I encounter people each and every day who are looking to join the ranks of the employed. Most of them have poor resumes unfortunately, some resumes that aren’t too bad but could be improved and there are thank heavens, only a few who think resumes aren’t needed at all.
It’s interesting to me as I engage these people in discussions about their resumes, how quickly they are to shift the responsibility for its creation to someone else who made it for them, or how they immediately tell me how they’ve got conflicting advice on how to make one. I’m not surprised that getting conflicting advice would be frustrating; different people telling you how it should be laid out and the content arranged can be very annoying because we are used to doing things in our life in very right and wrong, proper and improper ways. So why should resume writing be any different?
So let’s look at some of the common excuses for having a poor resume. One has got to be that someone else made it for the person. My response to this statement is to ask the person to tell me the name at the top of the resume. When they tell me it is in fact their own name, then I tell them if they are going to distribute it anywhere, they have to take responsibility for everything below their name, no matter how it got there or who put it there.
Now the second most prevalent excuse I hear is when someone tells me that they had their resume done by someone at another agency. In other words, they’ve taken good advice and sought out someone they truly believed to be a resume writing professional. That much is good but at the same time they themselves have to take ownership of the document. So if there is a spelling error, something is wrong with the dates, or there are words on it that the person doesn’t even comprehend, it is critically important to stay seated in the chair while with the person creating it and read it slowly and carefully to pick up and change whatever is detected.
One rather poor excuse which outdoes the other two mentioned is the person who says they’ve heard from other people that all these professionals can’t agree on one way to make the perfect resume so they can’t be bothered even getting someone qualified to help them. The result of this is of course a resume that is extremely poor in the majority of cases and almost guaranteed to generate zero interviews.
Okay so although there are numerous reasons for having a poor resume, let me turn to giving you some advice on how to know you are in good hands with someone claiming to be a resume-writing professional. I hope this advice comes to you at a time when you are open-minded and willing to consider getting some help – especially if whatever you are currently using is generating little.
First of all whomever is going to help you should be willing to actually sit down with you rather than doing it in isolation and then handing it over to you. Of course there are situations where this isn’t possible, such as getting someone’s help who is in a different country etc. The advantage of sitting down with someone is that they can ask you questions as they proceed, not only about what you were responsible for, but what you accomplished. When someone is sitting beside me personally, often a discussion brings out information that should be on the resume but isn’t volunteered without some questioning and prodding. If in the case you can’t sit down side by side, you should be prepared to answer questions either through Skype, email, twitter etc. so things can be clarified. It also will help you to understand WHY they suggest whatever they do.
One sign you are with the wrong person in my opinion is the situation where the person offering to write it for you makes no inquiry as to the specific job you are applying for. If for example you were considering someone’s help and they said, “What are you applying for?”, and you answered, “A Youth Worker”, that shouldn’t be enough information for them. If they don’t ask you for the name of the organization and the job posting you want to apply to, you know right off the bat you are going to get a generic all-encompassing resume that’s bound to end up resulting in frustration. You should be asked and give the person a specific posting so the resume contents can be focused on the needs of that single employer. A Youth Worker may have very different requirements from one agency to another; and from one level (Senior Youth Worker) to another, (Entry-level Youth Worker). And let’s not forget one could be for a religious organization and another not just by way of example. Yes, all of this does matter.
There really are few excuses for having a poor resume. Like anything, some people are better at it than others. The real acid test for a winning resume is whether or not yours gets you seated in an interview for the job you apply to.
Oh and by the way, there are many people who charge for making resumes. Pay them if you want, but some of the best do it for free.