Avoid Resume Analysis Paralysis

By: Peter Vogt

Could you have resume-itis?

Resume-itis is “a mental condition where the job seeker assumes that all problems with their job search can easily be solved by changing a few words on their resume,” says Patricia Phillips, executive director of career management at the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business.

Pennsylvania career consultant Ford Myers calls it something else: analysis paralysis. That’s a seemingly endless stream of resume feedback from well-intentioned friends, relatives and colleagues who provide opinions but rarely offer any expertise.

Fortunately, there is a quick, two-step cure for resume-itis/analysis paralysis: Limit the number of people critiquing your resume, and be smart about the people you choose. Here’s how to do both.

Quality Beats Quantity

Stetson University business communication professor Katharine Hansen helps many students and alums with their resumes. But perhaps none stands out more — for the wrong reasons — than the young grad who took analysis paralysis to new heights.

“It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that he brought me his resume 100 times for review,” says Hansen, author of several career-related books, including A Foot in the Door.

Turns out he was getting resume critiques from other professors at the same time, Hansen says. So the student would end up changing things Hansen had already fixed on another critiquer’s advice and then would bring his resume back to Hansen, who would once again point out trouble spots she’d addressed previously — or so she thought. “It was definitely counterproductive,” Hansen says.

Solution? Limit both the number of people critiquing your resume and the number of times they critique it, says Carly Drum, managing director of New York City executive search firm Drum Associates.

“I recommend having one individual who understands what you do critique the accomplishments and achievements you list on your resume,” Drum says. “From a knowledge standpoint, have this person critique whether the information flows and/or describes accurately what you do and the level that you are at.”

Then you can have your resume evaluated by someone who doesn’t really understand you or your skills but still has plenty of corporate experience. “He or she can look at your resume to see if it shows what you do and what type of position you’re looking for,” Drum says.

Seek True Expertise

One of the inherent problems in asking people to critique your resume is that all of them believe they’re qualified to do so. “Seemingly, it’s one of those ‘guy things’ — all men seem to think they know how to a) start a charcoal fire, b) score inside the 10 and c) write a resume,” says organizational psychologist Jim Hazen, president of Pennsylvania-based Applied Behavioral Insights.

Not true — on all counts. So when you want to have your resume critiqued, find someone, preferably in your chosen field, who knows what he’s talking about.

“A critique by an industry expert helps, especially if your skills fit into several categories,” says Carol Vellucci, assistant to the president for communications at Towson University and former director of the school’s career center.

For example, if you’re looking for a job as an advertising agency traffic manager, try to have your resume reviewed by someone in that role, Vellucci says.

Once you’ve had your resume evaluated by two or three knowledgeable people, it’s time to start sending it out to the critiquers who matter most: prospective employers.

“Ask a trusted source to critique your resume, then get going on your job search,” advises human resources consultant Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Massachusetts-based Human Resource Solutions and a former Monster contributor. “It’s about results, not perfection.”

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