It’s natural for people to shop their resumes around. People will ask for opinions from friends, next door neighbours, colleagues, other resume writers, recruiters, headhunters and family. Most of the people try to be helpful with the limited amount of knowledge they have. Some of the advice is okay, most of it is contradictory (like the executive headhunter we heard of recently who simultaneously advised his client that the page looked too full and then told him he needed to add more information….but I digress), a lot of it is so outdated as to be laughable. Yet most try to be honest and helpful.
Then there is the other use of the resume critique—to drum up business for resume writing or career firms. The theory goes that if the critique is harsh enough, the now-devastated jobseeker will turn to the critiquing firm to provide the interview-winning solution. If the jobseeker has written the resume herself, then she will be so grateful for the help the firm has given her to save her self-sabotaging ways.
But what if the jobseeker has already used a professional to write his resume? What if that resume is a worldbeater? Recent rumblings in the resume industry has indicated that there are some pretty shoddy and unethical practises out there. In particular, it seems one large firm in the United States, is using ‘canned’ responses that talk about “being frank” and “talking plainly” while lambasting the content of the resume regardless of who wrote it or how good it is. The jobseeker when receiving such scathing comments, is naturally devastated. He has spent hundreds on a branded resume from a professional writer and his request for a free critique from a competing firm has left him horrified, bitter and lacking in confidence.
These firms need to realise that not everything is “fair game” when it comes to generating revenues. There are real people with real career desires and aspirations who can be left shattered and unsure of themselves and the hit to a person’s confidence can be overwhelming and affect the way he or she approaches interviews and communicates.
Just today on one of the professional association forums for resume writers, another resume writer was forced into dealing with a client who had received the same canned response. The amusing thing (if anything can be amusing about such things) is that the writer also subcontracts for the critiquing firm. So technically, the firm will provide a scathing critique of her work to her personal client, and then refer the new project on to the same resume writer who now will wear the hat of subcontractor! Madness!
Another resume writer indicates that she has had to deal with two clients returning after an unfavourable critique. She says, “It appears every resume they critique regardless of who wrote it, gets the thumbs down. What a scam!”. She goes on to say this: “Clients are clearly at a disadvantage because they don’t really understand the design and strategy necessary to market themselves properly”.
Critiques can be an excellent form of receiving feedback — why we do it here at Top Margin too! As one of the resume writers on the forum says “If a resume is well written, I tell them the truth. They so appreciate my honesty that I get referrals from people who talked with me and never even used my service!”
Ethical practice must overrule revenues. If a document is good, it must be recognised. If there are flaws, they must be pointed out. Such a tool is a powerful thing and needs to be used with discretion and integrity and not as a blatant grab for cash and a “blow the consequences” approach that leaves the jobseeker’s confidence and emotional well-being shattered.
Update: December 11, 2008. Payback: A former client of the US-based firm mentioned in this article, changed the name and address details of his resume and returned asking for a critique by the same company that wrote it. The firm was scathing in their critique of their own work! How to ruin one’s own reputation 101. But at least everyone now can see how predatory marketing techniques can backfire and what this firm is all about–it’s all about money.