My Number One Resume Problem

I was recently asked if resume writers were worth it, or if they would just give you a 1-2 page document that you could come up with on your own.  Let me share an experience with you.

After I got laid off, over the phone, I was asked to stay one more week to transition the new guy back as president.  There wasn’t much transitioning to do, since he had been the president about 18 months earlier, so we just had a few meetings here and there.  Plus, we were like “two bulls in a china closet,” or however the saying goes.  

I spent much of my time getting ready for my job search.  I looked, and looked, and looked some more for my resume.  Not sure why I did that, wasting a few hours looking for something that was at least six years outdated.  But is was like some old security blanket I was looking for.  I finally gave in and downloaded a template from the internet that I could use to start over.

After hours of tinkering around on this very, very short document I sent it to a few trusted friends. These were all people who were qualified to tell me if my resume was good or not.  Hiring managers, experienced professionals and executives, and even an HR professional from one of my last companies.

They all said it looked GREAT!  And it did look great.  It was shiny, squeaky clean, free from grammar and spelling errors.

And, it was IMPRESSIVE!  You should have seen the titles:

  • General Manager
  • CIO/VP
  • IT Manager
  • Programmer

Okay, the last one isn’t the most impressive, but hey, I thought I was hot stuff to have those first few titles on the resume.  Since I moved from a small town (Pocatello, ID) to a larger city (Salt Lake City), and I was hoping to go from a small IT company to a larger company in Salt Lake, people would be able to figure out I wasn’t the General Manager of GE, or American Express, or eBay, or something like that.  I had a big title at a small company.  And that was the problem.


Because I was applying to jobs with the following titles:

  • Business Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Product Manager (this was my dream position)

When HR and recruiters saw my resume, they had to ask:

What’s a VP/General Manager doing applying for a Business Analyst job???  

And I got put in the garbage pile.  My success rate (number of interviews secured / number of resumes sent) was really, really pitiful.  Like, 2%.

A resume writer would have interviewed me, tried to understand who I was and what I was looking for, and changed the resume so that my past job titles WOULD NOT have hindered my ability to get an interview.

Months and months and months went by, with no income. I forfeited thousands of dollars of income  Just a few hundred dollars, invested in a resume writer, could have changed that.

Is a professional resume writer worth it?  I believe so.  A good resume writer will deliver MORE than just a one or two page document. Click here to see resume writers who have partnered with JibberJobber. 


This post is brought to you by executive resume writer and career consultant Louise Kursmark. One of the leading career experts in the U.S., Louise has written 20 books about resume writing, interviewing, and executive search strategies. In her private practice, Louise works directly with senior executives to craft powerful marketing messages and methods for swift transition to the next exciting opportunity. Her passion is helping people “tell their story” in a way that is compelling, memorable, and relevant.  Louise Kursmark is a JibberJobber Career Expert Partner.



11 thoughts on “My Number One Resume Problem”

  1. Jason, thank you for having one of the most respected people in the industry write this post. Louise, thank you for educating readers on the value of using a professional. There are many writers who offer resume writing and people are often confused by the difference of a great wordsmith and someone who will actually roll up their sleeves and help you identify your goals and put together a comprehensive strategy to help you achieve them. I love helping people achieve their career dreams and hope that job seekers will realize that hiring professional help is a valuable tool in their job search.

  2. Jason,
    Your story is not unique. I meet many, many people who tell me they have been sending resumes out for months and getting no response. They blame the economy. They blame age discrimination. They curse the small gap in their job history. I ask to see the resume they are using, and it is very clear to me that, while those factors may play a small role, it is the resume that is the problem.

    As a job search coach who writes resumes, I obviously have a strong bias in favor of hiring a professional, but facts are facts. Wasting time sending out the same resume that isn’t getting results over and over again is like watching money fly out the window.

    Just as (most of us) would hire a professional to pull a tooth, re-wire a home and cut our hair, it makes sense to partner with someone who spends their time focusing on how to help people land in jobs of their choice. Going it alone (or relying on uninformed advice) is like playing Russian roulette with your job search.

  3. Jason, a good resume writer can serve as an objective eye to see exactly the things you pointed out. Resume writing is marketing — you’re marketing yourself for your next job. It’s really hard to marketing yourself, so sometimes hiring a professional resume writer is a good idea.

    A good resume writer will write your resume as a document about your future, not your past. This is the the most important concept in resume writing. It tells you what to put on your resume and how to say it. If you use this concept, you’ll use every word on your resume to paint the picture of you at you next job, even though you’re writing about your past. If a resume writer is really good, your resume will influence the reader (a potential employer) to start envisioning you at HIS company, while he’s reading your resume. That’s good marketing!

  4. @Karen – hm… you made me do a double-take. I wrote this post… I see that I should probably change the box where I say “brought to you by” as it can be assumed she wrote it.

    She’s too brilliant to have made my mistake :p

  5. Jason… I’m glad I met you and really appreciate your help and advice. You really know this stuff.

    Now… addressing the question and responses… As is my nature.. I like to stir in things… see if I can whip up a little conroversy, which is why I went into management in the first place….. 😉

    JK… actually, I’m looking for some comparitive comments to see what I can learn…

    I have the exact problem that Jason describes… I think my resume is being rejected for titles and failure to communicate what I could do in a transition from the C levels in a small company to Sr. Program Manager at a larger one… Or at least that might be one of the problems… there could be many more.

    Here is the question in my comment. What feedback can we get from bloggers not in the business of writing resumes…? Does anyone have a real-life story about results from a professionally written resume…? Sending resumes is a low yield activity, will the improvement in resume quality make a significant difference in number of interviews..? Does anyone on the hiring side have a before and after story where they rejected a person from the interview based on the first resume and brought them in for an interview when they saw a professionally written version of the same person….?

    Marketing tools are so ‘fluffy’ and hard to really measure. Does anyone have some hard numbers that describe the actual impact of a professionally writen resume…? What increase in Success Rate (interviews secured / resume sent) is typical for a good writers clients…?

  6. Jason,

    Again, a great post and so relevant! It is difficult to write a resume’ for yourself because it’s hard to be objective. It’s your story and you want to tell it all. So many times, people come to me with resumes that are 4-7 pages long. When you realize that most hiring managers and executive recruiters only look at it for 10-45 seconds, it’s worth having someone who can come from an objective point of view and make you shine. Design and formatting are particularly important–many times, people’s resumes are difficult to read at first glance. It needs to be in a format that allows for quick review and that allows the reader to capture the highlights.

    Also, while it’s great to have a professionally written resume’, if you are not employing MULTIPLE strategies to find a job, then it’s not going to be the golden ticket. You have spoken to that many times here and it is so true. I know my husband was guilty of that at first–he’d submit his resume’ countless times to job boards and sit around wondering why no one had called him. I finally helped him understand the power behind using many tools in his job searching efforts.

    I’ve said it once before here, I am a CPRW and when my husband’s job was being offshored, we shelled out $600 for another CPRW to re-write his resume’. It was worth every penny. I couldn’t be objective during that stressful time. It did teach him a valuable lesson in career management–always be ready for a change. He hadn’t needed a resume’ in 20 years–now we constantly keep it updated.

    Thanks again for such a great post!

  7. @Jason, she is brilliant but so are you! More than likely it was my sleep deprived brain. My opinion still stands. It is an excellent post!

    @Randy, I applaud you for seeking ROI. Since I am a professional I won’t answer your question but will offer additional detail. The marketing tool is only one component of the overall strategy. In my experience the clients that attained optimal results were those that implemented a comprehensive marketing plan. As professionals we are able to offer you more than tools but a strategy. You can have a great resume but if your search strategy is flawed you will not get results. Thus, I would factor that into any quantitative analysis.

  8. I think that with the rapidly deteriorating economy. More time has to be spent researching potential job sectors and doing reality checks. the resume is a good tool but it’s success in this market is limited IMHO. The bureau of labor statistics offers tools to get an overview of what is going on with the economy and job markets. I think the resume format has become extremely frustrating format of opening doors but it is still a primary tool.
    A career portfolio I feel is the better way to go, the only problem is getting it seen. Here is where networking and old fashion legwork comes into play. Of course there is still getting challenge of past the gatekeepers the dehumanization of the process with readers and some companies using behavioral testing as part of the online application. Most pseudo science without other any real regulations
    After seeing the job numbers on Friday and the global numbers on Thursday the reality of a global recession is becoming more real.

  9. Sometimes people need boost or a basic idea to get started on their own resumes. Using a professional writer can put their own ideas down on paper and have it look professional. Today’s economy has been putting a lot of people back on the job market.

  10. I used to contend that people should not do their own resume due to lack of objectivity. I now believe they should seek help because they lack the confidence, skills, time and, in many cases, have been influenced by bad resume advice (It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere!). My views changed when I was commissioned to teach resume writing classes for an outplacement company. I found candidates armed with correct information were writing their own resumes and had remarkable success marketing themselves.

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