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

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.



Resume Writing: 4 Disasters to Avoid

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Resume writing. It’s a chore many of us don’t do very often. Not surprisingly, a lot of resumes are a disaster—a kiss of death when you’re actively job hunting.

Even resumes from services that charge huge fees can be disasters. One man asked my opinion about a resume that an online service did for him—for a hefty $800 fee. I had to tell him he’d been ripped off. The copy looked like a high school student had written it.

If you recognize your resume in these descriptions, be sure to visit our resume page.

Here are a few common resume disasters:

1. The On-and-On-and-On Resume

A Chicagoland woman sent me a resume that was seven pages long. No matter how fascinating your career might be, no one wants to get seven pages from you. You need to select the best information.

Imagine that basketball great Michael Jordan was writing his resume—not that he needs one! We COULD list every single game he’d ever played and give his statistics from each one. But that would be utterly tedious. Even the most die hard basketball fans would be snoozing before they got a quarter of the way through it.

Instead, Mr. Jordan might write this:

Career Highlights:

  • Six times NBA champion
  • Five times NBA Most Valuable Player
  • Six times NBA Finals MVP
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 10 times scoring champion
  • 14 times NBA All-Star

You get the idea real fast, without all the details. Less is often more.

Limit yourself to one or two pages (of course, there are exceptions to any rule).2

2. The Slop-Another-Job-On-Top Resume

That resume worked for you a long time ago.  And the next time you looked for work, you added your latest job on top. You repeated that process every time you’ve looked for a job. But that method doesn’t work. It’s important to evaluate and reevaluate yourself as you move through your career. A few things to consider:

  • Your skill set has enhanced/changed. Is that reflected on the resume?
  • How have you responded to changes in technology?
  • What is relevant/not relevant in today’s market or for the job you want?

A client from Texas sent us one of these. He wrote a resume after graduating from college. Even since then, he’s pulled out that same resume and put his latest job on it. It was like a fifty-year-old man walking around in his high school gym class suit.  We fixed that quick so that he looks like a real professional.


3. The Yep-I-Was-There Resume

I’ve seen thousands of resumes, and a large percentage of them focus on duties and responsibilities. They pay little or no attention to what the boss most wants to know: what results do you get? Even a lot of top performers do this, making themselves look bland, ordinary, and even boring.

Remember, your resume is a marketing document. If the boss reading it doesn’t get excited enough to pick up the phone to call you, it isn’t doing its job. The boss is eager to find someone who can help with his/her problems, so show you can cut through problems like a knife through butter. Show the boss that you get results.

I was astounded to see a resume from a client from Florida. This man was doing mind-boggling work creating facilities of a size and with features that hadn’t been done before. But it all focused on his duties. Blah blah blah. No wonder no one was getting excited.

4 .The Linger-Forever-in-the-Online-Database Resume

When applying for jobs online, it’s imperative that applicant tracking systems will find what you transmit. Otherwise, your resume will be lost in a sea of bits and bytes, destined to never see the light of day.

Applicant tracking systems are software packages employers use as electronic recruitment tools. Since employers can receive hundreds of applications for a single job posting, it’s impossible to read or even manually scan all of them. They use this software to select the best few—at least, according to the software.

You need to understand the power of keywords, how to use them, formatting that will allow your most critical information to be found by these systems, and much more. Just one example: information that you put into a text box may well be invisible to the applicant tracking system.

A man from Highland Park came to see us after being out of work for eight months. He’d diligently applied to jobs online, but had zero interviews. I doubt any human being ever saw this resume.

NOTE: If all you’re doing in your search is submitting resumes to online postings, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. You’re competing with a huge pool of applicants for jobs that quite often are not the best jobs.


A Poor Resume is a sign of a poor job campaign

While a resume is only about 10% of what it takes to get hired, it is important to do it right. Often, a poor resume is a sign that the rest of the job campaign is being waged poorly.

Career professionals can be a big help. A lot of successful executives have decided their job search is too important to do alone. At Lucrative Careers, we’ve helped countless professionals transform their resume from a bland, template-based chronology to a dynamic document that stands out from the competition.


Want us to fix your resume and/or discuss your job search? We’re happy to have a no-obligation phone call.  You can call Steve at 847-673-0339 or Jack at 847 251 4727 or send us a note at