Q. How do I get someone to critique my resume?
A. If you're wondering whether you should hire a consultant to critique your résumé, the answer is "don't bother," says Debra Oppenheim, a recruiter in New York who specializes in nonprofit clients. "So-called 'résumé doctors' are a waste of time and money," she says. Instead, ask a former boss, co-worker, or someone else who has a solid understanding of your past accomplishments to help you find the right words to describe them, she says.
If you know someone who currently holds a position similar to the one you are aiming for, he or she may also be able to assist you in highlighting the things that a potential employer will seek. Also, use any connections you have to people who work in personnel departments or do job recruiting, adds Ms. Oppenheim. "If you talk to 10 people, you're likely to get 10 different opinions about what a résumé should contain, so your main criteria should be to find someone who knows you and your goals, and whose opinion you trust," she says.
If what you really need is help on basic résumé formatting, however, your best source may be your local bookstore, says Jim Piper, managing director at the Chicago office of Stanton Chase International, an executive recruiting company that often works with nonprofit organizations. Most books on the subject contain lots of examples that you can use as templates, he says. Also, he recommends checking out Web sites like Monster.com and the Riley Guide for free advice.
To help get you on the right track, Mr. Piper offers a few tips:
- Keep your résumé tight and easy to read, but don't be afraid to extend to a second page if your experience warrants the extra space.
- Don't omit the year you graduated from college to avoid calling attention to your age. It's obvious when relevant dates are omitted.
- Don't use colored paper or unusual type faces to distinguish your résumé from others. Artifice only serves to distract readers from the content.
And don't forget to spend time on your cover letter -- which, in Mr. Piper's opinion, is actually more important than the résumé.
"I receive about 500 résumés a week, and I read only a fraction of them -- and not for lack of time," he says. "The cover letter is your calling card. It tells the recipient that you can communicate well in writing, which can translate into your work style."
He suggests taking time to tailor each letter to the particular recipient and job opportunity, and to make sure each is no more than two-thirds of a page long. The letter should communicate what you would bring to the position and why you should be considered for the post. Avoid using trendy, overused phrases like "track record," "thinking out of the box," and "core competencies." Says Mr. Piper: "They can be an immediate turnoff." (For more on writing lively, effective cover letters, see this previous Philanthropy Careers article. You may also pick up some valuable tips on shaping a résumé for seeking nonprofit jobs here.)