Liar, liar, pants on fire

Every time I talk to someone about resumes I try to quickly explain, before they ask for their check, that I hate resumes. That everyone does. That it is a necessarily evil not going away any time soon. I always have a resume in my back pocket that I can pull out and tear up right in front of them just to make a point #alternativefact.

People are more than their resume. The things that really make a difference in performance IMO can’t really be conveyed through a one-pager. But that’s not the point of a resume. It’s marketing collateral to make the reader curious about your story, your potential — and to get a conversation.

So after my failed attempt at curing the career blues, I surveyed over 300 professionals through a variety of channels: friends & family, subreddits, SurveyMonkey Audience, social media. I wanted to find out how individuals go about making sure that their resume is good enough to stand out from the other 250 applicants. Here’s what I learned.

80% of employed professionals with a resume get feedback.

This may sound crazy but you need to test whether your resume makes a good first impression, if it can pass that critical 6 seconds scan. Kicking the tires. Squeezing the bread. Dipping your toe in the water. All testing. Otherwise how do you really know if it is good (or bad)?

According to my data 80% of professionals with a resume ask an average of eight individuals to review it — and get three opinions. Not a horrible yield, but not great either.

So what’s the excuse of the other 20%?

  • “I think I am pretty good at resumes.” (sure you are)
  • “I don’t think it will make a difference.” (yes it will)
  • “I am too embarrassed to ask.” (you’re not serious, right?)

Fools. At a minimum let a smart AI take a stab at it.

Over 85% of professionals turn to friends & family to get feedback on their resume.

This is my favorite part.

Most of you ask the same people for resume feedback that you’ll ask for casserole on Thanksgiving. The very individuals who you rely on to love and support you. And who by the way most likely don’t even understand what you do at work.

When you ask professionals that had reviewed resumes for friends, family, and colleagues what the hardest part of doing so was, they generally say (in this order):

“I have a tough time being honest because I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
“I try to be as helpful as I can but don’t really understand what she does. And because I don’t know, it’s frustrating because it feels like I can’t be as helpful as I would like to be.”
“It is cumbersome and takes a lot of time going through someone’s resume. I don’t know how to best share my feedback or even where to start.”

Few people enjoy lying. Right?

It’s not just hard on the individual asking, but it’s painful for the reviewer. So when the feedback you are getting is not as hard hitting as you would like it is because you give them no option but to be dishonest. Which explains why on average only 3 out of 8 people participate.

And before you ask, yes, there are a few exceptional individuals that are really good at telling the truth. You know who you are. And I applaud you.

There are of course trained, paid professionals that (mostly) tell the truth. About 30% of professionals looking for resume feedback turn to a career coach for help. That’s the good part. The bad part is that there are over 25,000 of them in the U.S., and it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff here.

I have spoken with people that have spent over $1,000 for a single review and engaged with more than 3 different resume coaches only to be left frustrated. Ouch.

Surprisingly only 5% consulted a website for a “free” review-such as Which, just to be clear, is not free. Or valuable.

Industry experience is the most important aspect of a reviewer.

Okay, I admit that this is no-brainer.

Remember, the first step to solving a problem is admitting it. And my data was pretty compelling: most individuals looking for resume feedback desire something better than what they’re doing today. A reviewer who knows what she’s talking about — because she works and hires people in the right field and industry.

Interesting is also that the speed, cost, length of feedback all ranked pretty low. Good — don’t sweat the small stuff.

When I asked what it would be worth to get a relevant review by a hiring manager in the target field and industry most people were willing to pay a small price for it. So now I am thinking “Not bad!”

Of course talk is cheap.

Hiring & management experience is a close second.

The ideal reviewer of your resume is of course the actual hiring manager. While that may be impractical, it is not that hard to consult individuals in your target field and industry that approximate her (including hiring responsibilities).


Find similar companies and leaders via LinkedIn, send them a message, and ask with clear, simple instructions. Most people want to help especially if you create affinity (“You are a leader in my field”), you set expectations (“It should not take more than 15 minutes and your insights would be incredibly helpful.”), and (totally optional) you offer a small donation to charity as a token of appreciation for their time.

Now you’ll get truly unbiased, relevant, and meaningful insights into how well your resume “converts“ AND you respectfully engage prospective hiring managers under the guise of professional feedback (bonus round!).

And that’s when Protopia was born.

By the way, here’s the full infographic.