The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Sales Resume

As a salesperson, it’s critical to have a sales resume that showcases your unique value proposition, details the quantifiable impact you’ve had throughout your career, and compels a recruiter or hiring manager to bring you in for an interview. This guide is meant to give sales professionals the actionable tips to create a resume that helps you take the next step up the sales ladder.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com

In theory, a great salesperson should be able to write a convincing resume that ultimately gets the reader to take action. After all, that’s what sales is – understanding your audience and creating a pitch that showcases the features and benefits of your product or service. In the case of your resume, the product is YOU.

Infographic – How Applicant Tracking Systems Read a Resume

One of the pillars of an effective, well-written executive resume is the usage of relevant keywords that can be easily read and processed by a company’s Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Companies set ATS parameters to automate the resume screening process by searching for relevant keywords and phrases that they’re looking for in potential candidates.

Unfortunately, these systems can only read a text-based resume with clear headers and body content. Meaning, job seekers who are sending out graphics-heavy resumes or the trendy infographic resumes are at a major disadvantage when trying to break through the ATS firewall.

Below is an infographic from Resunate.com that details how a resume is processed by an ATS. Enjoy!

 

Writing a Winning Resume for an Experienced Worker

You have a few years of work experience under your belt. Perhaps it’s more than a few years. You need a fresh start or just a new opportunity to sink your teeth into but you aren’t having any luck. Could it be your resume isn’t showing off your experience properly? Perhaps you are not looking so hot to a recruiter. With a few expert resume writing tips, you could end up with a fantastic resume that gets the call back time and time again.

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How To Approach The Dates

One of the biggest problems older workers have is trying to fill in a resume with consecutive dates. You may even feel like you have to go through your work history and list out every single place you’ve worked, when you worked there or how long you worked there. That’s not necessary. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

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  • Most of the time, recruiters are interested in the last 10 to 15 years. They don’t need or even want to look back 25, 30 or more years over your history. Don’t include something that’s too far back unless it really shows a valuable skill you’ve learned or earned.
  • Watch your length. If you have decades of experience, it’s easy to find yourself with page after page of work history. That’s a turn off instantly to any recruiter. Who wants to go through pages of material for 10, 15, or even dozens of applicants? Keep it short and concise instead.
  • Are you worried about your education? Sure, you were graduating high school about the same time the recruiter was born. It’s more important to list where you went to school and what you accomplished there. Leave the dates off your education. You don’t want the recruiter to think it’s too outdated either.

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Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to remember all of those dates. It’s better to keep the copy clean and simple to read and understand.

Which Format Is Best?

It’s ideal to choose a reverse chronological format. In other words, keep your more recent working experience at the top. You’ll want to ensure that the most relevant experience is listed so that the recruiter can easily see exactly what you have to offer and why you are a good choice for the company. Don’t overlook the importance of this. Functional formats, on the other hand, tend to allow red flags to stick out. Do you really have the necessary experience and skill? The reverse chronological format is often the ideal choice because it simply makes you look good.

What Are Your Accomplishments?

One of the biggest mistakes a more experienced worker can make is having an “experienced” style resume. Yes, you have worked 30 years and that’s a good thing. But, having a “back in the day” conversation with a recruiter, isn’t going to help you to land the job. Recruiters want you to be vibrant, modern, and up to date in your education and job skills.

That’s why it’s so valuable to ensure your resume shows your accomplishments rather than the number of years you’ve worked at a location. Here are some tips to help with this aspect:

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  • What did you do at your last job that was above the norm?
  • What is the highest position you’ve held during your career? What title did you hold?
  • What did you help your previous employer to accomplish, earn, or achieve?
  • Did you break a sales record? Did you launch a new product?

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Even if it is a small accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, it’s still going to be valuable if you’ve done it. Make sure your resume focuses on this rather than how many years you’ve worked at the company.

Using Technology Can Help

The next thing to ensure you’ve included in your resume is your technology experience. A big mistake you can make as an older worker is to leave this option. Why? It’s simple. Most recruiters are using technology to find candidates. Even more importantly, if you are an experienced worker, you may seem out of touch with the use of technology. You don’t want to be seen as someone with no ability to flip on a computer!
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  • Incorporate any and all software you know how to use in your resume.
  • Ensure any type of application that’s industry-specific is mentioned in your resume. Be sure this is an up to date, modern list.
  • Include links to your social media profiles – if you don’t have them, create them. If you have a blog, include that, too.

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This shows you are skilled and capable of using modern technology. That’s a key component in nearly all situations.

Design It Right

Finally, be sure the design of your resume is modern, contemporary, and easy to read. Writing a resume for an experienced worker doesn’t have to be hard nor do you have to do this on your own. Turn to a recruiter or hiring manager you know for feedback on your resume. On the other hand, you can hire a resume writer to handle the job for you. This type of resume is going to turn heads and get attention. That’s exactly what you need to land the perfect job.

 

 

Why Most Resumes Kind of Suck…And What to Do about It.

Every single day, people from all over the country send me their resume because they’d either like me to review it and confirm that they’re on the right track or they’ve realized that they need the help of a professional to get it up to snuff. Either way, the resumes are usually not very good – to put it nicely.

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After nearly nine years of writing resumes for a living, I think I’ve finally realized why most people’s resumes are so uninspiring. It’s not because these folks aren’t very smart or they haven’t had a great deal of success in their career…because they are and they have. It’s because most people approach their resume as a task and something that has to be done. A necessary evil, if you will.

The average resume that I review typically has one (or more) of the following issues:

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  • The format is outdated because they’ve kept adding on to an old resume
  • The resume has few achievements that prove their value in each role
  • The summary, if there is one, is vague and not targeted appropriately
  • It’s structured in a way that is too dense and very difficult to skim
  • It includes all sorts of tactical and extraneous information

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People don’t purposely set out to write a crappy resume. They just don’t give it the attention it needs to stand out and tell their story in a unique and compelling way.

Change your approach

The first thing you’ll want to do if you’re serious about having a resume that doesn’t suck is change your mindset. Your resume isn’t just a document that you send companies that have a job you want to apply for. Your resume is an extension of you, and oftentimes, the first impression that hiring managers or recruiters will have of you. Why on Earth wouldn’t you want it to be a personal marketing tool that effectively encapsulates who you are, what you’ve done, and what specific value you can bring to an organization?

Think back to your first date in high school or college. I know for some of you that was a long time ago, but I’m sure you remember the preparation that went into making sure that you were putting your best foot forward. For the ladies, you probably spent twice the amount of time getting your hair and make-up just right. And guys, you probably wanted to be sure you were wearing the perfect shirt and the right cologne. You did this because you knew that you only had one chance to make the perfect first impression, and that the chance of a second date hinged on the success of the first date.

Take it on yourself

If you’re a motivated job seeker and plan on tackling your resume yourself, you’ll need to 1) educate yourself on contemporary resume writing trends, and 2) carve out the necessary time it will take to create a resume that works. A failure to not do either of those things will essentially guarantee that you’ll end up with a resume that isn’t effective as it could be.

For the do-it-yourself resume writer, there is no shortage of excellent resources out there to point you in the right direction. I’d start with Resume Mastermind’s How to Write an Awesome Executive Resume series. Susan Britton Whitcomb wrote a book a while back that continues to be the industry standard for basic resume writing instruction.

Get a little professional help

The second option, of course, is to work with a professional resume writer. While there will be a more substantial financial investment, it makes sense for a lot of people to outsource the project. Even if you do hire a resume writer, you still need to provide information and feedback throughout the process to ensure the best possible outcome.

Whether you choose to take it on yourself or hire a professional, make it a priority to do it right.

The Surprising Secret to Selling Yourself

There was a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D that contests the conventional wisdom that a person’s track record of success (or a company’s, for that matter) is the single most important factor in determining whether or not they get hired. Many of us tend to think that we need to put most of our focus on proving our value in previous roles, when in fact, people tend to be much more interested in what we CAN do rather than what we have ALREADY accomplished.

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From the artice:

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… when we are deciding who to hire, promote, or do business with, it turns out that we don’t like the Big Thing nearly as much as we like the Next Big Thing. We have a bias — one that operates below our conscious awareness — leading us to prefer the potential for greatness over someone who has already achieved it.
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A set of ingenious studies conducted by Stanford’s Zakary Tormala and Jayson Jia, and Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton paint a very clear picture of our unconscious preference for potential over actual success.
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For candidates in the midst of a job search, this should be a wake-up call that the approach you (and almost everybody else) have been taking, may not be working that well.

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… they found the same pattern when they looked at evaluations of job candidates. In this case, they compared perceptions of someone with two years of relevant experience who scored highly on a test of leadership achievement, versus someone with no relevant experience who scored highly on a test of leadership potential. (Both candidates had equally impressive backgrounds in every other way). Evaluators believed the candidate with leadership potential would be more successful at the new company than the candidate with a proven record of leadership ability. (Incidentally, if you ask the evaluators to tell you whose resume is more impressive, they agree that it’s the one with experience. They still prefer the other guy anyway.)
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So is it still important to highlight major accomplishments and career achievements on your resume? Of course! However, this research re-emphasizes what we preach to clients every day – in order for the resume to do its job, you need to demonstrate the specific value you can bring to an organization and prove that there is still upside and room for growth that can be cultivated in the right environment.

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All this suggests that you need a very different approach to selling yourself than the one you intuitively take, because your intuitions are probably wrong. People are much more impressed, whether they realize it or not, by your potential than by your track record. It would be wise to start focusing your pitch on your future, as an individual or as a company, rather than on your past — even if that past is very impressive indeed. It’s what you could be that makes people sit up and take notice — learn to use the power of potential to your advantage.
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Dr. Halvorson hit the nail on the head.

The Rise of the Creative Resume

Over the last several years, there has been a massive increase in the use of artistic and creative resume designs. Graphic designers have actually opened up an entirely new niche by providing job seekers with unique designs that are meant to help them stand out from the traditional black and white text resume.

Picture courtesy of Loft Resumes

The question many people have about this new phenomenon is “do they really work?” The answer is a bit convoluted and it really depends on who you ask, but my official answer is yes…and no.

The Pros

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  • They look really, really cool and definitely stand out in a pile of resumes.
  • For a designer, it is a useful example of your creativity.
  • It gives the impression that you’re taking the job search seriously.
  • It enables you to more easily cover up any perceived deficiencies.
  • You can draw the reader’s attention to very specific parts of the resume.

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Because creative resumes are still a relatively new trend, designers who submit them now are able to capitalize on the initial “wow” factor that they have. In certain niches of the creative world, this type of resume may become the standard rather than the exception, so first-adopters may have the advantage. Unfortunately, these resumes do have their fair share of detractors.

The Cons

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  • The design may keep them from passing applicant tracking systems.
  • Many HR managers feel they are over-designed and lack substance.
  • From a scannability perspective, they can be very difficult to read.
  • Editing or creating alternate versions could be a nightmare.
  • It loses effectiveness if everybody starts doing the same thing.
  • You lose valuable space to detail experience and accomplishments.

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Anybody in human resources will tell you that they don’t expect to see a seismic shift in the way resumes are written any time soon. In order for a hiring manager or recruiter to adequately assess a candidate’s qualifications, they need to see a clear, easy-to-read summary of where the job seeker has worked and what they’ve been able to accomplish. Because applicant tracking systems are set up to scan text files, Word docs, and PDF’s, the creative resume will be limited to a small sub-set of the workforce and will work most effectively as a complement to a traditional resume.

Five Insanely Cool Creative Resumes

Vicky Frenkel – The Resume Shop

The French Press Loft Resumes

deviantART

Orange Resume

Steve Pratt

How to Write an Awesome Executive Resume – Part Two

This is the second installment of the How to Write an Awesome Executive Resume series and the focus will be on crafting a strong Executive Summary – also known as the Profile or the Summary of Qualifications.

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You need to make it count

Gone are the days of the Objective Statement that reads “Results-oriented professional seeking a middle-management position for a growing company.” That sentence told the reader absolutely nothing about you, what you have to offer, or why you may be a fit for their organization. It’s also entirely self-serving by saying what it is you want, not what you can do for them. The trend now is to open an executive resume with a strong statement that shows how you can help solve an organization’s specific challenges – whether that’s growing sales in a certain market, streamlining operations, implementing a new onboarding process, etc. The more specific you can be, the more

If you think about your executive resume as a piece of marketing collateral, it makes sense to hit the reader with something concise, interesting, and impactful at the very beginning to grab their attention and entice them to want to read further. That is the primary purpose of the Executive Summary. In a matter of a few sentences, you should be able to tell the reader: who you are; where your unique skills and background lies, and how you can leverage that to add immediate value to their organization. Simple, right?

What does a good Executive Summary look like?

Let’s start with nn example of an ineffective Executive Summary:

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Over twenty years of experience in the behavioral health care field with a record of success in providing excellent health care in a professional, cost effective method. Expertise in business development, program development, account management, strategic sales, operations and regulatory compliance. Proven ability to analyze and re-align organizations to increase efficiencies. Excellent leadership and strategic skills, fully committed to delivering results.
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At first blush, it seems okay. But if you take a closer look, the statement comes off as a bit vague. By listing her expertise in multiple functional areas (business development, program development, operations, etc.) she isn’t telling employers exactly how she can fit into the organization. Nor does she provide detail into specific value she can deliver – increasing sales, profitability, etc.

The following is the same person with a more impactful summary:

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Health care executive with 20+ years of experience creating and delivering solutions for clients, leveraging extensive background leading strategy and business development for major health plans. Proven ability to set the direction for clinical, operations, and program management teams to drive efforts that maximize revenue, improve the customer experience, and enhance the value of the brand. Cultivated a record of success delivering innovative health care programs, managing high-level client relationships, and driving corporate change for large, diverse organizations.
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The second version does a much better job of detailing the core strengths and skill sets most relevant to her role, past relevant experience with key functions, and notable accomplishments that she intends to repeat in the next role.

Five tips to build a great summary

These tips are from fellow Kansas City resume writer, Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter:

1. Create a marketing strategy. Think about the last story you read in a magazine or online. What enticed you to read it? Most likely, it was the use of bold lettering that mentioned a snippet of what the story was about. Use this same method to get your audience on board.

2. Focus on marquee achievements. Zero in on a few of your most outstanding accomplishments that relate to the job for which you’re applying. Then, build your executive summary around these accomplishments.

3. Introduce statements with strong verbs. Avoid using boring language like, “Responsible for,” “Duties included,” and other fillers that have no place on any executive resume.

4. Tailor your words for your audience. Be powerful and set the scene for your targeted position to ensure a potential employer fully understands your value.

5. Chart your story. If your career story allows it, the use of a chart or graph in this area is an excellent way to relay important data in a format that’s quick and interesting to read.

The Executive Summary truly is the linchpin to a great executive resume. If you fail to grab the reader’s attention at the beginning of the resume, chances are they aren’t going to continue reading. Take the time to craft a summary that reflects your unique skills and experience and showcases the specific value you can deliver.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Easy Ways to Make Your IT Resume More Effective

As a professional resume writer who has reviewed thousands of resumes over the years, I see many of the same mistakes over and over again. There is some flexibility about how a resume can be written and structured, but hiring managers are always looking for certain things that indicate whether or not you’ll be a good fit for their organization.  The resume is perhaps the step that you have the most control over in your job search, so it pays to make sure that it is doing the one thing it’s suppose to do – get you interviews. Below is a list of five simple things that you can do that will have a dramatic effect on your resume.

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1) Don’t forget to emphasize your soft skills

Most IT professionals make the mistake of thinking that their hard technical skills are going to be the main thing that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. While mastery of a specific language, platform, or applications is certainly important, it usually doesn’t end up being the primary differentiator amongst candidates. What makes a candidate stand out to those making the hiring decisions is their ability to add value to a project team, consistently come up with solutions that can save time and/or money, and make a positive contribution to the company culture.

2) Make your resume ATS-friendly

Complex search techniques are used by corporations, recruiting agencies, and job boards when your resume is uploaded in to their Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  So cater to this with succinct and searchable job titles that will help your resume appear when recruiters run a Boolean search in their ATS database. A good way to determine keywords is to read job descriptions for positions that interest you. If you see industry buzzwords, incorporate them into your resume.

Additionally, list your specific IT certifications accurately and clearly to communicate what expertise it has given you, including technology focus, specific skills and unique abilities. Consider writing a “Technology Environment” bullet point at the end of your experience.  This is a great way to incorporate technical skills into your job detail even if you did not use the technology directly.

3) Get specific

If you are applying for an opening that has very specific technical requirements, they will expect you to have a strong understanding of those applications. So rather than simply state that you used C++ to create applications—be specific about how you put it to work and what the results were.

Consider breaking each position into two part: the day-to-day job responsibilities and major accomplishments. The job description should paint a short, but clear, picture of what you were hired to do and should have technical detail that, critically, shows the technology’s impact on business. Both the hiring manager and the CIO want workers who understand technology’s role in the business. Use bullet points for 3-5 accomplishments in each role, quantifying their impact as much as possible.

4) Create multiple versions

If you are in more than one role (or have skills that may fit more than one role) you should have multiple versions of your resume available that highlight those skills. For example, if you have years of experience as a software engineer, and also have project management expertise, have two resumes: one highlighting your software engineer experience and another highlighting your project management experience. Typically, the only major changes you would have to make would be in the opening profile or summary of qualifications section as your experience would remain the same.

5) Make it readable

Tech resumes often become these dense unreadable documents that are incredibly difficult to skim through. Utilize section headers and white space to separate the different areas of the resume. Vary the design a bit, writing job descriptions in paragraph form and using bullets for accomplishments. Use bold and italics to make some of the more impressive bits of information stand out. And finally, proofread the resume multiple times before sending it out, ensuring that there are no grammar mistakes and that everything makes sense.

Keeping these five things in mind will help you stay on the right track and give hiring managers a much clearer picture of the value you can bring to their organization.

 

How to Write an Awesome Executive Resume – Part One

Part one of Resume Mastermind’s How to Write a Resume Series

Here at Resume Mastermind, we want to be the #1 authority on resume writing. Although we’re in the business of writing resumes for our clients, we also like to think of ourselves as coaches as we spend a lot of time educating people on what it takes to create a resume that opens doors to bigger and better opportunities. This is Part One of a six-part series on how to write a resume that is targeted, well-designed, and powerful to consistently win interviews.

starting-line-for-writing-a-resume

There is no one way to write a resume, and no two resumes look exactly alike (or they shouldn’t, anyway). But we firmly believe that there are basic principles that can be applied across the board, so we want to share with you our philosophy and general methodologies.

 

Before You Start Writing

One of the biggest mistakes that many people when writing their own resume is that they begin writing before they have a well-prepared plan in place. This usually results in the resume lacking a clear focus or direction and makes the writing process much more cumbersome than it needs to be. Before you even start writing, here is a list of things to consider that will make the process much smoother.

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    • Who is the audience? The first thing you want to ask yourself is “Who is the person that’s going to be reading this thing?” Is it a hiring manager? A recruiter? A colleague? Throughout the writing process, you should put yourself into the mindset of what somebody else will see when looking at your resume.

 

    • What will the target audience be looking for? A great resume will bridge the gap between what you have done and what you are seeking to do in your next role. The hiring manager will want to see that you have the capacity to jump into the new opening and add immediate value, so your content strategy should be tailored accordingly.

 

    • How will the resume be structured? Writing a resume is much easier when you have a fundamental understanding of what the finished product will look like. Consider how long the resume should be and what main sections will be included. Creating a basic template that you can fill in along the way will save you a lot of time and agony.

 

    • What will make the resume stand out? If you start writing your resume with the idea of creating something that is “good enough”, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Each job opening solicits hundreds, if not thousands, of resume submissions, so you need to think about what you can do to make your resume set you apart from the pack.

 

  • Is this really something you should be doing yourself? Do you really have the time, writing capacity, and understanding of the current job market to give your resume the necessary effort it deserves? For example, I recently wrote a resume for a gentleman who charges $150 an hour to his consulting clients. He spent the better part of two full days working on his resume and would have saved himself hundreds in lost revenue had he hired a company that specializes in writing resumes for clients in his industry. Every day, we hire accountants to do our taxes and auto technicians to change our oil because it’s not worth the headaches to do those things ourselves. Hiring a professional resume review service such as Resume Mastermind may make a lot of sense.

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Right now, you may not have the answers to all of those questions, and that’s okay. In the next parts of the How to Write a Resume series, we’ll shed light on how, specifically, you can answer these questions and put a pre-game plan in place. The major takeaway should be that there are things that need to be carefully considered before diving into the writing part of the project.

 

The Primary Purpose of the Resume

The resume is meant to do one thing – get you an interview. It doesn’t need to be a comprehensive summary of your life story or a factual chronological history of your work experience. The resume should convince the reader that you have the background, skills, and intangibles to be successful in this new position or career.

 

Where to Go from Here

I recommend taking a day or two to think about what it is you really want to do with your career. Narrow it down as specific as possible. For example, saying that you “want to work in the tech industry” isn’t going to cut it. However, deciding that you “want to leverage your software development experience and passion for mobile technology into a position with a start-up mobile app company” gives you a much clearer direction for your project.

Stay on the look-out for Part Two of our How to Write a Resume Series where we go in-depth about crafting an opening profile or summary of qualifications.

When a Free Resume Critique Isn’t Really Free

If you google “free resume critique”, just under half a million results pop up. So clearly, there’s no shortage of options out there for people who are looking to get a little unbiased feedback on their resume, LinkedIn profile, or bio. Right? Wrong.

horizontal-critique

The vast majority of the companies out there offering free resume critiques have an agenda – they ultimately want you to buy their full (and usually overpriced) resume writing services. It makes sense. Resume writing companies make money by writing resumes – not by giving free advice, so they need to be sure that prospective buyers know that there are major issues with their resume and the only way to fix it is with a rewrite.

Some companies are much more unscrupulous than others. For example, at least one of the big job search sites uses ridiculous boiler plate templates to scare the bejeezus out of people. They will tell you people that your resume is the most worthless document they’ve ever seen and there’s no way you’ll ever get a call for an interview. Unless, that is, you pay upwards of $500 for one of their “professional” resume writers to handle the rewrite. This company is so shady that clients that did end up paying to have their resume redone, sent their new resume to the critiquer (without them knowing that their team had already rewritten it) and got the same critique that shredded the resume to bits and suggested paying for their services. Unbelievable.

I don’t want to label all resume writers as shady opportunists. Reviewing somebody’s existing resume is the most logical way to get new business, and many writers act in a highly ethical manner. I’ll admit that I used the same approach for years, but there’s one thing that I was always sure to do. If somebody wanted me to review their resume and I thought it was in pretty good shape, I told them so. And I usually gave them a handful of suggestions that they could use to make some improvements on their own. If they didn’t want to mess with it, I’d be happy to do it for them, but I always game them the option. Scaring people into signing up for our services was never my thing.

Five things to think about when getting a “free” resume critique:

1) What are the critiquer’s credentials? How long have they been in business and what do people have to say about them? The barrier to entry into the resume writing business isn’t very high, so make sure that you’re dealing with is unquestionably qualified to be giving you advice.

2) Does the critiquer give you big picture overview of what is working and what isn’t? Many times, reviewers focus on the negative aspects of the resume and fail to take a step back and evaluate the document as a whole. A good reviewer should be able to put themselves in the mindset of a recruiter or hiring manager and give you honest feedback if the resume is accomplishing its primary goal – positioning you for your ideal job.

3) Are you getting specific recommendations to improve the resume’s strategy, content, design, and readability?

4) Do they provide you with a professional design framework or samples from your profession/industry so that you can see what a professional resume is supposed to look like?

5) Does the reviewer cross-reference your resume with your LinkedIn profile, bio, or job search letters to ensure that you are delivering a consistent message across multiple platforms? Resumes don’t operate in a vaccuum any more, so a good reviewer will

If all you’re getting is a water downed evaluation along with a sales pitch that your resume needs to be written, I’d seek a second opinion before you spend the money to have somebody rewrite your resume.