Be Your Own Executive Resume Writer? Huge Mistake (usually)

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Some people say, “never hire an executive resume writer. Why pay someone? You can do yourself! It’s your resume. How can someone else to write it?”

But is that good advice? That depends …

During my many years as an executive resume writer and career coach, I’ve seen a few people who wrote fabulous resumes for themselves. A CFO client from Glencoe did a fabulous job on his resume—and got it all on one page!  I was impressed.

But I’ve seen many, many more truly awful resumes come from do-it-yourself writers. Being frugal is fine, but not at the cost of making a poor impression.

 You MAY want to be your own resume writer if: 

  •  You’re a good writer and you understand how to craft a resume.
  • You want to save some money and that money is more valuable to you than the time you could be spending on other aspects of your job campaign.

But don’t deceive yourself. Writing your own resume is tricky. Here are nine reasons why you might want to let an executive resume writer do it for you.

BTW, if you’re already thinking that you need some help–we’re glad to provide assistance. See our resume page.

1) You may not understand the technical aspects of ATS

A human being might think your professional resume is the greatest ever written, but the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) may not recognize that you exist (Applicant Tracking System refers to software many companies use to screen resumes and help with other aspects of the hiring process).

You may languish in the bowels of an electronic database because your resume doesn’t have the right keywords and/or formatting to be chosen as a viable candidate for the position for which you applied.

2) You aren’t a talented writer

Writing isn’t your strong suit. Fine. We often hire other professionals to do work in areas where we’re not skilled. Most of us would rather have a mechanic fix the transmission on our car and a plumber repair a hard-to-reach pipe.

Why waste a lot of your precious time creating a resume that won’t make you look good?

3)  You don’t want to brag, and you’re not feeling so good about yourself

The boss just yelled at you—again. You fear your head is on the boss’s chopping block. Or you just landed in the corporate dung heap. You’re not feeling real good about yourself at the moment. So how in the world are you going to write a great resume?

To make things more difficult, your dad told you never to brag.  Your boss insisted that you talk about the team “we,” rather than the individual “I.” It’s tough to undo that teaching and actually take credit for your great work.Don’t grab credit for something someone else did, but DO describe how you contributed to a team effort.

When a football team scores a touchdown, eleven players contribute to the effort. The running back makes a great fake, the quarterback heaves an accurate forty-yard strike, the tight end grabs the ball and hangs on as he’s belted by the safety. All the while, the offensive linemen kept the quarterback safe from the 300-pound monsters trying to smash him.

Tell what you did to make the team successful.

4) You can’t tell a good resume from a mediocre (or awful) one

Libraries and bookstores are full of wretched resume books (and a few that are good). The wretched resume books, some of which sell quite well, are responsible for many of the awful resumes used in unproductive job searches.

5) You’ve been busy DOING great things, not describing them.

Many people have spent years doing great work without ever stopping to think about how to talk about what they did. I’ve talked to many senior executives who have amazing stories to tell, but you’d never know it by listening to them talk. You read between the lines and know the great resume material is there.

A good career professional can help to flesh this out.

When a client showed the resume we developed to his wife, she exclaimed, “I finally understand what you do!” He’d never been able to tell her clearly.

6) Not digging deep enough.

This common mistake is related to #4. Many executives just scratch the surface of their accomplishments.

I talked to a man who had managed an investment portfolio worth many millions. He thought people would be impressed by the size of the portfolio. Maybe so. But when I probed to find out how his portfolio performed, his accomplishment was much more impressive.

Digging deep is the difference between making an OK impression and having a boss salivating to talk to you.

7) Using too much technical jargon

Pity the poor Human Resources person (and other non-technical folks in your search) trying to decipher resumes using all sorts of technical terms they don’t comprehend. Actually, pity you, if you sent the resume to them. They will probably throw it away.

If your audience doesn’t have a clue about what you’re talking about or why they should care, that’s a problem.  Writing in language the average person can understand can help to open doors. This is especially true because of the importance of communicating across disciplines in today’s work world. If your resume doesn’t show you can do this, you may get passed over.

8) Resume writing can be extremely time-consuming

I’ve seen people spend many weeks and months futzing around with their resume. This is extremely expensive. I myself have hired people to write mine. I can whip out someone else’s resume really quickly, but find it excruciating to do my own. I made a decision that my time was worth more than the expense of hiring a colleague.

This brings up another issue. People often keep working and reworking their resume because it’s easier than doing scary things like talking to strangers. At a certain point, you have to say, this resume is good enough. I’m going to declare it done and move on.

9) A good resume professional can improve how you speak about yourself

If your resume stinks, chances are very good that the way you speak about yourself stinks too. But how do you know?

People you encounter in job search tend to be polite. They don’t tell you that they have no idea about what you want to do. They won’t tell you they don’t understand what you did on your last job. They smile at you, say it was nice to meet you, and they’re done with you. It’s hard to get honest feedback. Consequently, you can burn through lots of contacts and waste weeks and months spinning your wheels.

With other do-it-yourself projects, you get quick feedback. Years ago, when I tried to plaster a ceiling, most of the plaster fell to the floor and what stuck looked awful. I knew right away that what I was doing wasn’t working.

A bad resume won’t give you that kind of useful feedback.

Don’t be like this man!

A man we met with recently said that for months, he had been applying online to four or five jobs every single day. Zero interviews. Not one. His resume didn’t have the right stuff to get past the software filters most companies use, and even if it did, it was so unimpressive that it would quickly get tossed in the trash. That kind on ineffectiveness is mighty expensive when you’re unemployed– and exasperating when you are.

In summary, some people do very well writing their own resume. However, many more fall victim to the pitfalls mentioned in this article (and more!). If you do decide to write your own resume, be sure to get feedback from someone knowledgeable so you know you’re on track. If you do hire a resume professional, be sure to choose wisely. After all, there are companies who love to prey on the unemployed. Resume writer and LinkedIn profile writer scams are common.

–BTW, the resume is only about ten percent of what it takes to get hired.  Make sure you’re doing the other things right too. Call me if you want to talk:  847 673 0339.



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Our Career Action Plan Meetings advance healthy careers and heal the wounded. Give us two hours, and we’ll get to the root of your career issues and come up with a plan to fix them. Call today: 847-673-0339.

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