Don’t Let Bad Resume Advice Ruin Your Job Search

By Freddie Rohner, iHire, LLC
Person overwhelmed by amount of advice they're receiving from friends and family

Resume writing tips are like noses – everybody’s got one and most of the time they smell. If you’re unsure how to write a resume, you’ll find no shortage of advice on what makes a good resume, but there’s such a thing as too much input. That’s why you have to resist the temptation to ask everyone you know to review your resume for pointers.

Pick a select few of the most trusted members of your professional network to enlist for resume tips and combine their suggestions with the ample resources available from reputable resources that describe how to write a resume using current best practices. If you get too much feedback, you may find yourself spending all of your time rewriting and revising your resume when you should be applying for open positions.

 

Just Because Someone’s Written (or Reviewed) a Resume Doesn’t Mean They’re an Expert

Everyone who’s ever applied for a job or been in charge of hiring for a role that required a resume has experience with the job search. That’s an incredibly large portion of the population. All of those people will have opinions on what makes a good resume and would be happy to share their resume tips with you, but the vast majority of those people will provide bad advice.

The reason for this is personal bias. These contacts will each bring their own “baggage” to your resume; they’ll tell you what worked for them or how their company did things. Anecdotal evidence and small sample sizes aren’t very helpful when trying to craft a document that maximizes your chances of receiving multiple interviews from a variety of employers.

You may also run the risk of getting dated advice. There are many professionals out there who still use objective statements even though they fell out of fashion more than a decade ago. Receiving bad advice is worse than getting no guidance at all. That’s not to say that asking for input on your resume is pointless. It’s definitely not. However, you must take the resume advice you receive with a grain of salt, especially if your network gives you conflicting opinions.

 

What You Want to Hear vs. What You Need to Hear

Many people have a difficult time providing impartial guidance to close friends or family members. Some individuals don’t want to appear overly negative. Others feel the need to make at least one recommendation (even if it’s unnecessary) just so they can feel helpful. This can cause many problems for a job seeker looking for fair, unbiased opinions on the strength of their resume. Furthermore, this tendency to tell a loved one what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear only results in wasted time for both parties.

When deciding which of your circle to ask for resume writing tips, the first question should be, “Will this person give it to me straight?” If there is any doubt about their ability to provide objective resume advice, consider asking someone else for help. It may stroke your ego to hear that your resume is great, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice in the long run and won’t actually learn how to write a resume properly.

 

The Wrong Audience

While it’s great to have a trusted friend or family member to go over your resume with a fine-tooth comb, in some ways that defeats the purpose. The average recruiter or hiring manager will spend approximately six seconds initially reviewing your resume and, if they like what they see, dedicate a few short minutes to scanning the document in total. That difference in attention can significantly alter a person’s perception of your resume.

Regardless of whether or not your hand-picked consultant has bona fide resume writing expertise, the fact remains that they are not your target audience, so it’s impossible for them to provide input that is truly accurate. Combined with the fact that they will tend to review the document far more closely than your intended reader means that the input you receive—while it may help you create a good resume—may not do much to improve your chances of getting an interview.

 

The Potential for Wasted Time

Although friends and family members may have the best intentions, let’s face it—they’re not always reliable. One of the worst aspects of reaching out to loved ones for resume advice is waiting to hear back from them. Some people will appreciate the sense of urgency a job search creates, but others may be more oblivious and work at their own pace. This can have a negative impact if you’re waiting on feedback before applying for your dream job.

It’s best to set clear expectations upfront when soliciting guidance. Reach out to your network and let them know your plans and when you need comments. Don’t be pushy, but explain any deadlines you may have so that you can be sure to get feedback in a timely manner. Otherwise, you could potentially miss out on a good opportunity while waiting to hear back from a trusted friend only to get a message from them saying “the resume looks great.”

 

Do Your Research & Get Professional Help if You Need it

Resume writing is one of the most difficult parts of a job search. It can be tedious, and there’s often a lot of uncertainty around how to write a resume. Do yourself a favor and research the current best practices for modern resume writing. Learn about the different formatting strategies you can employ. Read up on mistakes to avoid and educate yourself on all of the sections a good resume should have (title and summary, core competencies, professional experience, and everything else). Once you have a better understanding of the process, you’ll be better informed and won’t need to reach out to everyone you know for resume writing tips.


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