Sometimes when I finish a resume for a client, he or she seeks feedback from other people they respect. Often the information that comes back is valuable and helps me improve the resume, but sometimes it’s actually harmful.
The difference is in how the feedback request is worded.
The Right and Wrong Way to Ask for Feedback
If you ask friends and co-workers and former managers to critique your resume, that’s exactly what they’ll do. They’ll suggest changing this or that word, disagree with the structure, recommend a different font – and most of their comments will disagree with the comments you get from the next person, who likes the font you chose, but dislikes the word change you made at the request of the first person. In the end, you wind up confused, slightly irritable and with a resume that resembles the proverbial camel (a horse made by committee).
No, asking for a general critique is generally a bad idea. In my experience, the best way to solicit feedback is to ask people who have worked closely with you: ‘does this resume accurately represent what I have accomplished?’ Sometimes, you’ll find that co-workers will say ‘No! You didn’t even mention X project!” or “you didn’t say that you know C++” and you’ll realize that they are right.
So the key is to keep the request specific and focused on whether the resume accurately represents your strengths and accomplishments. This will give you the right information to make improvements.
Who Should You Ask?
Many resume services offer a free critique, but this is not the best way to find out how effective your resume is because obviously the resume service would like to sell you a new resume, so you can’t be sure of their motives.
I also recommend staying away from recruiters. Yes they look at resumes for a living, but this is the problem. They have their own objectives and those objectives are not the same as yours. Also, recruiters tend to be incredibly jaded when it comes to reading resumes (they see too many of them!) and may therefore tell you not to do something that would actually have been the one thing that would have impressed a hiring manager.
Friends and family are another no-no, even if some of them actually make hiring decisions. They have not worked with you and they do not know your industry, therefore any feedback they give has to be taken with a pile of salt.
For the best feedback, I recommend asking those who have worked with you – especially managers, former managers or colleagues who have hiring authority. They know you, they know your field and they know what managers are looking for when they read a resume.
So, my recommendations for seeking resume feedback are:
1) Only ask people who have worked with you.
2) Do not ask them to critique your resume – instead ask the specific question “does my resume accurately represent my skills and accomplishments?’