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.

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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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.