If you ask someone to proofread your resume, you have to be open and receptive to the possibility that they will find mistakes. If you’re going to argue and defend your errors instead of correcting them, you’re not only wasting the time of the person doing the proofreading, you’re also risking their willingness to provide you with honesty.
Yesterday I had two very different experiences with two different people in the drop in Employment Resource Centre where I work. The first was with a fellow who was applying for employment with the Province of Ontario; which meant there were very specific instructions on how to submit an application; not only in terms of the resume, but also with respect to his cover letter and how to apply.
This gentleman approached me with his initial resume and to be honest it was extremely poorly constructed. It contained irregular spacing, multiple fonts; the content was weak and didn’t relate to the job he was applying for at all. Had he submitted this version of his resume it wouldn’t even have got more than a glance let alone led to the offer of an interview.
During the course of what was a fairly busy morning for me personally assisting a number of people, he would make revisions based on my suggestions and then approach me again for further feedback. He did this five times, and with every presentation, he was getting closer to a stronger application; not to mention his basic understanding of how to make a resume in general was becoming stronger. It was precisely because he was genuinely appreciative of the feedback that he was offered more and more. In short, he took the advice he sought out and implemented the changes; never getting frustrated but learning from the experience and implementing the ideas he received.
Now I contrast his experience with another person who approached me much later in the day. This woman approached me and said she was applying for a job and would I like to read over her cover letter, resume and list of references. I looked at the cover letter first only because it was on top of the resume. The initial sentence began, “I am submitting my Resume…”
I stopped reading and pointed out that the capital letter ‘R’ in the word resume should be lower case not a capital, and she said to me, “Well I’m not going to change it now. I’ve gone back to this cover letter that worked for me years ago so we’ll see.” I stopped proofreading the cover letter right there and looked at the resume.
The resume wasn’t a disaster at first glance, but it was missing the most recent two years on it. When I asked about that she said, “Oh this is a resume from two years ago, I’m just sending it the way it is.” I shuffled the papers and moved to the list of references. Now this document looked fine. It only contained three names instead of a standard four, but there were titles and contact information so it looked appropriate. However, just as I was about to say it was fine, she voluntarily said, “The first guy is dead but I’m leaving him on there.”
I put all three sheets down and said, “You’re intentionally leaving a dead person on your list of references instead of replacing him with someone else who can actually be contacted and speak to your experience?” She told me that she was indeed, because – and you guessed it – it worked years ago so she was using it again.
So what’s the point of asking someone for their feedback if you aren’t open to hearing what they’ve got to say, or are going to actually implement any of the changes they recommend? I told her in summing things up that there were problems with all three documents and that she really should make some changes to them if she wanted to improve her odds of getting an interview. I added however that it didn’t appear she was ready to make any changes at this time, so I wasn’t going to get into identifying all the corrections needed.
Now ironically, the woman might get further with her resume than the fellow. There is the possibility that because he is applying for a government position, the competition will be fierce and others extremely qualified. Sheer numbers could keep him from advancing to the interview stage. The woman may get an interview as she’s applying for a job through a mutual friend. The scrutiny that each application is going under is very different. While the employer may look over her resume and have her in for an interview as a favour to her friend, the fellow has no such connection, and if he gets an interview, he earned it entirely.
Look, the bottom line is that it’s wise to ask for others to proofread your work, and both get full marks for asking. However, it’s equally essential that you stay open to the help you get and consider the advice of people who are doing you a favour. Otherwise you are wasting your time and theirs; showing little respect for the time and opinions of others.
Can you get an interview with flawed documents full of grammar and spelling errors? Sure you can; it is possible. Is it likely? No. Act on advice and improve your odds.