As a job searcher, it’s always a good idea to ask someone to give your resume and cover letter a once-over to make sure everything looks good and there are no errors. As a person who is asked to review a friend’s resume, it’s worth taking the extra time to give it a thorough review and even offering to help them prep for their interview. This gesture doesn’t require much from you, but can make a big impact for them, and may even help them get hired.
On the surface, being asked to review someone’s resume seems pretty simple. Look it over, make sure there are no spelling errors or obvious formatting issues, and give it your stamp of approval. This kind of quick review is helpful to an extent, but if you want to really help someone, give them some useful feedback and identify areas where they can make improvements.
After they’ve taken your advice and perfected their resume, stay in touch with them because it may not be long before they’re offered an interview and could use a little more help. You can sit down and do a mock interview with them to help them prepare and polish their responses so they can walk into their actual interview feeling confident (and get the job).
Everyone needs a little support during the job hunting process, so if someone comes to you for guidance, make sure you’re putting in the effort they deserve so they can succeed. Here are some tips to help you out.
When you review someone’s resume, do a deep dive. A good resume is about more than proper grammar and aligned bullet points (though, they are important). It’s also about flow, readability and grabbing and keeping attention. To properly frame your feedback, look over the document as if you are the recruiter or hiring manager for the job they’re applying for. Then, take note of anything that stands out, both negatively and positively.
At what point did you start skimming the resume?
We already know that recruiters don’t read through every line of every resume—they look for the important parts and skim the rest. So, treat your first read-through with that same mindset, just giving it a quick glance, and marking where the resume either lost your attention or where you naturally started skimming. Tell your friend to put the most important information above that line so that it doesn’t get looked over.
What stands out as fluff?
It’s common to spend a lot of time writing your resume so that you come off as an intelligent professional. However, sometimes it comes off as just too much. If you notice this kind of fluff in the resume, highlight it and point it out. That’s valuable resume space that they could use to better highlight their accomplishments! There’s no need for them to add in fluff, especially if it’s obvious.
What kind of position does it look like they're applying for?
Don’t read the job description for what they’re applying for before you review their resume for the first time. Based on the information in the resume, what kind of job does it look like they’re trying to get? If you are getting accounting vibes from their resume but they’re applying for a job in software development, there’s an issue.
Is the information relevant?
Now that you know what they’re applying for, look over the job duties and qualifications. Does their resume demonstrate that they have knowledge and experience in these areas? Look at the keywords that pop up in the job posting and make sure those same keywords are included throughout the resume. If there is anything in the document that you feel is irrelevant or could be spun differently to better suit the job they’re going for, let them know.
Are there any red flags?
These can be the obvious things like formatting, grammar and spelling but they can also be the things that may make a recruiter or hiring manager do a double-take. Is there an obvious career pause that should be addressed? Should they change up their resume’s layout to avoid looking like the mythical “job hopper”? They shouldn’t be dishonest on their resume, but if they’re able, formatting the document to highlight accomplishments rather than focusing on job history and career progression may allow them to explain a colorful history in person, which will go much further than a piece of paper will.
How is their cover letter?
Don’t forget about their cover letter! If the position they’re applying to calls for one, look that over as well. Make sure they followed any directions in the job posting, they concisely highlight their best accomplishments and that the tone of the letter is appropriate for the position they’re applying for.
Remember, when you agree to help someone with their resume, you’re agreeing to spend as much time as it takes to help them get it right. If you don’t have that kind of time, that’s okay. Just be honest and decline the request, because that’s a much better response than taking the task on when you can’t give it your full attention.
Even the most confident people in the world get a little nervous at job interviews, so it doesn’t matter how experienced a person is, it’s always a good idea to practice a little. You can help your friend prepare for theirs by holding a mock interview where you act as the interviewer. Depending on your relationship with the person, it might feel kind of silly at first (especially if you’re close friends), but once you get into it you’ll find that it’s really a helpful tool.
Thoroughly read the job description
In order for you to prepare on your side, you need to have a decent understanding of the job they’re interviewing for. Highlight the duties and terms that stick out to you the most so you can frame questions around them. Also, do a little light research on the company itself so you can gauge whether or not your friend has done their own research to prepare.
Treat it like a real interview
Again, this may feel a little strange in the beginning, so go ahead and get the awkward laughter out so you can get serious. If you’re meeting in person, try to set up a table that mimics the environment of an interview. Or, if you’re meeting online, make sure you’re sitting in front of a professional-looking wall or background. Ask your friend to also treat it like a real interview by showing up dressed appropriately and prepared. All of this will help them start to feel like they’re actually in an interview rather than sitting at their friend’s kitchen table.
Ask a mixture of generic and job-specific questions
When you’re reading through the job description and researching the company, draft a few questions based on the information you find. Mix those specific questions in with some of the generic questions like “Why are you interested in this job?” and “Tell me about yourself.” Your friend’s answers to all of these questions are equally important to practice and polish.
Ask them if they have any questions
Just like in a real-life interview, give them time to ask their own questions at the end of the interview. You can use made-up answers in this situation because the point is for them to have their own questions thought up and ready to go before they go to their actual interview.
Record the interview
Set up a device to either video or audio record the interview so that your friend can go back and review it. It might seem awkward at first, but this will allow them to hear where they tripped a little bit or help them turn a good answer into an even better one. Being able to really review their performance will be a huge help.
Providing honest feedback
As with most things in life, honesty is the best policy when it comes to helping someone who is job searching. It’s always important to be your friend’s cheerleader, but in this case, you’ll need to also give them a healthy dose of constructive criticism to help them succeed. Provide feedback with a good balance of praise and guidance so that your friend will remain confident while they work to improve the things they need to. They asked you for your help because they value and respect your opinion, so show them the same respect by giving them the honest help they deserve so that they can land a great job.
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