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Beware the Executive Resume Writing “Experts”

by Kim on April 24, 2015

As a successful professional executive resume writer for the past twenty years, I’ve seen hundreds of executive resume services come and go. However, I’m still amazed that there are so many unqualified services operating under the guise of a “professional” organization who give the resume writing profession a bad name.

I can’t tell you how many resumes I’ve “fixed” over the years or how many clients have shared their costly experiences (frequently at upwards of $1,500), only to be left disillusioned after being presented with a lackluster, poorly-written resume that set their job search back to ground zero. I decided to write about this after recently reviewing one of the worst resumes I’ve seen in a while, presented by a supposed “expert,” who is not even an executive resume writer by trade.

Curious as to whom this “expert” was, I checked the properties of the document and was fortunate enough to find the “author’s” name in the document’s properties. After doing some research, I did find the writer online, who owns a service offering a variety of administrative and training functions, along with resume writing (almost as an afterthought). Her background is in Human Resources, and while that might seem to make sense to unsuspecting candidates, there is quite a difference between running an HR department and writing a comprehensive executive resume from scratch, knowing how to best position candidates’ strengths and accomplishments. Her background (taken from her LinkedIn page) includes a full scope of HR Labor Relations, Employee Relations, Classification and Compensation, Workers’ Compensation and Safety, Recruitment, Risk Management and Benefits. Those skills certainly do not translate to the qualifications needed for writing an effective resume, nor was any resume writing experience listed in her profile. This person had no business writing and/or charging anyone for the “resume” she wrote, and is another sad example of why the industry sometimes gets a bad rap.

Many people make the mistake of believing that an HR or recruiting professional has the in-depth experience required to write an effective resume that generates the right attention.  While I certainly know the role of HR management and recruiters, as well as what they look for in an effective executive resume, I have no illusions that I could actually perform the functions of either. Being a successful professional in either field, does not translate to great writing skills, unless this is a task they’ve performed and perfected over many years.

There is a unique quality of finesse that truly talented resumes writers possess; most of the “good” ones are writers by trade, have years of experience writing winning resumes and continually hone their craft on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong – I have reviewed hundreds of professionally-written resumes over the years, and when I see one that is effective, I have no problem informing the potential client that they have no reason to use my services. However, I do not enjoy telling others that a resume already paid for was a poor and wasted investment.

Over the years, I’ve saved quite a few examples of poorly constructed and/or ineffective resume bullet points pulled from executive resumes written by other services that were provided to me by potential and/or actual clients. These bulleted points either do not make sense or are “trying” so hard, that they are difficult to read and come across as blustery without meaning. See below:

 

  • “Exceeded strategy by tapping into an additional 50% OPEX savings by unearthing capability and contractual opportunities (quality performance, SLA, revenue sharing, employee arbitrage, internal shared services).” What does “exceeded strategy” mean? Where is the context? To what strategy are they referring? What capability and contractual opportunities were “unearthed” and how did that “exceed strategy?” This is a very poorly-constructed sentence that does not clearly convey what it actually means.
  • “Pragmatic thinking, development evidence-based business plans backed by swift action in operationalizing, commercializing and transforming business units into profitable company assets.” (Starting out a thought with “pragmatic thinking” is not even correct –it should say “Pragmatic thinker” or lead with “Offer pragmatic thinking,” as achievement bullets should almost always lead with a VERB. The whole sentence is awkward because of that. Also, where is the measurable accomplishment in this bullet point? What is the value demonstrated here?
  •  “Skyrocket revenue growth,” followed by two additional bullet points in the past tense including those starting with “optimized and pioneered.” Technically, those bullet points should lead with “Skyrocketed, optimized and pioneered,” to maintain tense consistency. In my opinion, “skyrocket” is an awkward way to start a bullet point, though I suppose the writer thought this to be a compelling term.
  • “Branded an agile athlete owing to mastery in navigating ambiguity with quiet confidence.” There is not much to say about this other than this is an example of trying too hard without offering any value at all to the reader. What does this actually say about the candidate that will prompt a reader to pick up the phone? As the first line in a profile statement, this only seems awkward.
  • “Created 200 ‘game-changing’ positions in customer support.” What does this mean? What were the results of this? Why were they “game changing?” This bullet point doesn’t offer much information for the reader – there is no context at all, and no accomplishments.
  • “Through problem foretelling distinction, infectious optimism, and a birds-eye view – ensured consistency in adapting best methodologies, elevating project management for several organizations. (Again, trying much too hard and clumsily written.)
  • “Slashed client onboarding process from 10+ days to two days; reduced client acquisition expenses by $32M.” (While this seems to be impressive, the points would mean more to readers if the actions behind these results were explained – they just didn’t occur on their own). Also, this bullet point was only one of two for a position lasting seven years. I would think that this candidate contributed more than two accomplishments in seven years.

When I see things like this on a “professionally written” resume – poor writing, incorrect grammar, overblown, nonsensical sentences and a lack of focus on true, measurable accomplishments, I can only shake my head in frustration because I know that candidates are not receiving effective executive resumes that work. There ARE some very qualified executive resume services out there, but with the plethora of inexperienced writers touting their “expertise,” it’s not always easy to select the best writer for your needs.

If you are looking for a qualified executive resume writer, please remember to closely examine resume samples and writers’ backgrounds. You need to see beyond the “look and feel” of the resume and read the content. It should flow well, offer value/accomplishments and be grammatically correct. If you don’t see samples at all, you’d be wise to steer clear of that service altogether.

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