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  • The format is outdated because they’ve kept adding on to an old resume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.

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