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How to Ask for a Resume Critique

By Kim Isaacs
February 2007

Is your resume as good as it could be? Are you happy with the number of calls you're receiving for job interviews? Is your resume email-ready, optimized for keywords and strategically written to market your best credentials? If you answered no to any of these questions, you would benefit from a third-party resume critique.

Kathy Sweeney, a certified resume writer and president of the nonprofit National Resume Writers' Association (NRWA), says job seekers can benefit from getting a second opinion on their resumes. "A critique can provide insight into whether the job seeker is using the proper wording for his or her industry and if the document will make a great first impression," she says.

Whom to Ask

What qualifications should your resume reviewer possess? "I firmly believe that credentials are important," Sweeney says. She recommends looking for such resume-industry designations as:

. Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW), awarded by the NRWA.
. Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), offered by the Professional Association of Resume Writers.
. Master Resume Writer (MRW), offered by Career Masters Institute.

Sweeney adds that the professional conducting the critique should have reviewed resumes and interviewed candidates themselves. "Unless a professional has experience in the hiring arena or at the very least has networked with hiring managers to learn what they like to see on resumes, it would be hard to provide a valuable critique," she says.

What to Expect

Sweeney says the reviewer should look at all aspects of the resume, just as a hiring manager would -- reviewing it for initial impression, content and how well it stands out from other resumes. You can sign up for a fee-based or free critique. Here are the differences:

. Fee-Based Critiques: These are normally conducted by resume writers and other career-industry professionals. For a fee, your reviewer provides detailed feedback on your resume's strengths and weaknesses in a written report, telephone consultation or combination. If you sign up for a paid review, find out exactly what you will receive, and request a sample report so you can see the quality of the feedback. Ask if the reviewer will complete a follow-up review after you make the suggested changes to ensure the document is job search-ready. Expect to pay between $25 for a basic critique and $200 or more for a detailed, comprehensive review.

. Free Critiques: These can also be helpful but probably won't be as detailed as a paid review. "A free critique is usually very general," Sweeney says. "It may provide a synopsis of the reviewer's overall opinion [of] the resume and potential problem areas. Reviewers may offer strategies on what they would do differently with the resume." Good resources for free critiques include the Monster Resume Tips message board, hiring managers in your industry and professional resume-writing firms.

Information You Should Provide

Your reviewer needs to know your career goal and industry target to supply useful feedback. "I usually gather information about the job seeker's target position, and ask how his or her background relates to the position," Sweeney says. "I also ask job seekers to provide me with a few position postings related to their target job."

Tell your reviewer about potential problem areas, such as employment gaps, job-hopping or unrelated work history. The more your reviewer knows about your background, the more constructive the feedback can be.

Use What Works, Disregard the Rest

If you ask 10 people to review your resume, you will likely receive 10 different opinions. You may also receive conflicting advice, making it difficult to know what changes you should implement. After you receive a resume critique, be open to suggestions and ready to make revisions that work for you. Pay attention to advice from resume writers and hiring managers, especially those within your target industry. By listening to professionals who know what makes a resume successful, you will be on your way to a successful job search.

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