Get the Most from Critiquing Résumés at Career Fairs

CPC Business Development

By Audrey Field, CPC PR & Marketing Advisor

The career fair is not the appropriate venue for charging to critique résumés. You are in a room full of employers, surrounded by many candidates who have no job or are looking for better employment. The résumé is already printed. When they approach you, they are hopeful, insecure, and looking for encouragement. They just want some comment about what their strengths are. They don’t need to hear what’s lacking.

Try to highlight the positives and offer what you could help them with within a 1-2 minute overview. DON’T GIVE AWAY YOUR TRADE SECRETS!!! Offer comments about the value of adding more strategy or requiring keywords and enhanced formatting. When they want more details, you can recommend they take your business card and send it to you electronically for a better look.

Offer as much advice as you can in 60 seconds. Most people are unemployed. Do not overwhelm them with beginning thoughts. Say, immediately following each recommended improvement, “We can work that out.” Assume a partnership immediately. Assume that this is your client. Following are the steps to this:

  1. Always start with the objective. Most are nebulous. How many times have we seen “To obtain a challenging position in a dynamic company with opportunities for professional and educational advancement?” The first question to ask should be “What exactly do you want to do and how can it benefit a new place of work?” This is what most employers need to know. Most will not know how to respond. If the objective is clear and concise, for example, “Chief Information Officer,” compliment them on a clear objective.
  2. Give reassurance. “This is a nice neat introductory résumé for today. Distribute it with confidence. Should you not get the positive results you are hoping for with this version, rest assured that we can work on that.”
  3. Look for how the résumé is “showing value.” Even if there are a few references to how the person has contributed to profitability, always ask, “What have you done to contribute to profitability? The way you’re going to get hired by any company is through assuring them that you can contribute to profitability.” In 99.99999% of the résumés you will critique, the contribution to profitability can always be enhanced.
  4. Encourage with strategic statements. “Especially at the level you should be seeking” is a good lead-in statement. Again, employ the “We can do this.” statement of reassurance. “Why would you consider entry-level? Haven’t you paid your dues? Do you think WE can build this into your boss’s résumé?”
  5. Avoid the temptation to write comments on their documents. We are not there in the capacity of teachers, “correcting the work.” Invariably, attendees will ask you to slow down so they can take notes. Use a line like, “I’m sorry but there are too many people waiting for us to do this while you take notes. Email me the document later and I can review it then for you.” Hint: the only writing I do on a résumé is to circle what I am talking about. They leave with a sheet full of circles and obviously lots of questions.

Give a parting reassurance. “We can help you…if you want to.” Leave the decision up to them. Leave the impression that you are busy – even if there is no one else in line. Take no more than 2 minutes total! Push them to use the résumé they have to go in there and get a job. Everybody gets a business card. Don’t forget, “Here’s my card- call me next week.” Every time they give out a résumé, your business card will heat up in their pocket as they recollect your comments.

A Caveat. Sometimes, people will want to argue with you because they disagree with your comments. They know that they have put in long hours to create their documents and they are most likely frustrated about being unemployed. If this happens, simply wish them well. Take the time to explain a comment, but do not engage in justifying your comments. Remember, not everybody is our client.

After the career fair, do a follow-up. When most attendees have not been contacted by hiring managers, the thought is in their head, “What’s wrong with my résumé?” Now you have an attentive audience! After they have made the rounds with no offers to interview and come to you looking for ways to make a better punch, then it is time. When it’s after the fact and the thought is “what’s wrong with my résumé, that’s the time you can really offer advice.

In support of your success,
Audrey Field – CPC PR & Marketing Advisor

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