The Words all Professional Resume Writers Hate to Hear

Checking my email one day this week, I found one that started in a way destined to make my heart sink:

“I know we finalized this resume a while ago, but I showed it to a friend and he had some comments …”

My heart doesn’t sink because of the extra work – I don’t mind that if the comments are helpful – but because I know that they probably won’t be. So I now have two choices. 1) Make changes that will be detrimental to the document I worked so hard on creating or 2) get into lengthy explanations about why my client’s friend is mistaken. (I always go for the second option because I can’t bear to do bad things to someone’s resume).

Look, I’m not (always) perfect. Sometimes there is a suggestion that improves what I already did. But the document I created was pretty carefully thought through. There were reasons for every decision. There was thought behind each word choice. I left things out. I rearranged information. I created a central theme and then built on it. Then together, the client and I refined the document to iron out inaccuracies, or add missing information. That resume was a little symphony – each part adding up to the whole in a coordinated and carefully planned manner.

But now, because some guy has it in his head that resumes should only be one page long, or that you shouldn’t start bullet points with action verbs, I have to address each of his comments.

I’m not really complaining – it’s a pretty rare occurrence – and my client was very receptive to my answers, but it makes me wonder whether people in other professions have this same experience. Do doctors have people call and say “I know you think I should have an ultrasound, but I talked to my mom’s friend who used to be a doctor’s receptionist, and she thinks I’m fine?” Do accountants have people question their tax calculations because “my friend is really good at math and he thinks you got it wrong?”

Maybe they do. Or maybe the problem is the lack of understanding about what a professional resume writer actually does. I am always amazed how many people think my job is simply to type up their career history and make it look neat.

And frankly, why would they know any different?

While our industry has several professional associations, none of them have raised the profile of our industry. None of them have coordinated PR and marketing efforts to let people know what we do, or promoted stringent criteria for membership that tells clients who they can trust. We have some certifications handed out by various groups, but frankly I can’t remember the last time a client asked about them.

Very few people know what we do and very few people understand why it’s important. The value of our work is only really understood by most people after they use our services and get a great new job as a result. Is that the reason why some people are willing to hand over hundreds of dollars to a professional, only to put more stock in the comments of a friend or relative? Or is there some other explanation?

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