Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More on "The Case Against Resume Writers"

I wrote a article,The Case Against Resume Writers, and not surprisingly, a number of paid resume writers objected, including on a LinkedIn group for resume writers.

One such comment by a resume writer named Grant Cooper was particularly virulent and unfair, and I responded. Alas, the moderator chose not to post my response to him even though she allowed other comments to be subsequently posted. Talk about lack of ethics!

As you decide whether hiring a resume writer is ethical, I believe it is may be helpful to read my response to Mr. Cooper:

Let’s start with Cooper's attempt to diminish me by asserting that the publication that called me “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” is known for reports on nude beaches and the like. In fact, The San Francisco Bay Guardian is a respected publication known mainly for its long-form investigative journalism and thoughtful features on a wide range of issues. It’s more like a regional Harper’s than the tawdry publication Mr. Cooper implies. Here is the link to its Wikipedia entry. But that’s beside the point. His response to my article should be based on responding to my article’s points.

He then criticizes my assertion that paying a resume writer is no more ethical than paying someone to write your college application essay. He writes, “For someone with a U.C. Berkeley doctorate, such a sloppy and inaccurate comparison is quite surprising. College application essays clearly state that the essay is to be the work product of the candidate, while resume application processes contain no such admonitions.”

Ironically, it is his reasoning that is sloppy. Employers do not need to explicitly state that they expect people’s applications to be their own work. That’s obvious. The far more potent and valid basis for analogizing paid college application writers to paid resume writers is that in both, applicants are being screened for highly desired, high-stakes slots, both paid college app writers and paid resume writers make valid selection more difficult, and both are unfair to the applicants who do their own work. Both replace, without disclosure, the candidate’s ability to demonstrate coherent, organized thinking, writing, and detail-orientedness with the resume writer's.

He then argues that evidence for my arguments’ invalidity exists because Mssrs. Bolles and Yate may be more well-known than I am. That’s not arguing on the merits. Besides, in fact, the chapter on resumes in the 2013 edition of Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute mentions resume writers only in one phrase and does not endorse their use. He merely neutrally mentions their existence.

Cooper then argues that trying to get a competitive advantage is “as American as apple pie.” Yes, but that doesn’t justify trying to get an unfair competitive advantage. Hiring a resume writer is like wearing a jet pack for the first part of the job-search race.

He then argues that resume writers are no more unethical than are PR firms or ad agencies.” It’s ironic that he asserts, apriori, his analogy to be valid yet calls me sloppy for asserting an analogy between paid resume writers and paid college application writers. Besides, saying that the resume-writing profession is no worse than PR firms or ad agencies is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Then Cooper argues that just because "I (He's referring here to himself, not to me) craft an outstanding resume for my client, because I assist them in highlighting their measurable accomplishments, and I attractively format and powerfully wordsmith their resume, no federal, state, or local law requires any employer whatsoever to hire, much less interview that candidate.”

Of course, that doesn't force an employer to interview or hire the candidate, but as I said in the article, for white-collar and professional employment (the majority of people hired by paid resume writers,) employers use resumes not just to review a candidate’s job history, but his or her ability to organize thoughts, write, and produce an error-free document. If the resume writer is doing the work instead of the candidate, the employer doing pre-interview screening has a harder time distinguishing between a candidate who hired a resume writer from one who believed it ethical to do his/her own work and/or who couldn’t financially afford a resume writer. And a candidate who, in fact, would have been a better employee than the one who hired a resume writer, won’t get a chance to prove that because s/he would have been eliminated in the pre-interview screening. Justice denied.The greater good precluded.

Cooper then asks me to answer 11 questions, again including a snarky and untrue statement about the publication that called me “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach.” Those questions basically reduce to one: “Why do some employers welcome resume writers?” Those that do, are misguided. Whatever clarifying benefit accrues from paid resume writers is outweighed by their obfuscating effects. Indeed, the percentage of hires that don’t work out is enormous. The annual employee turnover rate in the U.S., across all industries, is 75%! While, of course, other factors contribute to that, resume writers are far from helping.

I’d imagine that all of us entered a career-advising profession to make things better. With all the clearly societally beneficial professions out there, is it not unreasonable for me to ask if resume writers might want to revisit their choice of profession?

I am not expecting people in a profession that I’m critical of to embrace my arguments. Rather, despite my having written it to do good, I anticipated that paid resume writers would not agree, although not the low-level of their arguments, let alone dishonest, ad hominem accusations. Perhaps there may even be more of that. I certainly don't look forward to that. Indeed, like all human beings, I much prefer to be liked than derided.

But I’m hoping that, possibly, this kind of pointed exchange does serve a larger good. The career-advising profession hasn’t changed all that much over the decades and perhaps exchanges such as this could pave the way to further growth in the profession.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m deluding myself and using that as a rationalization for having taken all the time to write this. I'm hoping for the best.

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