Who wrote your resume?
At first glance, that may seem like an odd question for a job interviewer or recruiter to ask an executive job candidate. Even if it’s not the first item on the interview agenda, however, reports from the interviewing front indicate that it comes up often enough to be worth a few words of advice.
There’s good news. The question may seem to come from left field, but handling it is straightforward, especially if you’re prepared for it and you’ve given it a little thought. The best answer is an honest one, and it shouldn’t throw you off your interviewing game at all.
To first state the obvious, the “who-wrote-it” question isn’t directed at the person who made a resume from scratch, nor at people who relied on a template or who asked a friend for advice.
It’s addressed to people whose resumes show signs of professional intervention, and interviewees may pause and answer awkwardly if they have the sense that acknowledging professional help is somehow problematic.
My message here, though, is that the question shouldn’t be a problem for anyone, and professional help is far from problematic. In fact, it should be seen as something positive.
I help executives and senior professionals with their resumes. I meet with clients to talk about their accomplishments and their goals. I write their resumes from scratch. I phrase things so they’ll have more impact. I move things around to highlight what matters most to employers. I delete items that are irrelevant or that detract from the overall message. Sometimes, after talking with a client, I add important achievements that a client had overlooked.
I see to it that the resume does its job regardless of who’s reading it, man or machine. I look at things through the employer’s eyes. I spend a lot of time thinking about how hiring managers think. I work at staying on top of hiring trends and understanding what works – and what doesn’t – in today’s ever-changing job market.
I do this for a living.
If you’re reading this, chances are very, very high that you make your living doing something entirely different.
Chances are that your professional life has nothing at all to do with writing resumes or preparing for interviews or doing any of the hundred other things that go into a job search. Your expertise is in something entirely different.
And that’s the gist of your answer to the who-wrote-it question.
“I work in finance (or marketing or tech or project management or…) and that’s been my area for the past 15 years. When we need to revise a program to account for some change in tax treatments, I bring in the CTO to work on a solution. I go to the people who are already experts. I don’t try to reinvent the wheel. I took the same approach to my resume, retaining an expert who could get the job done right. It was the most efficient route to the best results.”
There’s no shame in getting professional assistance with something that’s outside your expertise. When Steve Jobs wanted to sell a computer, he convinced Woz to design the Apple 1. Woz built it. Jobs sold it.
Bringing in a professional shows that you recognize when you’re not an expert in a very specialized field, an important insight in itself. It shows that you know enough to bring in the right resources when necessary.
It shows that you take your professional life seriously enough to invest in those resources, and that you treat the hiring process as something that needs your best efforts. It shows that you know how to delegate when delegating is cost-effective and likely to get the best results.
Don’t forget that help from a professional resume writing service is, in a sense, help with form, not substance. You’re the one who achieved everything your resume includes. Those are your accomplishments. You bring the substance.
As it happens, though, form matters in the hiring process. Form can determine if a candidate is noticed or not. Badly done, it can inadvertently hide the very qualities a hiring manager is looking for.
The meat of a resume, however, is nothing more or less than your career. It’s not easy to reduce that career to a page or two. It’s even harder to make that page or two appeal to hiring managers, beings who operate using opaque methods that you’d have no reason to care about, let alone understand, if you weren’t in the job market.
You can’t be faulted for engaging someone who knows how to communicate in this specialized context, and the fact that you may not know how to put the right bullet points in the right places takes nothing away from your story.
Although the who-wrote-it question can be asked of anyone – and I work with people at all levels – I see it asked most frequently of interviewees for more senior positions. Those are the very people for whom delegating responsibility is a key attribute, and they shouldn’t hesitate to acknowledge the efficacy of professional assistance when it’s needed.