When To Take Resume Advice, and When To Ignore It
Most people pretend to listen to advice, but they seldom heed it. And nowhere is this more true than with resume advice.
I see a lot of resumes. A few are good. A respectable number are okay. But most are poorly written. I try my best to give feedback on the worst offenders, especially if the person’s experience is otherwise good. More often than not, however, I am disappointed with the outcome. I’ll give you a recent example to show you why.
I received a resume from a person whose experience showed promise, but the resume was less than desirable. I decided to write to them with a few suggestions.
My Email To A Person Who Sent Me A Resume:
I hope you don’t mind feedback, but your resume needs a lot of work. There are many avenues to take for help. If you check out my site, and/or plenty of others, you’ll find many articles dealing with tips on what to include, and not include, on a resume and/or cover letter. Also please consider the formatting, and look for mistakes and poor capitalization. Months should be included with the years also.
I have posts dealing with many of these subjects. You can also access my checklists for free.
I do appreciate the feedback. I have been told that before but have had more recruiters tell me to leave it how it is. Seems to be very different schools of thoughts on correct way to do a resume these days. It was professionally written.
I won’t even go into what was wrong with the resume because there is too much to tell. Words were misused, words that aren’t words were included on the resume, typos, and spelling errors, improper capitalization, formatting mistakes, punctuation errors, and the dreaded use of ALL CAPS IN SEVERAL PLACES.
I would have trashed this resume without more than a glance or two. Resumes like these are why statistics such as the “ten-second rule of resume screening,” are actually close to the truth.
But let’s forget about the resume. The more important question is…
Do You See Anything Wrong With The Response?
First off, the statement that,
“I have been told that before…”
…is an indicator that the resume needs fixing.
Most recruiters will not go out of their way to tell a candidate that their resume needs work. In a poll I conducted last year, more than 90% of recruiters replied that they wouldn’t give feedback to a candidate. This person’s response is one of the reasons why. (See the chart for a complete listing of responses.)
Questions Asked in Poll
- If you see a mistake on a resume, with mistake being defined as a: typo, misuse of word, grammar or punctuation error. Which of the following would you do?
- Say nothing
- Tell the candidate of the errors
- Fix the errors and tell the candidate
- Fix the errors and say nothing
- I don’t look for mistakes
Why don’t the numbers add up?
A few people who checked “Don’t look for mistakes,” did not mark anything else.
It’s important to note the following:
- Internal recruiters overwhelmingly responded with “say nothing,” while only 4% of them checked that they didn’t look for mistakes. That tells me a lot.
- External recruiters were obviously concerned with mistakes by the fairly large percentage who fixed errors (32%) but they said nothing. In other words, they didn’t want to go through the trouble of dealing with candidate responses to errors.
This is troubling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is you don’t know who is fixing your resume without your knowledge, and you don’t know if that person is capable of fixing your resume. Secondly, it shows how unpleasant it must be for recruiters to give advice on resumes. If 32% are concerned enough to fix the resume, but only 11% are willing to tell the candidate something is wrong.
Why Is This Troubling?
You should want to know about your mistakes.
Think about it this way, if you were going to an interview and your zipper was down or a button undone, wouldn’t you want to know about it? It might be embarrassing when the person tells you, but it would be far worse to complete the interview process and then discover you’d gone all day like that.
Back To The Case At Hand
If other people had “told him that before,” and assuming that my estimate of 87% of recruiters not saying anything is right, then that means a lot more people have thought the resume was bad and didn’t say so.
A good rule of thumb is if two recruiters tell you your resume is bad, that represents almost 20% of those who would look at it. So if you sent your resume to 100 companies, 20 would think it was bad. This chart demonstrates it more clearly.
That should give you pause for concern.
What you should strive for in a resume, or cover letter, or anything you do, is to produce a finished product that no one thinks is bad.
If there are ten points that a gatekeeper will screen out for, and if you can eliminate nine of them, you’re way ahead of the game. The same goes for interviews. If an interview team has five questions they use for screening out candidates, and you can answer them properly, you have a lot less to worry about and a much better shot at getting the offer.
The entire philosophy of the No Mistakes way is to avoid mistakes.
Here’s Some Advice
The next time someone tells you something is wrong with your resume. Or gives you advice on interviewing. Or tells you your tie is crooked. Do something different. Listen to them.
I don’t mean to drop what you’re doing and change what they suggest. I mean to take time and think about what they said. Analyze it. Seek a second opinion.
And remember the statistics—for every person who bothers to tell you something is wrong—ten more think it. (Exceptions are New York and Italy, where it seems to be a one-to-one ratio.)
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Jim (Giacomo) Giammatteo is a headhunter who writes resumes and cover letters. He is the author of No Mistakes Resumes, and No Mistakes Interviews. He also writes gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”
I did an earlier post on Resume Advice if you are interested in checking out more.