You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

Have you been offered a “free résumé critique” by a big-name résumé-writing company? It’s a tempting thing to try, eh? Just send in your résumé and get a free critique! You could even use it to improve and re-write that piece of paper yourself, at no cost. But did you ever wonder, how do busy, highly-paid, professional résumé writers at a big-name company read all those résumés that people send in, then take time to critique them and offer advice — for nothing?

It would be like taking your malfunctioning car to a mechanic who spends time figuring out what’s wrong, writes up his analysis, gives it to you, and doesn’t charge you a dime unless you agree to have him fix it.

Imagine if doctors offered such a deal. You’d get a full diagnosis, but there’s no charge unless you want treatment. “You’ve got pellagra, M’am. Two months to live. Let us know if you want it cured. But today’s diagnosis is free. Too bad your kids will be left motherless because you were such a moron and didn’t take care of yourself…”

And that’s what a lot of those “free résumé critiques” sound like. You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer?? You’re dead meat! Let us take care of this for you!

Well, I’ve figured it out. The mechanic didn’t really diagnose your auto problem. And the doctor? Sorry, you don’t have pellagra. In both cases a chimp pulled your diagnosis out of a bag. Likewise, a monkey copied and pasted your résumé critique into an e-mail and sent it off to you, along with a note attached that asks, You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

The great thing about being the Ask The Headhunter guy is that people all around the world send me neat stuff all the time. Recently, a reader sent me a multi-page crib sheet that a major résumé-writing mill apparently provides to its writers. Every problem your résumé could possibly suffer from is dealt with on this sheet. All the résumé writer — or reviewer, or monkey — has to do is pick them off like fleas, paste them into an e-mail, and there’s your sales pitch. You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

The résumé-critique crib sheet is too long to print in a blog post. But you’ll find it on my web site. Free résumé critiques: The new career-industry racket. And it includes a little challenge from me to you:

Help me find the firm that uses this crib sheet.

If you have received such a résumé critique and think you’ve been scammed (and probably insulted) by a monkey sitting at a keyboard, compare it to the verbiage on the crib sheet. Do the phrases match? Which firm gave you the critique? I’d love to know, and if we figure out who it is I’ll share the results with you. The link to submit your sample is on the web site.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned on my own. Good, honest résumé writers don’t use boilerplate to write critiques, nor do they use canned résumé components. This new scam seems to have been spawned by the big job boards and “career” sites, which continue to find new ways to fleece people to support their insupportable business models. They seem to be behind the crap that masquerades as “professional writing” in the résumé business. And all this does is corrupt the business for the honest practitioners. So caveat emptor — know the résumé writer you buy from. Hint: The good ones are the those who will actually talk with you.

(Have you encountered a different kind of résumé scam? That’s what the Comments section is for below.)

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Let the resume wars begin

Online job boards rent, sell, trade, loan, and otherwise fully exploit resumes people submit to them. This was pretty well documented even several years ago. Today, unscrupulous “recruiters” use the job boards as their personal data bases, uploading people’s resumes without their knowledge, and downloading and submitting to their “clients” the resumes of other unsuspecting rubes. That’s why the job boards in general are a national disaster.

An Ask The Headhunter reader (who asked to be anonymous) suggests an interesting solution to the misuse of resumes. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this might be the first volley in a legal battle to protect your credentials and privacy. Look carefully at the disclaimer this reader places at the bottom of communications with employers and headhunters (and probably on resumes). The idea is intriguing, especially if you consider that some people spend considerable amounts of money to have their resumes written professionally. (I’m not a lawyer, but this seems to establish that a resume is a different kind of asset than some might assume — now it has a documented monetary value.) Read more

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Getting fitted for a resume that walks the talk

When you pay to have your resume written, what are you buying? Just a resume? No, I think you’re buying a suit of clothes that shows off your form to best advantage and makes you look good when you’re walking the talk. Are you buying off the rack, or getting custom fitted so you’ll look your very best?

I still think a resume isn’t the best way to the job you want. But if you’re gonna use a resume, the best route to the best resume is to learn to be your own tailor. Learn to sew. Learn to write up your story yourself. But not a lot of people are going to do that, or do it well. That’s where an expert resume writer can help.

In Resumes-R-Us I talked about the problem of mills — companies that crank out one-size-fits-all resumes from a stock pattern, rather than create a unique image of the individual client. That’s the suit you buy off the rack. You have no contact with the writer.

If you want to look really good, I think the tailor needs to put his (or her) arms around you with that measuring tape and feel your body. The tailor has to see how your posture affects the way a jacket drapes over your body. This ain’t gonna happen if you call your measurements in over the phone or fill out a form. The resume writer can’t be hidden away in a back room bent over a sewing machine… er, computer. (Yet, that’s how the mills operate. A sharp point-man sells you the service, but the work is done by someone else, in the equivalent of a sweatshop, getting paid a tiny fraction of the fee you are charged. This is a critical flaw of some “headhunting” firms, too.)

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Resumes-R-Us

You’ve heard enough out of me about why you should toss your resume in the trash and get your next job by actually talking to people who can hire you. A resume is a dumb piece of paper. It cannot “sell” you, or be your “marketing piece” or defend you when a manager sees something on it that bugs him. Too many people use a resume as a crutch. “Look, I mailed out 100 of them! I’m job hunting actively. Now I’ll wait for employers to call.” Yah. You might as well send a dog with a note in its mouth.

But you’re gonna use a resume anyway. And I’ve got no beef with that. You should have a resume, a good one. Use it the way I do when I present a candidate to a client company. Not to get the candidate in the door, but to fill in the blanks.

I rely on my powers of persuasion to get my client to interview a candidate. Besides, my clients don’t want 500 resumes. They’re paying me to bring them three good candidates so they don’t have to waste their time sorting paper. If I provide a resume at all, it’s usually after the interview, when the manager needs to fill in the blanks — to understand the rest of the candidate’s background. And that resume had better be good, clear, to the point, and supportive of what the manager learned about the candidate in their meeting.

Most resumes are crap. Yadda-yadda-yadda. “OBJECTIVE: To work for a progressive company where I can experience career growth and where I can work with people.” (HINT: I love those resumes because the OBJECTIVE is right up top, and that helps me to instantly toss the thing in the trash. Gimme a break. You want to work with people. You want to work for a good company. You want your career to grow. So what? What’s that got to do with showing me why I should hire you, or present you to my client?)

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TheLadders: Going down?

Recruiting-industry watcher Cheezhead reports that job-board web-site TheLadders may be for sale. I agree. In Silicon Valley, it’s an old story. Does an entrepreneur start a company to create value, or with a quick exit strategy at the heart of the business plan?

When the entrepreneur comes from another company whose reputation is for bargain-basement wares that don’t work, you don’t even need to ask. Ladders founder Marc Cenedella came from HotJobs, that bastion of quality job-postings whose success at filling jobs doesn’t even warrant mention. Well, heck, let’s mention it anyway. CareerXroads reports that less than one-half of one percent (0.05%) of jobs filled by companies come from HotJobs. The product doesn’t work. (In comparison, Monster’s success rate among employers is around 2%. Whoo-wee. Compliment all the HR brainiacs who have sent billions of dollars to Monster.) Read more

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Use the Working Resume to blow away your competition

Resumes were the topic last week… well, at least after some professional resume writers pointed out the differences between what they do and what TheLadders does… Up to that point, the topic was my critique of TheLadders’ sales gaffe in its pitch for $1,375 resume services. One should not be pitching pricey perfection in resume writing when one fails to catch one’s own spelling errors. (Hey, I make spelling mistakes, too, but I’m not trying to get you to spend $1,375 to buy my spelling and writing expertise.)

I don’t write resumes for a living. But I do provide advice about how to get an interview and how to win a job. In this week’s (February 12, 2008) edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we’re discussing how to commit Resume Blasphemy. That is, how to turn that piece of paper you hand an employer into a Working Resume. Read more

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One tiny $100K+ mistake

It’s getting so you can’t avoid the cheesiness of the job boards no matter where you turn in the career industry, because they seem to multiply like the spawn of Bernard Haldane.  After embarrassing themselves at data-base dumps like HotJobs, job-board executives re-form similar operations under new names, and run the same rackets. The trend now is to sucker-punch the “$100K+” market — managers who believe they can buy their way into the next corporate suite for the price of a “Premium Membership.”

Marc Cenedella (formerly of HotJobs), the founder and CEO of TheLadders (“The Most $100K+ Jobs”), sends his members regular solicitations that compete with the ripest junk-mail ad-copy scenting your e-mail box. A reader passed along a sample that had me howling, until tears ran down my cheeks for the $100K+ suckers who swallow it. Read more

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