many industries and products - Broad range is cliche, vague and an opinion. Give an example that shows those skills such as “Created the product road map, hired the team and managed the timeline for [name of product] which was released two weeks ahead of schedule.”
- Fully fluent and proficient in software development languages, technologies, methodologies and tools – Watch your language. “Fully fluent?” You are either fluent or you are not. Unless the candidate has written code for a released or product in use, this information is misleading. Instead include the languages and products.
- Same thing goes for sincere passion… Bad writing and tells the reader nothing. Show how that passion resulted in a product or accomplishment.
- Excellent interpersonal skills – Interpersonal skill success is given credibility with data about how cooperation or collaboration solved critical problems.
Candidates, don’t lose hope. There are some excellent professionals who can help you with your resume. And asking for help is a good thing. After all, you have conducted a job search so rarely in your career, you can’t expect to be an expert. Here’s how to find the right person to help you craft an effective resume.
First, ignore all hype, marketing and website testimonials. Some people are very good at marketing. Doesn’t mean they can write the resume you need.
Here’s what to look for:
- If you sign up with a company, find out who the actual writer will be. The person who woos you is often not the person who does the work.
- Ask to see recent examples of resumes written for people with your similar job title or career area. Does it immediately tell the reader why they want to hire them? Do you know what job they are after in the first sentences?
- Discover if the writer has hired or supported those who hire IN YOUR NICHE. A technology professional needs a very different resume from a banker. The terminology, emphasis and key accomplishments are different.
- How long has the writer been crafting resumes? It takes years of experience to learn the gotchas and how to work around certain issues such as a gap in employment, age issues or out of industry work.
- Check references. Ask to talk to the last three people for whom they created resumes. You want recent and not cherry-picked clients.
- Determine if you have editing and redo options. Some resume writers only allow a limited number of edits or redos. Your resume is too important to have this limitation.
One of the best ways to find the right support is ask people you trust who they would recommend and why. Interview those writers. In the end, if they do create a resume and you have paid for it, there is no reason on earth you have to use it if you feel it is inadequate. It is your career and your resume is your formal marketing document. Make it work.
PS: The best solution is learn to craft your own resume. You need a new one for each prospective employer so learn the rules and you can plug and play.