Why You Should Not Hire a “Professional Resume Writer”

A week or so ago I received a message from a first-degree connection on LinkedIn.  She was absolutely giddy with anticipation.  She informed me that the following day she would send me her new resume which was prepared by a “professional resume writer.”  I laughed.   I also told her that she should e-mail it to me (for some reason I cannot always open attachments to LinkedIn messages) and that I hoped she had not wasted her money.  She had…

I can’t say that it is the worst “professionally” written resume I have received, but if not, it’s pretty high on the list.  Here’s the problem:

“Professional resume writers” probably have never hired anyone in their lives.  Accordingly, as they have never been employers they can’t think like employers.  So for them a resume is a marketing tool akin to any marketing collateral for any commodity purchased at the supermarket.  So their resumes are all hype focused on attributes and benefits, the old-school way to market breakfast cereal or anything else people are looking to buy.  Problem is, employers don’t care about attributes and benefits, they care about solving their immediate problem.  Moreover, today marketing is all about storytelling, not preaching (attributes and benefits).

So what did, let’s call her “Mary,” send me?

Her resume begins with her name, place of residence, contact info and LinkedIn profile URL.  Then things go south.  The resume begins with the following professional summary for a “Director of Operations/Production:”

Consummate leader with entrepreneurial spirit and 25+ years of progressive corporate strategy, operations, logistics, and business development experience in competitive manufacturing environments; record of exceptional performance in transforming unprofitable corporations, assembling top-performing teams, and influencing positive, growth-oriented outcomes. Persuasive communicator, analytical thinker, and innovative problem-solver with established ability to align individual departments with business goals, streamline processes, and deliver results.   

I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates.  When I ask them to tell me about themselves no one has ever begun, “I’m a consummate…” anything.  Why?  Because it sounds obnoxious.  That’s not how you introduce yourself in person or on paper.

So what do I know about Mary from her professional summary?  She thinks very highly of herself, is old, and can’t site a single justification for her self-praise.  I don’t have a clue what she has actually done!  Moreover, this summary could have been written about anyone who started their career over a quarter century ago.  Do you know what industry she is in?  I don’t either.  Shouldn’t we?

The next section is titled, “Signature Strengths.”  What are they?

  • Driving bottom-line gains by analyzing existing operations, identifying areas of weakness, and implementing transformative solutions that enhance profit margins, cash flow, and efficient application of resources.
  • Strengthening corporate management with exceptional timeline development and organizational capabilities; manage concurrent large-scale initiatives with competing priorities on time and within budget.
  • Key thought leader and big-picture strategist; thrives in challenging and constantly evolving markets with comfort communicating, advising, and influencing at all levels of an organization.
  • Energizing cross-functional teams with leadership experience across all aspects of manufacturing operations, from production and logistics to market expansion and business development.
  • Turnaround expert with deep experience in inventory management, turnover optimization, process streamlining, quality control, documentation and reporting, cost reduction, and employee engagement.

Same problems: This could pertain to just about anyone in her profession and in any industry.  And not a single actual accomplishment is listed.

Then things get interesting.  Even though she has been working for more than 25 years, the resume only goes back to 2002.  Only four employers are listed (she had two jobs with one employer) and only in the last two are accomplishments listed (one for each).  So for the first two employers she has listed on her resume there is not a single accomplishment worthy of being highlighted (literally)!  (To be fair, three other employers are listed under “Early Career,” but with no details, including dates of employment, are given.  Apparently she had no accomplishment in her “Early Career” either!)

Here’s the problem:  The “professional resume writer” was giving her client what she wanted, something that makes her appear to be really good at what she does.  The thing is, resume recipients are only interested in one thing:  What can you do for me?  Ok, two things:  And prove it!

So how do you do that?  Simple.  Just begin with a section titled, “Selected Accomplishments.”  Half a dozen bullet points highlighting what you have done for past employers.  That will give an employer confidence that you are at least worthy of an initial phone interview.  No employer cares what you think about yourself.  Employers only care about solving their own problems.  You can’t prove to an employer that you are the solution they need if you are focused on what you want to say and not on what they want to hear.

And just to finish off the resume, the next and final section is “Education.”  One would think that such a “consummate” professional would have at least one speaking engagement, media citation, award or honor to list, and would have volunteered somewhere.  Alas, not Mary…

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor.  He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting.

 

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How to Write an Effective Resume

Philosophy: Employers will spend 5 seconds scanning a resume to see if a candidate is qualified for a position. They’ll check location, tenure, and specific qualifications (skills, licenses, degrees, etc.). If you pass the five second test, so to speak, then they will start reading. In order to “stop” them from scanning, and to get them to read, you need to begin the resume with “Selected Accomplishments,” 5-6 bullet points highlighting verifiable achievements that tell the employer that you can do the job because you’ve done the job! NEVER include an “Objective” (your objective is to get the job you’re apply for, so why have an “Objective?”), or a “Professional Summary.” No employer cares how great you think you are! By listing media citations, speaking engagements, and awards/honors, you’ll tell the employer that others think you are great. That is what has value.

Name

City, State of Residence

Phone Number – E-mail Address

Selected Accomplishments

  • 5-6 bullet points that emphasize what you have achieved for others

Work Experience

Name of Employer, Location of Employer, Dates of Employment (Most Recent First), Title, Two-three line summary describing the employer, what they do, the size of the company, etc.

  • Bullet points highlighting the key responsibilities

Education

Degrees from accredited schools.

Continuing Professional Education

List any courses taken from non-accredited schools/programs or accredited schools where degrees were not awarded.

Licenses and Certifications

Skills and Languages

Media Citations

Speaking Engagements

Awards and Honors

Professional Memberships

Volunteerism/Community Service

The length of the resume should be at least one page for every 10 years of employment but content is more important than length. A lousy one-page resume will not be read, while a brilliant 10-page resume will.

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Don’t forget to take advantage of my year-end career counseling special. Come January, it will be gone!