Who Should You Listen to When it Comes to Resume Advice?

by Handlin, Liz Sunday, May 16, 2010
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Once you embark upon a job search your resume, perhaps previously gathering dust in a file drawer, will become the most important document you own. Job seekers have a tendency to show everyone they know a copy of their resume; many of them seem to weigh each opinion equally and continuously edit the resume based on the most recent "great advice" they have been given.

It seems like everyone has an opinion about what you need to do to create a good resume. In fact, if you do a quick Google search you will find that there is no shortage of resume writers in this country. If you look in your local yellow pages you will also probably find "resume writers" who a really typists who can format information for you. So, whose opinion counts when it comes to resumes? How do you know if you are getting good advice or not?

First of all if you are going to ask for advice on your resume you need to make sure you know what questions to ask. Are you asking for input on the formatting and general appearance? Do you want input on the content and appropriateness of the language used to describe your jobs? Or do you want to know if the resume does a good job of selling your unique skills and accomplishments? If you just ask someone, no matter how knowledgeable they are, "what do you think of my resume?" you aren't asking the most useful question. Make sure to ask very specific questions in order to elicit the most specific and helpful responses.

If I were going to ask for an opinion on my resume one of the most important criteria would be the knowledge, education, and qualifications of the person whom I asked to review the document. Here are a few thoughts on whom I would recommend that you ask and whom you should not ask for opinions on your resume.

Good Sources of Resume Critiques:

Hiring Manager in your field or desired employer. These can be some of the best people from whom to get feedback on your resume. These are the people who will make the final decision about whether or not they want to consider asking you to join their team. Their feedback on content is especially helpful. You will find that hiring managers are most interested in reading about your specific skills and accomplishments in areas that affect their bottom line. If that information isn't in your resume you need to do some edits.

Human Resource Professionals (in-house recruiters) in your field. These are the ultimate resume reviewers because they read, screen, and decide the fate of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of resumes every day. They want to see clearly written information about your jobs and accomplishments that is formatted in an easy-to-read but not overly fancy manner. They need to be able to rapidly assess whether or not its worthwhile to screen you for possible interviews with the hiring manager.

Elite Retained Recruiters: If I were going to ask for an opinion on my resume the first person I would ask would be one of the few really top recruiters I know. Some of the best recruiters in the country are well educated, have been in the business for years, and are trusted partners of their Fortune 500 and/or Private Equity backed clients. These recruiters are the best of the best and they know exactly what they and their clients want to see and how they want to see it presented on a resume. In my opinion these people offer some of the best resume feedback you can get.

NOT So Good Sources of Resume Feedback:

Your spouse. Unless your spouse has unique knowledge of the recruiting/hiring industry it is good to get an outside opinion on the overall content and look of the resume. On the other hand, your spouse or significant other can be very helpful in reminding you of key accomplishments or projects that you have forgotten about but should be listed on your resume. Use your spouse's knowledge and expertise wisely.

Junior Level Contingency Recruiters: "Contingency" recruiters get paid only if they fill a position within a client company. Many contingency recruiting firms will literally hire just about anyone with a pulse because they are paying them 100% commission; if they fail they get fired and if they make money for the company they can stay. These people often get no special training and are not required to have any particular level of industry knowledge, education, or background for the job other than a willingness to relentlessly cold call any company that might have a job opening they can try to fill. If you have a friend who just started a recruiting job they may not have really learned what hiring managers want to see in resumes yet. Weigh their resume feedback carefully before making changes.

Employees of your dream employer who don't know what you do and don't work in the area in which you are seeking employment. Just because you have a friend at Dell (for example) does not mean that he/she knows anything about resumes, your unique background, the department you seek to become employed by, or how to you should present yourself on paper. However, you should absolutely network with anyone you know at your dream employer - you just may not want to change your resume based on his/her feedback. Again, weigh feedback carefully before starting to edit.

Large resume writing companies that employ junior writers and who ask you to fill out comprehensive surveys. Resumes are personal. They are the ultimate marketing material for the most important product in the world: You. The experience, education, and background of the resume writer you choose to assist you is what matters most if you are going to pay someone to help you write your resume. A good resume rewrite involves in depth conversations between you and whom ever is creating the document for you. No surveys or questionnaires are needed.

Resumes should be clearly written, simply formatted, and should describe each of your jobs and accomplishments along with relevant dates. You should list your education, board memberships, volunteer positions, patents, publications, media appearances, and anything else that appropriately demonstrates that you are a star at what you do. Keep it simple and remember that this document only has to do one thing for you: market your skills in such a way that you get an interview. Once it lands you the interview the new "most important" document will become the paycheck you receive from your fabulous new job!