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How to Get a Useful Resume Critique

by THEA kelley | September 10, 2020

You need to know your resume is the best it can be. Resume critiques are a good way to test a resume, but some critiques are more helpful than others.

The easiest way to get a resume review is via websites that offer these for free. But often, these critiques are computer-generated, a list of easily-spotted “flaws” such as “too many bullet points,” expressed as negatively as possible to ensure that the job seeker is left in a panic, feeling that the resume is hopeless. Why? Because mass-produced resume reviews are a tool for selling mass-produced resumes.

It takes a bit more legwork to seek out thoughtful, personalized resume critiques.

If you’re openly job searching, colleagues at your current and past jobs can be good critiquers, since they know your industry. Anyone you know who has been involved in hiring processes could potentially be helpful. You can also ask recruiters, but many of them are too busy to give feedback.

Of course, if you need to keep your search discreet, be careful who you ask.

Tips for getting the most out of a resume critique:

  • Make sure your critiquers understand the requirements of the job you’re targeting. If they’re not familiar with your line of work, show them a typical job posting.
  • Ask them questions like, “If you look at this resume for 10 seconds, what’s your first impression? Then, after reading it more thoroughly, what impresses you most? What could be better about it?”
  • If your critiquers are not resume professionals, get a few critiques, not just one. You’ll see that everyone has different opinions, some of them directly contradicting the others! Look for common themes and use your best judgment.
  • Respond to critiques with “Thank you, that’s very helpful.” Don’t feel obligated to make the changes they’re suggesting.
  • If you’re having a professional write your resume but you’re also planning to get feedback from others, be collaborative by letting the writer know ahead of time. Discuss with them how best to bring the outside input into the writing process, and when (e.g., at the near-final draft stage).

Often the best resume critiques come from three categories of people: (1) recruiters in your industry, (2) managers who hire for your type of work, and (3) highly experienced, individual resume writers who stake their reputation on their work. Resume writers study surveys of employers’ preferences, so they have a broad view of what employers look for. This broad perspective may be even more useful than input from one recruiter or manager, who may have individual preferences and quirks that are not necessarily typical.

There is no resume that will work with everyone, every time, but resume critiques are an important step in building a resume that has what it takes to get you in the door.

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