Resumé Writing

A Resumé Critique: Why every job-seeker (including you) needs one!

A resumé critique is a thorough and detailed review of your resumé. If done well, it can ensure you are a contender whose resumé won't be overlooked for your target jobs.
Written by
Ali Williams
October 19, 2020
Read time

I've been critiquing resumés for years. Having been part of a company shut down, I reviewed and provided feedback on many of my former coworkers resumés to market them for new positions. Before this, as a manager, I had hundreds and hundreds of resumés cross my desk. Resumés with glaring errors, incomplete information, and questionable content went to the bottom of the pile almost immediately. You may be thinking, "Why? Isn't that too harsh? You could be missing out on someone great". Here is why I disagree. As potentially minor as they may seem, these kinds of issues can say as much as the credentials and work experience listed about the person. They plant a seed of doubt with the hiring manager. If this is the level of effort you put into arguably the most critical document you use to represent yourself, what kind of effort will you put in when you represent their company? That is why it is essential to do a thorough review of your resumé and, better yet, have someone else do it.

What is a Resumé Critique?

A resumé critique is a thorough and detailed review of your resumé. It should provide you with suggested changes and corrections to make. If done well, it can ensure you are a contender whose resumé won't be overlooked for your target jobs. Having one done should be a high priority for anyone on the hunt for a new job because, as the saying goes, "you only have one chance to make a first impression." Nowhere is that more important than your job application package. It is especially important if you have been sending out your resumé with little or no response. Below is a checklist in which I dive deeper into what areas of focus a typical review or critique includes.

Resumé Critique Checklist: 5 Areas to Focus On

Some of this will seem basic. Some of it may be surprising. Either way, let's run through the areas that count when it comes to doing a thorough review and critique of your job application package:

  1. Spelling Errors, Grammar and Typos: I know, I know! This is some 101 stuff, but you would be shocked to learn how many people miss glaringly apparent mistakes on their resumés. I'm talking incorrect word usage, extra punctuation, simple grammar and spelling mistakes, many of them up near the top of their resumé. There could be any number of explanations for why this occurs. Maybe they looked at it for so long; they couldn't see what's right in front of them. Perhaps they ran spellcheck, and a word that was spelled right but wasn't the right word made it in. The point is, they missed it. Unfortunate? Yes. Acceptable? Hard no.
  2. Appearance: Is your resumé well laid out? Is there enough white space to help ensure it is easy to read and absorb all of the different information? Does it have a minimal number of easy-to-read fonts? Have you used bolding and bullets to help organize the information and make it easy to follow? Is it polished and professional-looking? Is it aesthetically pleasing and with style reflective of the industry you are targeting? I know, I know - so many questions. But you must go through all of them (and more) in a resumé critique to ensure you are giving the best possible impression of what you offer a potential employer.
  3. Readability: This area encompasses a few different things. First of all, the writing style used throughout should be professional and easy to follow. It's also essential to avoid acronyms and abbreviations specific to your previous organizations and be cautious when using industry-specific abbreviations. You need to make it easy for the person reading it to 'get it.' Another key to making it readable is ensuring it's not too wordy. You should be able to communicate your accomplishments in concise, powerful statements rather than long rambling sentences. Doing this will also ensure your resumé doesn't go over 1-2 pages - which is essential. Seriously.
  4. Targeting: What I mean by targeting is - does your resumé target the industry and position you are applying for? Hiring managers want to know what you're offering them. A generic resumé will not tell each of them why you're "the one" for the particular job they're recruiting for compellingly. This means ensuring your unique value proposition meets (better yet EXCEEDS!) their needs. Most important of all, you should include all applicable keywords from the job posting throughout your resumé. When I say applicable, I mean, you need to have the experience aligned with those keywords to include them.
  5. Communicating Your Achievements: When describing your experience, rattling off a laundry list of random responsibilities and duties will not get you the gig. You should ensure you've included as many measurable and relevant achievements as possible. Now, not all of us are salespeople who consistently receive quantifiable results on our accomplishments. Don't try and get creative to engineer yourself some numbers, but the more impactful success stories you can share on your resumé, the better. The other important thing to ensure during a resumé critique is that you are using various powerful and unique action verbs to describe your many accomplishments. This means avoiding including terms like "Responsible for," "Participated in," and "Assisted with" on your resumé. It also means trying to include many different strong action verbs like "Executed," "Persuaded," and "Oversaw" to describe what you did to not sound like a broken record!

Resumé Critique Services: Free and Paid

Ok, so now that we know what resumé critique is and the top areas it focuses on, let's talk about how you can get one done if you're not confident doing it yourself. Of course, you can always start by having a friend or coworker review it. But they may not look at it through a strategic, objective lens. So what other options do you have? The answer is many, my friend, many.

Free Resumé Critique Services:

There is a proliferation of free resumé checkers out there. If you google "Free Resumé Review," you will see many reputable companies like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, Top Resume, and a zillion more come back in the results. The majority of these offer an automated review of your resumé looking for some of the items mentioned above. They will make sure your resumé is ATS-friendly, noting spelling errors or repetitive words. All in all, they can be hugely helpful. And that whole "Free" thing can be especially appealing if you're currently unemployed and bills are piling up. Be wary, however. Some services offering 'free' resume reviews are trying to get you to sign up so they can give you a minimal review and then entice you with the full paid review once you've joined. It's not a new or surprising business model - many companies out there do this. It's just right to remember free is not always free. And of course, in some circumstances, you really do get what you paid for.

Paid Resumé Critique Services:

As with the free resumé checkers, there are tons of different paid resumé critique services offered for the most part by professional resumé writers. The benefit of paying for a critique is that it is not an automated resumé review. A strategic resumé professional is going through your resumé, giving you objective feedback to better your chances of getting the interview. They will typically ask a few questions to get to know you and your goals better, along with requesting an example of your target 'dream job' posting. So you're getting a much more personalized approach than that of an automated review. And on top of that - it's typically much more affordable than having a professional resumé writer create a new resumé for you.

However You Get Your Resumé Critiqued, Just Make Sure You Do It.

So there you have it. Whether you will do it yourself, engage a friend or coworker, go the free or paid route - the decision is up to you based on your needs and circumstances. The most important thing is that you do it well and thoroughly, so silly errors or issues don't eliminate you from contention for your dream job!

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