one girl’s guide to surviving unemployment



don’t pay for what you don’t need

Or, more aptly titled “you don’t need to pay for a resume.”

I was browsing a great jobs Web site the other day and it heavily emphasized the site’s resume critique service.  Now, coming from a recruiting background (and playing a role in hiring for my previous company), I’d like to think that I know what does and does not work from a hiring manager’s perspective.  However, curiosity got the best of me, and I submitted my resume for a “free” critique.

Free is rarely free.

I received some feedback from the service, which was, ostensibly, a form letter with various parts of my resume cut and pasted into fields.  While some of it was interesting, it lacked any real-world understanding of not only the type of work that I’m looking to do, but the field in which I am looking to do it.  Essentially, my summary statement, success highlights and skills listing were not “up to par” with industry standards.

Whose industry, I ask?  The resume writing industry, I suppose.  And they offered to rewrite it for me . . . for $700.

$700?  That’s at least two weeks of unemployment checks spent on something that is getting me interviews already.

Look, I’m not denigrating the value of having some professional guidance on your resume.  It can be, and in many cases is, a valuable service to understand what the outside world is seeing.  But it’s not something that you need to pay $700 of your precious pennies to do.

Here’s some better ways to get the guidance and feedback you need.

1. Check into best practices for resumes.  See my previous post on the subject for places to go online.

2. If you’re working with recruiters, staffing agencies or headhunters (which I highly recommend you do – more on that later), ask them for feedback and suggestions.  They see hundreds of resumes, and are often hired by companies to weed out candidates.  It’s their job to make you look as good as possible — because when you get a job, they get paid.  They can, should, and will help you.

3. Do you have that friend that’s always getting the best interviews and jobs?  Ask to see hers.  Look, a resume is a standard template with modifications based on industry and role.  You don’t need to get creative or reinvent the wheel.  Her resume is landing her interviews? Steal formatting, structure and language ideas.

4. Ask friends, colleagues, family, HR managers, or contacts in your industry for feedback.  Ask what’s working — and more importantly what’s not.  Revise accordingly.

5. Not comfortable reaching out?  Professional organizations in your field can help take a look as well.  Most will do it for free.  Look specifically at mentor programs with these organizations.

6. While this may seem a bit contrary to my overall advice, take a workshop through a related professional organization in your field.  HOWEVER, do not pay anything anywhere near three figures for this.  Workshops should give you a top-level view.

7. Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone do a wholesale rewrite for you.  You are the one who will have to speak to every single thing on your resume.  If you don’t write it, how can you do that effectively?  

If you are having problems putting into words what you want to do (or what you have done) invest some serious time in learning how to articulate your goals, accomplishments and skills.  You’re going to be asked to speak to all of it, so your resume is a good chance to learn how to do that.

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