The Resume Experiment – Day 1 of 5

A couple of months ago I met a guy who heard that my resume stunk, and was keeping me out of interviews. He asked me if I could check out his resume and let him know what I thought. I was happy to do it but realized that I was not the best person to help him out. And that two-month journey has led us to The Resume Experiment.

I have asked various experts to weigh in on his resume. Some responded with a complete resume rewrite, others responded with questions and concerns. Everyone had similar concerns, and everyone noted that they really couldn’t do this job justice without more information (I only sent them an introductory paragraph and the “current” resume). There are various reasons for the differening results/feedback.

While the end-result is interesting, I was fascinated by the process. I have heard comments about resume writers – just recently I read an e-mail post on a forum that said that resume writers turn out canned resumes from templates, and aren’t worth it. I would have let that opinion sway me 100% a year ago – I didn’t want to spend the money to get my resume professionally done. You know where that got me?

A few months down the road, with interviews at only two companies. And no job offers (I got the the third interview with each company).

The problem was evident – my resume was keeping me out of interviews. The math is simple – 3 months * $5,000/month (could be more, could be less, put in your own number to see what its worth) … not having a resume that got me interviews cost me at least $15,000. So you tell me how much I should have paid to get my resume fixed and start getting interviews!

Over this week I’m going to explore what I’ve learned from the experts. I will pick apart the thought processes and procedures. I want to help you understand how this resume thing works, and empower you with more knowledge about how to move forward (in other words, if you are wondering how to choose a resume writer, hopefully you’ll walk away with some ideas on how to proceed).

To get started, read the real resume. This is a Word document that has some of the information changed to protect the innocent – but almost all of the descriptive stuff is original. The formatting is original. This resume was not getting results (interviews). Can you guess how the experts are going to react?

Finally, I’d like to introduce you to the people that have participated (there may be more as the week progresses). I’ll introduce them in alphabetical order so you can’t try and determine my bias (if I have one ;))

Alison Doyle - JobSearch.About.comAlison Doyle – the Job Search expert. I had lunch with Alison last week in Park City (Utah) and it was just too fun. Alison has many years of experience in the HR and job search arena. She blogs at and with Susan Heathfield at their Career Savvy blog.

Barbara Safani - Career SolversBarbara Safani – Owner of Career Solvers, with expert experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, resumes and organizational development. Barbara blogs at the CareerSolvers blog and contributes to the CareerHub blog.

Billie SucherBillie Sucher – Private-practice career transition consultant and author of Between Jobs: Recover. Rethink. Rebuild. She blogs at the CareerHub blog.

Carl Chapman - Executive Restaurant RecruiterCarl Chapman – Carl is the owner of CECSearch, which is an executive restaurant recruiter firm for operations at all levels from store to executive office, as well as corporate support roles. Carl blogs at Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter.

Liz Handlin - Ultimate Resumes and BroadpeakLiz Handlin – CEO of Ultimate Resumes and VP of Marketing for Broadpeak Collaborative. I met Liz in Austin this January and could not believe how accomodating and helpful she was. Liz blogs at the Ultimate Resumes blog as well as the Broadpeak Executive Forum.

Louise Kursmark - Your Best Impression .comLouise Kursmark – President of Best Impression, author of 18 books, and was the first person worldwide to earn the prestigious “Master Resume Writer” credential. She contributes to the CareerHub blog.

Wendy Terwelp - Opportunity KnocksWendy Terwelp – Owner of Opportunity Knocks, providing career services including resume writing, coaching, personal branding, networking, etc. Wendy contributes to the CareerHub blog.

Make sure you check back daily to see how this rolls out – it should be fun and interesting. If you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet you can do it via e-mail – just put your e-mail address in the top right corner on this page 🙂


26 thoughts on “The Resume Experiment – Day 1 of 5”

  1. Jason, loved the idea of doing this experiment! Glad to help out & eager to see the “results” of your findings! : – )

  2. I’m eager and very interested to see how this goes also :p you can see one trackback from Carl, there are two other blog posts that have been posted today on their input (interesting that all three posts are from recruiters). Anyway, check back tomorrow to see what we come up with 🙂

  3. I am glad that you have found several people who are willing to provide a perspective about the resume…This topic is vital to the success and failure of potential employees everywhere. Their perspectives might enable others to learn from them and find suitable employment.

    Thanks Jason!

  4. Very interesting. Will follow this exercise as I have just recently overhauled my resume after one of the “big name” outplacement firms added about a page and a half of excess verbage to my resume. Five interviews and two job offers in 3 years.

    When I was in college we were told we had to write our own resumes. Why shouldn’t it be the same now? Based on my experience with the outplacement firm, I wouldn’t let them write a anything nor rely upon them for career advice either.

    More than how to pick a resume writer, I’d be interested in learning 1. how to write a resume and 2. how to get suitable feedback. It’s especially important for career changers like me who’ve been out of work for a while and have no money to spare.

    Now I’ve got 3 versions of the resume: for the previous industry, for the desired industry, and for general purpose. I’m hoping for better results.

  5. Jason, this is going to be a wonderfully enlightening few days for your readers. Your panel is stellar—some of the best names in the industry (I admit I am biased as many of them are my friends ).

    But they are best in the industry because they are great at what they do. Most good / great resume professionals are not with the outplacement firms or with college placement offices. (Apologies to the few who are!) They are entrepreneurs who have a gift for communication, insight, and marketing. And they are always learning about what works in careers today.

    The resumes these pros write today look very different than those they wrote ten years ago–that’s because they adapt to new market conditions, and the new ways resume information has to be communicated.

    The Internet has changed the resume dramatically–and not just because resumes are submitted electronically, although that’s a big thing. One of the things the Internet has done is taught people to read in short bursts–short paragraphs with white space around them. Concise writing, quick reads, critical content mapped exactly to the target employer / industry is what the best resumes of today have become.

    And my colleagues on your panel are writing them. And that kind of resume can’t be done by an outplacement firm or volume shop because it takes so much time to get it right. A short pithy resume is deceptive. It can be read in less than a minute–it probably took 20+ hours on the part of the client and writer (it has to be a partnership, BTW!) to research and strategize, and write and edit and polish and review and re-edit and set.

    The writers you have on your team are pros at helping their clients identify strengths, personal brand, value proposition, and accomplishments. And then dumping the ones that won’t work to make a case for employment in the client’s target industry. And the process is as important as the deliverable (the resume) because the resume intake process has a hidden but valuable benefit–it preps the client to be able to interview knowing all of the above.

    To me, that’s the price of admission for a great client-resume pro partnership. Will the client come away knowing their value, the accomplishments that prove it, and be able to talk about it in networking and interview terms?

    What, that’s not a resume? Darn right–that’s better than a resume! But guess what, a resume comes along with it! That’s the value of using a real pro to help market your into your next job.

    Most people find it difficult to have the insight and clarity needed to do this themselves. And unless they are in the careers industry they certainly don’t have the understanding of the latest changes in resume styles or job search (Of course your blog helps with that! So does the CareerHub blog that many of us write for). The professionals I know who are great at what they do go to one or more conference a year, present at conferences, teach classes, write, and are in general, thought leaders who are at the cutting edge of this profession. And they never, ever stop learning and teaching. And it’s real world, not academia. They’re in the trenches doing this work with their clients every day—and inventing new and better ways of “selling” their clients into their next great jobs. They are dedicated, and smart, and absolutely ethical. And worth the investment of working with them in more ways than one!

    Having said that I will say something radical: You can get a great job without a resume, and you can get a great job with a terrible resume. If you understand your value proposition (and know how to dollarize it), if you have a suite of accomplishments that illustrate it and you can speak of them clearly without rambling, if you are an excellent networker, or use a succinct value proposition letter sent to the right targets (check out for a great service to do this), if you do a bunch of other things right, you can get a job with a lousy resume, or no resume at all. But that’s a big “if.” Everything has to fall into place for that to happen.

    And even if it does, you still miss the value of the resume prep process—those value insights that position you to be your own best PR firm when you interview and speak! And guess what? A great resume is a leave behind that keeps on giving—especially when it comes to reviewing candidates on the short list ad determining compensation. Might not be such a good idea to give that up!

    So consider having your resume professionally created. But be careful when choosing a resume professional. Ask the right questions and understand that as in any profession, you often get what you pay for. Meaning that generally a lower investment will not get you the level of service and value I’ve just discussed, and a lower investment will likely not get you a highly certified or experienced resume professional.

    Ask about certifications, years of experience, type of specialty, intake process, etc. to get a feel for how the writer fits your needs, budget, and target job. Many writers today have multiple certifications, and not just in resume writing. They may also be certified coaches and/or certified personal brand strategists. Having someone who knows the full spectrum of career development and job search is very helpful—jobs aren’t found in a vacuum!

    Some certifications you might look for are Master Resume Writer, Credentialed Career Master, Nationally Certified Resume Writer, Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified personal Brand Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, and others. Organizations of resume and career professionals exist—some of the best are Career Masters Institute, The National Resume Writers Association, The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, and Career Directors International.

    There’s an industry of dedicated career professionals out there waiting to help you—and your investment will be recouped the first week of your new job—especially if you get it faster and it pays better and you love it—what a deal!

    (For the purposes of full disclosure, you should know that I am on the Board of Directors of Career Masters Institute – a division of Kennedy Information – and hold a number of the certifications mentioned. I may be biased, but I also speak the truth )

    Sorry this is such a long post–I get really passionate about this topic becuase for almost 20 years I’ve seen how great resume writers can help change lives.

  6. Deb, I couldn’t agree with you more. When you want great work done, hire a professional! I think a wonderful follow-up to this series would be one on how to choose a professional resume wirter/career coach to partner with on creating a marketing package for the individual who is entertaining a position change. Perhaps you, Jason, and your friends could coordinate some posts on that topic. -Carl

  7. Dear Jason,

    First of all, Thank you very much because this particular issue will never get boring because it implies so many things; when a gentleman named Tim Johnston wrote his “Diary of a Job Search” and published a series of articles on I couldn’t forget when he said “a resume means a never ending job…” Quite true.

    After reading the resume, it’s clear that it needs a complete change but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about an underlying “problem”: How could jobseekers take advantage of a properly written resume despite of underlying risks (I’d say) of being considered overqualified and discarded as a candidate and the risk of interviewing with a not exactly qualified recruiter able to extract the information he exactly needs to make an appropriate decision?

    I look forward to paying close attention to this important experiment and analyze the conclusions.

    Kind regards.

  8. ONE: First things first. That resume should pull your eye balls. It failed in doing it. You need to have that sheet of paper invite you to hold your attention. The original was DRAB in other words not look-able.

    TWO:Yes. You need to have the contact details right there where we can find it..not hunt for it. You want to hire this guy. You have only that much time.

    THREE: Yes. Those achievements should mention measurable deliverable. They quantify your ability to deliver. Your hiring this person to deliver. Then you need to know what s/he had delivered when and how. Ideally they need to be quantitative.

    FOUR: Perhaps One page re’sume’ would suffice. That would be crisp and saves the time for the recruiter and the hiring decision maker. You need to talk the applicant anyways..won’t you -after going through what s/he had to sell about her/his skills!

    If after going through the resume you did not want to talk to this individual then this resume had failed it’s stated purpose. Don’t you folks think so?

  9. Hi Jason,
    was wondering.

    All of us were talking about the ‘template’ that this great Résumé had or did not have.
    But what is the take on the Cover Letter. A résumé should go with a cover letter is what a ‘templated’ application should always be.

    Perhaps we should do one more exercise on that too.

  10. I’m a Career Expert and a Networking/Marketing Coach who has written a book on networking. I have also written resumes professionally and helped clients find jobs for years. Here’s my ten cents on the resume experiment, which I think is a great idea and very helpful for lots of people. First of all, there is a reason why resumes are standard in format — goes along with the same idea why so many companies have you fill out applications. The same info in the same format aides in making candidate comparisons. In that regard, a professional template or sample format is a good tool, however, but the job of a resume is to sell and that happens with the selection of words. My experience with clients has me stuck with the feeling that no one should write his/her own resume…at least not without assistance. People are simply too close to their own histories and information to be able to assemble or edit for marketing purposes. And, truly, a resume (while it must be factual) is a marketing document. People forget that objectives can change with the job being applied for and work histories can be edited to match an objective. That out of the way — here would be my recommendations on the resume in question. Include a specific objective at the top; it tells the employer right away what you are interested in. It’s kind of like a business person marketing to a specific niche — it defines what you are after — and that should be ideal. If the job you are seeking isn’t a match for your “ideal” then you shouldn’t be worried if you are overlooked, because you wouldn’t have been happy. The entire resume should be slanted toward the Objective — how you word your work history and so on. All contact info at the top, so no one has to hunt for it. I’m not a fan of including e-mail addresses for a lot of reasons, but if you must, make sure it’s not “cutesy,” that you check your e-mail frequently, and that you write well, so when you respond, the e-mail isn’t full of errors. I’d rather just list a phone # so that I know I’ll get the phone call when I’m up for an interview. Put education at the top. The work history should be tighter — a resume is like valuable real estate — don’t want to eat up space unnecessarily. Select only the most important items to list. Get rid of redundancies in wording like where it indicates administrative duties and then the candidate lists those duties. Get rid of words like “Responsible for and get right to the action.” Steer clear of using too much job description language, and use measures like numbers and percentages to create a sense of value for the candidate. What employers like to see: problems solved for a company, increased profit or productivity, money savings, or where you have demonstrated leadership. or created innovation. Don’t use your Skills section to list skills that are already evident in your work history. Use it for “special skills” — things an employer wouldn’t anticipate, such as foreign languages, software development, types of equipment used, special intelligence like government contracts, etc. Normally I like a resume to be one page, but in technical fields, I can see where two would be allowable — I’m not sure in this case, two pages would help. I’d use Other Work Experience in a Cover Letter, only if it related to the job I was seeking. There are so many details that make difference – even little things like when you list your cell phone on a resume, make sure the greeting that a potential employer hears is what you’d like them to hear. I had a client who had a cell phone greeting that sounded like a party going on with her singing the message. Not cool. Keep up the good work in getting info out there. Everyone deserves a fighting chance.

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