Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Do I Tell Someone Their Resume Is Terrible? Easy, I Do It Every Day!

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Alison Green’s blog “Ask A Manager.” She addresses many of the questions I also receive frequently in a manner that is not only clear, but well-written and insightful. That being said, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I read the title of a recent post, “How do I tell someone that his resume is terrible?” I mean, I’m a career counselor for undergraduates, this is a question I tackle on a daily basis! Now truthfully, this post is more about if you should pass on a poorly written, sloppy resume, and whether it will harm your reputation, but it got me thinking about how I manage to tear apart students’ resume on daily basis - with a smile on my face. Granted, resumes are hard. Getting everything you want to say, in a clear concise manner, onto one page is rough. A thirty page paper on microfinance in Indonesia is nothing compared to the agonizing edits inherent in resume writing. So, like any aspiring-to-be-good educator, I begin with telling students what they did right.

I love the way you followed the resume packet’s directions.
You’ve done a fantastic job explaining your accomplishments as a hostess at Applebee’s.
It’s neat that you can ride a bike with no hands.

Then, I break the news to them:

While riding a bike with no hands is a very interesting skill, I’m not sure it should be featured so prominently given the limited amount of space we have to work with.

That’s when we dive into the nitty gritty. Move this, rewrite this, highlight this, take this out, shrink your margins, decrease your font, take off your GPA, add your minor … the list goes on. Fact of the matter is, the students that come in to see me have asked for this. They’re in my office because they want to know the honest truth, and what to do about it. Resume critiques, like most less than stellar feedback, can be challenging – but so is the job search.

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