Your friend needs help. They’ve been on the job market for a while now and their starting to wonder why their resume isn’t landing them the number of interviews they expected. When they hand you their resume and cover letter and ask for some advice, how should you approach the process?
In a slightly different scenario, your family member hands you a resume targeting an industry you know nothing about and asks for some perspective and a few general pointers. Or a young mentee wants to follow in your footsteps and needs some feedback that can help him stand exactly where you’re standing within the next few years. How can you help? Start with the tips below.
1. Ask questions first, make pronouncements later.
Before you pass judgment, ask. Then ask some more. Find out as much as you possibly can about the industry (if it isn’t yours). And if you’re the industry expert in the room, learn everything you can about this job seeker’s personal goals, expectations, and intentions. Don’t assume anything.
2. Print the resume.
Make a hard copy that you can hold in your hands. This format often allows readers to find mistakes and language problems they wouldn’t otherwise see. You can review the resume both on paper and on the screen, but don’t skip the first or focus exclusively on the second. Read with a pen or pencil in your hand.
3. Circle everything that confuses you.
Every acronym, jargony phrase, or claim you don’t understand should be identified before you do anything else. Ask the job seeker and make sure that this acronym is well understood in her field. If not, encourage her to clarify her claims and spell out her abbreviations.
4. Circle everything that impresses you.
Make sure you’re impressed for the right reasons. How does a “GXI index of over 36 percent in 2013” compare with industry averages in this field and at this job seeker’s level of experience and training? Again, ask the job seeker if you don’t know. You can also ask the internet.
5. Read backwards to catch typos.
Here’s a simple fact about human nature: we all believe we’re excellent proofreaders. But if this were true, then paid, professional proofreaders wouldn’t have much of a market for their skills.
A little self-doubt goes a long way when we’re editing a document for sneaky typos. Assume there are at least three mistakes in the document in front of you. Then make it your job to find them. It may help to read from right to left and from the bottom of the page to the top.
6. Don’t pull punches.
This job seeker came to you so you could help her find work, not protect her ego. Make her goals your goals, and don’t hedge or provide vague feedback that keeps her from presenting her best self to employers.
If she sounds too self-effacing in one section or too overblown in another, explain your response to her claims as honestly and clearly as you can. If you can’t help her find an alternative or fix a given problem, send her to LiveCareer for the templates and tools that can clarify her points and shine a spotlight on her credentials.