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Why NOT To Write Your Own Resume & When You SHOULD

"Don't hire someone to write your resume," said an otherwise-excellent LinkedIn post on the subject of resume mistakes. After all, you can write it yourself for free.

True enough. Yet, I've seen some really awful resumes written in an effort to save money. The people who wrote them wouldn't think of buying their job interview suit at Goodwill just because it's cheap, but they were willing to be cheap with their resume presentation.

I'm not saying no one should ever write their own resumes. A lot of people do a wonderful job. In fact, a 50-something CFO recently impressed the heck out me with his concise and powerfully-written one-page resume. I almost always use two pages for anyone with his level of experience.

I see three reasons why you SHOULD write your own resume.

1) You write well and you know what you are doing.

2) You can save a few bucks by doing it yourself.

3) The money you save is more valuable than the time you could be devoting to other aspects of your career and job search.

But writing your own resume is much more difficult than it seems. Here are nine reasons NOT to write it yourself.

1) You don't write well.
That's OK.You are good at other things. This is why many of us hire electricians, mechanics, lawyers, and other professionals.They know what they're doing in areas we don't understand that well. While people who are handy can save a lot of money doing their own electrical work or car repairs, those of us with ten thumbs can make expensive mistakes—like electrocuting ourselves or ruining our engines.

I have seen thousands of resumes. Some of them were so bad that I (tactfully) advised the job seeker to "burn it before anyone else sees it." Most resumes are not awful, but only get a "C" or a "B" in conveying the candidate's talents and accomplishments. Why do that to yourself?

2) Modesty and self-esteem issues get in the way.
We often write our resumes at a time when we're not feeling great about ourselves. Maybe the boss has been abusing us for months, we're afraid we'll get fired, or we've just been tossed in the corporate garbage heap. We're feeling pretty beaten up. It's hard to write powerfully about ourselves at times like this.

On top of that, since parents instructed us to be humble, many candidates don't take credit for what they did. Corporate culture also gets in the way. We're told to always speak about the team (we) that does things, not the individual (I). But when you are trying to sell yourself, talking about "we" just doesn't serve you. I don't advocate grabbing credit for other people's work. I do advocate describing your contributions to the team's accomplishments.

Please excuse me for using one of my silly sports analogies, but consider a football team that scored a touchdown. Each player made a different contribution: the guard knocked the behemoth on the defensive line on his butt, the running back carried the ball 25 yards, the quarterback made a great fake that threw off the defense, and so on. Tell what you did to make the team successful.

3) You're not sure what a good resume looks like.
The market is full of awful books on resume writing—and a few good ones. The fact that people read the bad books partly explains #1 above. They are basing their resume on some piece of schlock they saw in a book.


If there's a good chance your resume would only get a "B" or a "C," let's talk.
Or if your resume is great, but your job search isn't--call me:  847 673 0339. We can have a no-obligation conversation about your situation.


4) It is difficult to be our own cheerleader.

We're just too close to ourselves to give an objective description of our work and our contributions. Many people have spent years DOING great work without ever stopping to think about how to talk about what they did. 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.

5) Not digging deep enough.
A common mistake is to just scratch the surface of accomplishments. For example, a man told me that he had managed a large investment portfolio. While it said something about him that he was trusted with a portfolio that size, what had he done with it? I asked him (playfully) if he had lost it, stolen it, or made money. He laughed and told me about the very impressive performance of the investments he'd made. Digging deep is the difference between making an OK impression and having a boss salivating to talk to you.

6) Using too much technical jargon
You use this terminology every day. Your peers know what you're talking about. You assume everyone else does. Unfortunately, a lot of others don't. Those who don't may be important people in your search--Human Resources professionals, for example. Your jargon may get in the way of them understanding what you did and its significance. Writing in plain English can bridge the divide. Plus, these days, it's very useful to be able to communicate with both technical and non-technical people, and having a resume that shows that you can do this is a plus.

7) It can take a whole lot of time
Trust me, it's often much easier to write a resume for someone else than for yourself. A few years ago, I had to submit a resume of my own. I got really bogged down with this. I was in my head, agonizing about how to express this and that. I finally came to my senses and said to myself, "Stop wasting your valuable time on this silly project—hire some help!"

8) A mediocre resume is often a symptom of a mediocre job search

Over the years, I've talked to a lot of people who are in job search, and I've found most people who don't write well about themselves also don't speak powerfully about themselves either.

Many people just don't realize that their resume stinks. Unfortunately, in job search, we don't get prompt feedback when we screw up. When you don't fix the car right, maybe it will make funny noises or won't start. The new faucet you didn't install right sprays water all over the room. Resumes don't give that feedback.

9) You may not understand the technical aspects of ATS 
Specifically, how parsing works, and thereby render your resume useless for applying to positions where ATS is used on the front end of the company's hiring process. The technical problem is not because of the words written, but because of word processing built-in attributes.

Al of this boils down to being careful and getting good information on the quality of your resume. If you did it well, keep it. If not, get it fixed.  

Don't be like the man we met recently who told us that for months, he had been applying online to four or five jobs every single day, without getting a single interview. 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's mighty expensive when you're unemployed-- and exasperating when you are.


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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