You’d think that writing a résumé that is typically one, two, three, or even four pages long shouldn’t be difficult, yet even the most accomplished professionals find it daunting. Self-analysis is not an easy thing, as it involves some soul searching and brutal honesty.
Although some can easily identify their skills and experience, others need help in the form of a résumé interview. Professional résumé writers will tell you that the interview is just the beginning of the entire process.
My Résumé Writing workshop attendees often confess that they dread writing their résumé —these are people who have written white-pages, proposals, product documentation, newsletters, and other business correspondences. To answer them, I’ll say, “You just have to do it. Your livelihood depends on this document.”
The workshop runs two and a half to three hours long, depending on the number of questions I get as well as how talkative I am. The focus of the workshop is to help my customers 1) formulate a strategy, 2) position themselves through a Summary/Personal Profile, and 3) sell themselves to the employer by showing quantified accomplishments. This, however, is all theory. In other words, it tells them how they should go about revising an existing résumé , how to make it stronger.
Where my customers benefit the most is when I meet with them one-on-one. They revise their résumé after the workshop and then send a copy of it to me. I’ll review and write comments on it, usually pertaining to a lack of accomplishments and/or a Summary statement that fails to illustrate their job-related skills. If their résumé is outstanding, I’ll say so; but in most cases it needs at least some minor work.
What results from the critique is usually a soul-searching meeting where I’ll interview my customers for half an hour to dig into their background. The interview process is where it comes together for them. It’s the “Oh Yeah” moment where they see better their accomplishments and understand why a Summary statement full of fluff is not impressive.
“You say in your Summary that you trained staff to be more productive,” I’ll begin. First of all, employers have seen this claim many times. How can you elaborate on it? Give me a WOW factor.”
“OK. When I trained other staff on how to use the proprietary office management software, I noticed a rapid improvement in their output, perhaps double what they were doing prior to my training. Do you mean like that?”
“Exactly. Now tell me more about your training style. Why was it effective?”
“Oh, and also I won an award for training my colleagues. I, like, totally forgot about that.”
And so it goes. With fresh new ideas in their heads, my job seekers leave my office armed to revise their résumé for yet another time, and probably not the last.
Some jobseekers have the resources to hire a professional résumé writer who will guide them through the entire process, beginning with the interview and culminating with a product that should get them a number of interviews.
I won’t dissuade my customers who ask me if they should hire a writer, especially if they can afford the cost. However, there’s one condition I lay down; if a résumé writer is going to take their money, the writer must interview them for an appropriate length of time before going to work writing it.
I’ve seen too many job seekers come through our urban career center with a poorly written résumé . In some cases, they spend up to $700 for a résumé that is worth no more than the paper on which it’s printed. One woman I spoke to said she was interviewed for 10 minutes. What she showed me was no more than a work timeline with a long column of keywords. Oh, but it had a nice border around it. Plainly stated, it wasn’t a résumé .
Writing one’s own résumé takes self-reflection, so it follows that assisting with or writing another person’s résumé requires the time to completely understand the client’s relevant experience, scope of their duties, and, most importantly, what accomplishments they’ve achieved that separates them from the rest of the pack.
WHAT THE PROFESSIONALS SAY:
Wendy Enelow, Co-Owner of Career Thought Consortium and author of many résumé writing books, articulates in one of her blogs the need to capture her clients’ accomplishments: “As professional résumé writers, we all know that a great deal of a résumé ’s effectiveness is based on accomplishments—what a job seeker has done to improve operations, increase revenues, strengthen bottom-line profits, reduce operating costs, enhance business processes, upgrade technologies, and so much more.” To write about a job seeker’s accomplishment, the résumé writer must invest time in learning about that person. Wendy puts no limit on the time it takes to interview her clients and write some of the best résumé s out there.
Darrell DiZoglio, Owner of RighteousRésumé s, emphasizes the importance of setting his clients apart from the ordinary. He states, “[Clients] want a serious advantage over their competition in the race to get hired and do not mind paying for it. It is my mission in life to give it to them.” I’ve spoken with Darrell on a few occasions and got the impression that he loves what he does and takes pride in producing the best possible résumé s for his clients. When talking about the time he takes to interview his clients, he says, “I don’t wear a wristwatch.”
“The amount of time I spend interviewing a client before pen is put to paper is no less than 2 hours, but there is no restriction on time. Our process is one of working to accomplish a goal that is not driven by time.” states Marjorie Kavanagh, President of Panoramic Résumé s. She also says the interview process helps people realize accomplishments they may not have considered.
Tracy Parish, CPRW, Executive Résumé Writer, says that sometimes her clients don’t talk enough. But knowing the importance of getting valuable information from them, she won’t give up until she has that information. She mentions a funny occasion when her fear of a silent client was subsided after she used her charm to warm him up, “I’ve also had the extreme where you couldn’t get them to talk at all. I’m usually great at getting them to open up. One guy had his wife sit in on the call too—she warned me he wouldn’t talk much so I thought having her there for input would be nice. However, he talked so much [his wife] was shocked. She told me she had never seen anyone get him to talk so much!”
Whether my customers attend my workshop and a critique session or pay someone to write their résumé , the interview process is an essential component of the process. I understand the difficulty of interviewing job seekers, as do the professional résumé writers who I contacted; but when done well, it lays down the foundation of the most important document of their life.