my friend’s resume is killing her chances but she thinks I’m a know-it-all

A reader writes:

I’ve a childhood friend I’ve known nearly my whole life. She’s so close to my family that we consider one another family even though there is no relation. We have an odd relationship, more like siblings or cousins and less like friends sometimes. But I love her and want to see her succeed. She’s been trying since she graduated (a for-profit non-accredited school *sigh*) to find work in “her field” but hasn’t really been successful. She’s landed entry level positions that only require a high school diploma but are essentially giving her the experience she would need to land a higher level of employment, if she qualified it correctly.

Unfortunately, I think her degree is one of her hinderances. Many people don’t take degrees from her institution as credible. But I don’t want to be such a negative Nancy, so I don’t mention that when she laments her inability to get the career started she hopes to. In an effort to help, I asked for her resume so I could pass it on to some friends who work in her field who are in positions to possibly help her get a leg up. Unfortunately I just CANNOT, in good faith, hand this resume over to them in it’s current state. She has obviously been getting some REALLY bad advice from people in “career services” and probably naive family members and has taken it all very seriously and it’s really hurting her.

I want to help so badly, but we’ve recently had arguments where she’s stated that I think I know everything. But the thing is, I do a lot of research on things because I find it enjoyable and even though I don’t have to apply a lot of what I learn to my every day, the info is there in me just waiting to be used. Not to mention, the couple trusted friends I showed her resume to (one an HR Manager but for a totally different type of field), to ask their opinion agreed with me. Her resume is terrible! TERRIBLE ALISON. The thing is, I know she has a strong work ethic, is so very compassionate towards the demographic she wants to work with and passionate about her desired field. If she had the chance, she would shine and thrive and contribute wholly to the right organization. But it’s now obvious to me that she isn’t getting the interviews for the places she really wants to work because of her resume / school history and I really want to help so bad.

I want to rewrite her resume (every post reads like a job description, she has some typos, she writes “etc.” in some areas, and the layout and design is not friendly on the eye at all), help her qualify her achievements, trim the fat and fix the formatting as well as show her how to trash that form cover letter and really show these orgs why they need her! But I’m afraid I’ll offend her if I tell her bluntly that it sucks. (she also has a habit of thinking her education makes her a bit better than those of us who don’t have a degree and I think she thinks I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about – I didn’t earn a degree, but I run a successful business full time and make a good living, sometimes it bothers her.)

Showing her your blog won’t really help. I’ve been “suggestive” in the past about things and it didn’t resonate. Being direct would help, but I don’t want to offend her and I don’t want to drive a wedge between us.

I know I could rewrite her resume to at least help a bit! I don’t know how she is on interviews, but I can at least do this much. I’ve already played with it some in boredom, but I would of course need qualifiers from her in order to actually flesh it out.

Any advice? Should I just mind my own business and continue to be an ear when she is frustrated or depressed because she can barely make ends meet? I know she could do better and there are opportunities there and she would feel so much more accomplished if she could get into her field. (And I know it’s hard for ANY grad these days, but she has a few factors against her, one especially being where her degree is from… and she is SO proud of her degree and I’m proud of her for sticking it out, but I wish she had never gone there too. The amount of debt she has, and she can’t get above a certain pay grade, she will be in debt forever, it breaks my heart.)

This one isn’t yours to solve.

Your role here is to be a friend, a sounding board, a source of support — but not a job counselor.

You can certainly ask her if she’d like help and try to point her in the right direction, but if she doesn’t want to hear it (and it sounds like she doesn’t, at least for now), then it’s not your place to keep pushing.

I know how frustrating it is to see a friend making mistakes like this and be stuck on the sidelines when you could just fix it if only they would let you WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WON’T THEY JUST LET YOU. I know. Believe me.

But it’s not yours to fix. And it’s not even yours to advise on if she doesn’t want you to.

At most, you can say something like, “You know, I read a lot about job searching in this market and if you ever want me to help with your resume or point you toward some of the advice I’ve found most helpful, I’d love to.”

But all you can do here is offer — and let it go if she doesn’t take you up on it.

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    You could wait until Alison has another resume re-writing offer and buy one for your friend as a gift.

    1. fposte*

      I was just thinking this! Alison, you missed a marketing opportunity.

      And I’m also not as convinced as the OP that pointing her here won’t help. It’s certainly not going to hurt, and it won’t cost anything, so why not?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup! Don’t say “read this because your resume sucks,” but “oh BTW this is a blog that really helped me when I was job searching,” absolutely!

        1. Snork Maiden*

          I’ve said that and nope, still no uptake. Even showed them Alison’s e-book. Ya can’t force them to read AAM if they don’t want it. Although, now that her letter’s up I’m not sure I’d point the friend here lest she recognize herself!

          As a bossy sibling/friend, Alison’s advice is spot-on and much-needed to me. Bookmarking for frequent reminders.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            I should add, I get just as choked as everyone else here when people don’t follow our suggestions, er, gentle nudges, to read AAM!

          2. kac*

            I have a VERY similar relationship with my oldest friend and I have to say our relationship has improved a lot in the past year when I embraced this philosophy the Alison points out here: not my problem to solve. Not because I don’t care (I do!) but I realized that my bossy ways were just hurting her, isolating her, making her feel like I thought I knew better. Which was not my intention–I just saw a friend in need and wanted to FIX the things causing her pain.

            For me, I realized that I needed to be more humble with my friend, listen more and try to solve less. And not only do we enjoy each other’s company more, but we also are able to help each other more after all, because there’s less defensiveness and stubbornness on both sides.

            Good luck!

        2. INTP*

          Yeah, it could be framed as “so this site I read says that often advice from career centers or articles doesn’t match what real hiring managers want to see, here are some links…” That way there is zero criticism of herself, just the people advising her. And Alison has written about bad advice from career centers, articles, parents, etc on many occasions so it would be easy to pull some links.

      2. The Bimmer Guy*

        It seems like she’d take offense to that, too, and it’d be money wasted. For people that are too delicate to hear the truth, all you can do is nod and keep quiet…though that becomes difficult if they complain to you constantly.

        1. A Bug!*

          I agree. OP’s the one in the best position to anticipate how Friend will react. I would hate for the OP to be urged into doing something against her gut feeling and end up hurting her friendship.

          It’s obvious that OP means well. To watch someone you care about struggling when you’re sure you know how to fix it is agony, especially if you have a problem-solver personality. But not everybody wants their problems solved, and if Friend is already tired of OP offering unsolicited advice, then OP really does need to steer clear of anything that Friend might interpret that way.

          OP mentions she’s tried to be “suggestive” in the past. This makes me feel that Friend is already inclined to view indirect advice from OP as meddling. If that’s true, OP surprising Friend with a professional resume review might be received about as well as my mother-in-law buying me a new vacuum cleaner. It’s not that I wouldn’t have wanted a new vacuum. It’s that I know the motivation for the gift isn’t just “I thought you’d like this;” it’s “I thought you’d like this because you apparently don’t recognize how dirty your carpets are.”

          1. M-C*

            This one is so painful.. But I have another step for you to worry about. A friend of mine was getting roundly rejected at every opportunity, in part because she was using a resume for her dream career (no local work, not much work at all, and no recent experience) to apply for unrelated garden-variety middle management jobs. I set her up with a mutual friend, an ex-professor whose writing she respected, and she managed to hammer out a resume that reads much better, and shows her skills as a better match for what she’s applying for.

            But alas, it’s not really helping. Now she’s getting interviews, and blowing every one of them. Things like discussing salary at a phone interview, not even noticing that a phone interview is a real interview, etc etc. She’s now forgotten (or in denial) about the fact that we helped with the resume, and digging her heels in about any further advice. Pointing her here hasn’t helped a bit, I don’t think she’s ever even looked.

            I don’t know what else to do, so I’ve been taking AAM’s advice and doing nothing. It’s painful OP, I can’t tell you otherwise. But I think it’s much better for our mental health in the long term..

            1. OP*

              If it turns out that nothing fruitful will come of this, I will have to let it go. But I am going to try to tailor my approach first and talk to her one more time.

  2. lowercase holly*

    now that OP has the resume and isn’t passing it along, how would you suggest handling that? would you just not mention it again?

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I was just about to ask that! Maybe she could tell her friend, she spoke to her contacts but they couldn’t offer any help at this time.

    2. BRR*

      I’d not acknowledge it, say they said the same thing as you, say you can’t hand it over when it looks like this, or if it’s for an actual job you could say “I know Jane has said she prefers her resume to be like this.”

      1. Natalie*

        If OP just can’t let it go and has to help her friend, she could also ask for very candid advice and resources from a friend in the field.

        Sometimes it’s just better if the advice comes from someone else besides a close friend or family member.

        Then again, her friend just might not be ready to hear/accept the truth just yet. She’ll have to get to that point on her own.

        1. Sans*

          Exactly what I was thinking. Say your HR acquaintance had some suggestions about her resume; that way it’s coming from an “expert” instead of a friend.

        2. Josh S*

          Your HR Friend says the resume is “Terrible”?

          Perhaps ask if your HR friend would be willing to reach out directly and say something like, “Hi! I got your resume from Snork Maiden, who shared a lot about your passions. I think you have a lot to offer an employer…..but it’s really not showing up in your resume. Can I offer some suggestions for improving it?”

          I think that’s the closest OP is going to be able to get in terms of helping in any meaningful way. Otherwise, you lack the standing (professionally) and risk hurting the friendship if you attempt to be more direct.

          1. OP*

            This is a good idea. I’m still kind of on egg-shells about it but this is something to consider. I definitely need to fix / soften whatever way I do approach her, if I do. I’m sure she will follow up soon to ask if I’ve heard anything and so I need to prepare for that conversation either way.

            1. Beezus*

              Even just acknowledging that you feel awkward mentioning it in light of her comment earlier about you being a know-it-all might be helpful.

              1. OP*

                This is great. I think she and I need to have a conversation about this anyway. It was from left field when she said this and so there might be something she wants to tell me. If I frame it with that, it might actually help.

                Ultimately I am on this blog for the advice on cover letters and resumes, interviewing, etc and because as my business grows, I will be making hiring decisions some day soon too.

                I didn’t intend for this post to be a “relationship” column, but business relationships and dealings with people ARE important and so I am thankful she addressed my question.

    3. Soharaz*

      Is there a nice way to say ‘I’m sorry I don’t feel comfortable passing along your resume in its current state. I’m worried the quality will reflect on me and my judgement’?

  3. jag*

    I was reading this and thinking, “AAM shouldn’t really give advice about the resume – that’s not the issue here. The issue is about a non-work relationship which is off-topic for this blog.”

    1. Fabulously Anonymous*

      If Allison thought the question was off-topic then she wouldn’t have published it. :)

      I’ve come from another site where off-topic was strictly forbidden and could be cause for banning. That isn’t the case here.

    2. Adonday Veeah*

      Alison = Decider of All Things Topic.

      Thank heavens, because I’ve learned WAY more than just work-related stuff on this blog!

      1. Snork Maiden*

        Agreed, so much of the advice her pertains to parent/child dynamics, romantic relationships, and friendships, not just work dynamics.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          And I think that it makes sense, because a lot of her advice, especially for managers is “act like a normal person”, vs. putting on a contrived work personality. I also believe that people are distinguishing less and less between their work lives and their personal lives, and that lessons we learn in one can be useful in the other.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            Absolutely, the advice to be direct, concerned, and kind resonates in many situations.

    3. OP*

      While the intent of my email was “I want to rewrite this resume” it did end up being more of a relationship topic, however, I disagree with you that it was off-topic for this blog and I appreciate her input on this. I value her perspective as well as those of the community. Because if she ends up being receptive to trying something new with her resume, should it come to that, then this will be the number 1 place I will borrow from in helping her to revise it!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I would bet my last chocolate donut that at least 50% of the people reading here are trying to get someone in their life to read AAM and that someone just. will. not. do. it. So now what do we, the readers, do?
        I think the question is very relevant for this blog. Every week I see folks on here thanking Alison profusely for getting them out of a bad spot and into a better work environment. It’s pretty normal to want those around us to have similar successes.

        Personally, I have a friend who will not read AAM. She does everything AAM says not to do. It’s been a couple years now. I might as well talk to a wall. My friend is super smart- so she always has some reply handy. I cannot keep up with all the various replies. Or maybe I am just too tired to try to keep up? Net result is the same- I have not convinced her yet.

        In my case, OP, I backed down from recommending this blog to my friend. It’s not worth killing the friendship over. However, a part of me dies a little bit when I see what my friend is going through. She informs me that it is not my concern to wear. I guess she is right about that part.

        There are times in life where we can “be right” or we can have a quality of life, but we cannot have both. All I can do is look at my own desire to “be right” and see how my desire to “be right” is defeating me. I am not saying that you are trying to be right, too- no, not at all- I think you are a very cool, very caring person. Phrasing it in a different manner, our quality of life is attached, in part, to our willingness to listen to other people. Notice, I say “listen”. We don’t have to take every single piece of advice that gets thrown at us, but we do have to listen and consider. So all I have figured out so far is that I need to make sure I am listening to what others are saying, so I don’t get the short end of the deal, too.

        My friend has seen me negotiate a starting pay 25% higher than the top end of the offer. My friend has seen me triple my pay at another job. She STILL will not read this blog. I feel your pain, OP.

        Maybe you can get a mutual friend interested in reading the advice here and that mutual friend can help you talk it up. Sometimes a second voice works better than just one voice. I dunno…. I will be checking back here to see if anyone has something that might help me with my friend.

  4. NP*

    Why not be honest with her about what your contacts told you? You said you shared it with your contacts in her field, and they told you the resume was terrible. Tell her that those contacts think she needs to work on better presenting her experience and fixing the format, and lo and behold, your resume is a good example of how to do that.

    1. Dana*

      I think handled properly, this could be an way in, but only if she isn’t repeating things that have already been said. If OP has said “this format isn’t working” and comes back to Friend and says “oh, the people I tried to pass your resume on to said this format isn’t working” it’s not at all going to sound helpful or sincere. I’m also not sure if OP made it clear to Friend that handing over the resume would elicit constructive criticism. I think Friend was just hoping it to be passed along for potential jobs.

    2. Helen of What*

      This is exactly what I’d do. Given, people have been a lot more accepting of assistance in my experience (I’ve reformatted/proofread resumes for mom and sisters, which they were happy about). But if I had a resistant friend and I literally said “Look, I couldn’t get you in the door with Friends X, Y and Z because they didn’t like your resume. They mentioned that A and B need changing.” And if they think they don’t need help or resources, you just gotta let it go.

      1. OP*

        I definitely feel like she will follow-up with me soon to find out if I’ve heard anything and I can’t lie and say I’ve heard nothing, so I am preparing for how to address it in order for her to be possibly be receptive. If she then declines, then I will have to let it go.

        Ideally, I’d be so excited to show her this blog and for her to tailor her approach to her career and really take off but I don’t think she will scour this blog the way I have.

        1. E*

          Can you pass along some of the feedback you’ve received about her resume? If the advice to improve it doesn’t come directly from you, but you tell her that one of the managers who reviewed her resume was nice enough to let you know that it needed to be updated, she might accept this better.

  5. BRR*

    I disagree about being a sounding board (although I’m not sure if the friend is complaining). It’s my personality but I would say that you’ve offered your help and you have your opinion on the matter. That’s all there is to it for me.

    1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*


      My mom used to always say, “You get to complain about something once. If you don’t do anything about it, you lose your right to complain.”

      1. Sans*

        I tell my daughter that. It doesn’t help. I’m thinking of putting it on a tshirt.

        1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

          Maybe by the time she’s in her mid-20s it will finally sink in. It took me a decade or two to appreciate the advice (as with most advice from my parents).

    2. LBK*

      I think that would be a good time for the “Are you just venting, or do you want help?” question. That way if the person says they’re just venting, you officially relieve yourself of being expected to provide any kind of solution.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Yeah, this is a legit question.

        I also like encouraging the rule of “you get to vent about it three times, then I don’t want to hear any more unless you’re taking action to change it.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Amen. “I have my own full set of complaints and I do not have room for yours- thank you very much!”

          I do not mind helping people with whatever comes along. But I expect to see progress of some sort. They don’t even have to take my advice, they can build their own plan from something else, I don’t care where the plan comes from. I don’t even worry about the amount of progress, I just want to see some progression of thought/motion going on.

          Maybe you can ask what she is willing to do to change her situation. This might be a helpful question if you think she feels you do not understand her setting or the limits of what she has to work with. It’s also a good point to say you are worried, or that you care a lot about what she is going through.

      2. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

        Yes! I’d also be extra wary of offering anything that even sounds like advice in the immediate aftermath of a job-related disappointment. There are times I can hear good advice and times when it makes me Very Sad (or more rarely Very Angry), just because I’m full of raw FEELINGS and will vent the sadness or anger at the person offering helpful advice—because they’re there. Maybe your friend is different and can be receptive to help even while disappointed or upset, but I’ve had to admit to myself that I’m just not, and I require sufficient time to cool off/lick my psychic wounds before I can be a person again.

  6. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    When I’ve had friends job hunting, I always just point them to this site and say how helpful it has been for me. I usually point out that it has a fabulous section on resumes when I know the person has a sub-par resume. I’ll also sometimes offer help, but usually I just find it better to give people resources and let them choose whether or not they want to use them.

    1. Anony-moose*

      +1. I do this all the time.

      What is hard for me is that very few people even visit the blog. I have two friends who hem and haw over how hard it is to job hunt. I even bought one of them Allison’s book. Three months ago. It is still unread.

      So I keep saying “This is an invaluable resource” and that’s as much effort as I put into it.

      In contrast, one friend asked me to help her prep for an interview. I said yes, we went to our local 24 hour Korean Day Spa and after we were sufficiently relaxed I pulled out AAM. Four hours later my friend had her laptop, ipad, notebooks, highlighters, and had read the whole interview prep AND taken notes. That made me so happy I could hardly stand it. She also called me after the interview to tell me how helpful it had been and how she was going to start reading the blog.

      1. Anna*

        The 2nd friend sounds like someone I’d like the hire. Maybe I’m digging too deep, but I’d be weary of recommending anyone who doesn’t take advice well. I don’t particularly like people who don’t help themselves.

        1. Anony-moose*

          Oh yes. This times 1,000,000. I was actually a bit off-put by the two friends who blew off the advice then continued to come to me with complaints and even for job help. I had also looked at their resumes and send them job leads. I told my partner to be very wary of recommending them for positions (he is in their field) after that.

          But someone who took advice, looked at it, saw it had value, and then rocked it? There’s a reason she’s doing quite well in her career.

          1. OP*

            I would be so happy for her (and feel good myself, lol) if she was as receptive as your friend. I think she WANTS to be, but she takes really outdated advice from older adults in our family and I think she thinks sometimes I just don’t know what it’s like (it’s harder for me to say “this worked for me” because I am self-employed and don’t interview for jobs and I didn’t finish my degree, but my business IS successful) to job search. I just have to figure out how to frame it.. loving the relaxed spa idea, haha!!

            I hope she knows I just care about her career growth and not that I’m trying to be a know it all!

            1. M-C*

              OP, this blog has some excellent advice specifically for young people who take outdated (or out to lunch) advice from family members who haven’t job-hunted since 1965, if at all. Like printing your resume on nice paper, stalking HR on a daily basis to show how eager you are etc etc. It might be worth finding some of those specific gems, and keeping them on hand for when you have The Conversation. Since this seems the root of the problem, restricting your intervention to just that might be the most helpful? Then if they see the light they’re free to read about some good advice on their own :-).

      2. danr*

        You’ve pinpointed the difference here. Two people are complaining, but don’t want help. One person asked for help and you were ready to help. When the OP’s friend stops complaining and asks for help, the OP will be ready to help. Until then all she can do is listen, nod or shake her head and not push.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I do too. I’ve learned so much from this site that I can’t imagine not coming here if I had any work-related questions (here or Evil HR Lady).

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        me too! I followed some career sections of reddit and it took everything in my power to not just post the AAM URL as a response to every single question. If I have work questions, this is the best place to get them answered.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Same here.

          I saw someone the other day advocating calling daily after submitting a resume or job application. Even if they say “no phone calls” in the ad. Even if they hint that you should stip calling. Even if Even if they explicitly tell you to stop calling. Even if you’re told the job posting was filled. Even if they say they will never have a position for you. Because eventually they’ll get so fed up they’ll either hire you or recommend a friend hire you just to make you stop calling.

          My head just about exploded.

    3. Rana*

      That’s probably as hands-on as you want to be, yes. Speaking as someone who basically gave up job searching entirely (and went freelance) because it was too frustrating, one of the worst things was the way that talking about my frustrations immediately put almost everyone around me into Fix-It mode.

      And it didn’t feel helpful; it felt like they didn’t think I was capable of solving my own problems, which was not really what I wanted to hear when I was already struggling and feeling like a failure. (And worse, they’d often suggest things that I’d already tried and discovered didn’t work, either because the advice was bad, period, or because it was advice that would have worked for someone who wasn’t me – i.e., requiring schmoozing at an advanced level like my FIL can do, but which I have never managed – or advice that was not appropriate for my line of work, etc..)

      I really appreciated the friends who would listen to what I was really saying – I was frustrated and scared and felt like crap – and not try to fix the situation for me. Those were the people I trusted to ask for advice when I was in a better headspace, because I didn’t have to worry that a simple request for information about a specific task was going to produce a tsunami of generic, less-than-helpful suggestions that basically implied I had no clue and that there’d be no struggle if I just did all the “right” things. (Pro tip: it doesn’t work that way. You can do everything correctly and still be unemployed, if there are big structural problems with your chosen field.)

      1. Rana*

        And lovely as this site is, it’s not the end-all-and-be-all for job searching. Alison’s advice, for example, often plain doesn’t work in an academic context, where the expectations regarding cover letters and resumes curriculum vitae are very, very different.

        1. LBK*

          I’ve always wanted someone who does something totally outside the white collar (or even blue collar) world to write in. Like, an actor having issues with their director or a singer frustrated at the audition process.

          1. Rana*

            That would be really interesting! Alison might have to throw it out to the group though; it’s not fair to expect her to be an expert in everything. ;)

  7. TotesMaGoats*

    Ok. I’m going to completely disagree and say that if you are as close of friends as you say then it’s your duty as a friend to tell her these things. Be prepared for the fall out though. I had a young man at my church who I like but don’t consider a “friend” per se, ask me to look at his resume. I COMPLETELY reorganized it. To the point it was unrecognizable. His culinary school gave awful formatting advice. He was very thankful and not just because he got the job as head chef for a day care provider at a major government agency.

    Your mileage it totally going to vary. I know with my friends who I would describe in the same light as you did, I could be very blunt about this. Others who weren’t as close, I would take a different approach.

    1. MK*

      I think you disregard the fact that it’s in fact easier to take criticism from relative strangers than people more close to you. And it’s very much a “know your friend” situation. This person does not found like someone who will benefit from hearing blunt truths; also if she hasn’t actually asked the OP for advice, not only is it not their duty, but it is also not their place to throw negative feedback to her face.

  8. LiteralGirl*

    You could buy Alison’s ebook for her. That way, the advice isn’t just coming from you. I have found it extremely helpful!

    1. Dang*

      Yeah, I gave it to my father when he was laid off… and he landed a job quickly. Some of the things he would report saying in interviews or other correspondence would make me cringe, so I made him read it.

    2. OP*

      Definitely thought about it! Just don’t want the purchase wasted if she’s not receptive. I have to decide based on our interactions going forward if this is something she would be receptive to. I am considering how to tailor my approach and the conversation going forward, before letting go completely and just dealing with how I feel about it with myself. Going to try to approach it once with her and then if she’s open, we can rock out. If she’s not, I have to let it go.

  9. Anon for this one*

    what if you take friend and substitute with spouse?

    How does one approach the situation then?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think the advice really changes, presuming you’re getting the same response, unless you know of some magical technique that makes spouses respond to all advice by joyfully following it.

      You can help if you’re asked, and you can probably make a suggestion/offer uninvited once or twice and see how it’s received, but if spouse or friend is resistant to help, you really can’t force them to job hunt the way you think they should. Not because it’s wrong or hurtful to a relationship (even though it would be), but because it’s genuinely impossible.

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Sometimes, if you know the person well enough, if you think quickly and master the art of questioning, there is a chance to ask the right questions and make that person re-think their position. But you can only direct their train of thoughts, the final conclusion *must* be theirs. There are also some reframing techniques that, coupled with questions, make for a pretty powerful persuasion tool. But these only work sometimes, and for trained people (or natural talents).

      2. fposte*

        P.S. If you ever develop that magical technique, you could make so much money from selling it that nobody in your family will ever need a resume again :-).

    2. TheLazyB*

      I think the most important thing to remember is that you’re their friend, not their parent. I wish SOOOO hard that my DH would read some of the stuff on here, start networking, improve his CV, etc etc, but you know what – he doesn’t want to. And if I push him he’s gonna start spitting his dummy out, and much as I want to push it I wouldn’t blame him.

      You have to be even more careful with spouses than friends IMO.

    3. Cublicle Guy*

      I think in the case of a spouse the situation is different. Not getting job interviews because of a bad resume can affect the other spouse or the whole family, if they have one. It’s one thing to let your friend learn from his or her mistakes, it’s another thing to step aside when your partner needs the help. I can’t imagine telling your husband or wife that their resume really needs some work can be any harder than telling them they’ve gotten unhealthy or they’re underperforming in the bedroom lol. In this situation I’d just lay the facts down gently, but straight.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        We saw the spouse situation a few days ago during the open thread on interview coaching with a spouse. That’s a tricky bit of business–you’ve got to figure out if they really want coaching, a cheerleader, or a sympathetic ear. Approach with caution and remember, while you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.

        (Though you can make the water look as enticing as possible–in fact, this is practically a working definition of what non-mandatory career services offices do with students.)

    4. Jennifer*

      In the case of my last ex, I kept hands off because I might have ended up in this situation.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      It definitely depends on the person. With my husband, I could sort of draw him in. It looked like this:

      Step 1: Small situation occurs. I offer advice I read somewhere. Advice works. Hubby was happy.
      Step 2: Similar occurrence. Advice works and the small situation is resolved. Hubby was happy again.
      Step 3: This happens again. And three times is a charm. “Were are you getting this good advice from?” “Well, I was looking at this cool site/book/magazine and I liked it, so I have been reading it for a while.” Then he would either take a look or ask me to give the shortened version of what was said on a particular point. (Sometimes we read things “for” each other, anyway.)

    6. Amanda*

      Oh geez I have a similar issue. My husband is receptive to coaching, but he’s a non native English speaker and while his spoken English is quite good, his written English is pretty atrocious. I’m fine with editing spelling and minor grammar, but when I work with him on simple things (capitalization, punctuation, clarity), it doesn’t seem to sink in! He’s going into trucking, so he can have a steady job that doesn’t include writing for the time being while he also works on his English skills.

  10. Leah*

    There are actual errors in her resume that are not just a stylistic choice? Has anyone pointed out the errors to this person?

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Some people won’t hear you even in that regard. A colleague told me a few years ago about a recent grad who argued with her about every suggestion my colleague made about her resume. This included leaving a section titled “Summery of Qualifications” because “spell-check didn’t flag it as a misspelled word.”

      I said, “I guess the only thing to do is leave her in the Winter of her Discontent.”

    2. OP*

      Yes, there are a couple spelling errors, and then she lists duties and in a few positions wrote “…etc” when she tired of listing out her duties, haha. Also, her cover letter also doesn’t make much sense, and she’s using a form one. I can’t help but think people aren’t even getting past the cover letter to see the bad resume.

      She doesn’t qualify any accomplishments at any of her past or current employment (including the fact that she was promoted fairly quickly in her current position, which is GREAT. But she isn’t in her “field” and is being paid wages that she can’t live on at all)

      1. E*

        Just a thought but can you share your resume with her as an example? If she sees the difference and how appealing the changes can be, that might encourage her to put in minimal effort. She may think this is a huge undertaking.

  11. Sadsack*

    I really feel for you. I was once in the exact same position as you, or at least very similar. My best friend in the world had the most awful resume ever written. She actually handed it to me and asked for my opinion. Once I had a chance to take it all in, I started commenting about some things that I’d change. She absolutely could not take the criticism. She argued why everything she had and they way she had it was important to keep just that way. I finally handed it back to her and said yep, that should be fine then. I felt bad because she was really having trouble finding work after going back to school for a new career. Her school’s “career center” had given her ideas and they were all just terrible. However, I realized that my friend didn’t really want my advice even though she asked for it; she wanted approval of what she had already done and was not interested in changing any of it. So, I let it go, as painful as it was to do and as painful as it was to have to watch and listen to her wonder why she couldn’t find a job. She found one eventually though. Maybe there is hope for your friend, but you have to let her come to the conclusion that her resume needs improvement. Sometimes we cannot accept advice from those who are closest to us.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Hmmm. . .did your friend get a billing position at my company?

      I had no fewer than 10 emails back and forth to get something changed on an invoice that was going to my client. (What I wanted changed was written in our contract, but this person kept arguing with me anyway.)

      This why I recommend being hands off. I know it’s not true for everyone, but for many people, it’s true that they kind of end up where they should be in the workforce. If they can’t take criticism, hear advice, do research, or follow directions, they will not get the good jobs they want.

      1. Sadsack*

        Ha, no. None of her jobs were ever in an office environment. Part of the problem may have been that she wasn’t that familiar with professional documents/communication. She was “advised” to let her personality come through. She was trying to make her resume personal and artistic, even though she wasn’t in an artistic field. Also, I think she just had trouble taking advice from me because I am like a sister to her. This was also many years ago when we’d both only been working for a few years, and long before I could have pointed her to AAM!

    2. OP*

      Yeah, similar problem. I think she is going to hold so tightly to what the “career services” center at her “school” told her (mind you, this is NOT a good institution) because they MUST know what they are talking about and I don’t even go on job interviews (I’m self employed) so how would I know!?

      Its frustrating, but if she doesn’t follow up with me I might just have to swallow it. Unless she keeps complaining!! I just don’t want it to cause a fight, especially because we recently had a tiny little blow up and out of left field (had nothing to do with the little spat we were having) she said “you always think you know everything” and I bit my tongue and just said “okay.”)

      I want better for her! We fight like siblings, lol. But I love her and I genuinely just want to help and I want to see her feel fulfilled.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I know you can’t say this- but if you don’t know anything about job hunting then why, oh, why is she telling you all about her problems? What would be the point of that?

        I don’t go to my tax prep person and tell her about my medical woes, jeepers. In my own life, I don’t talk to a male friend about the problems with bra shopping. There is just no point to these conversations.

        1. OP*

          You’d think (but I do have experience job-hunting, lol I’m just saying I feel like she looks at me that way sometimes)!

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          Ha. I get what you’re saying but I gripe about bra shopping and menopause to my dude friends a lot! They provide some interesting perspective for me, and they say they appreciate the window into a different world.

    3. Jennifer*

      I have some friends like this, and… yeah, I keep my mouth shut. Even if they are struggling and having problems and need help (and might have even asked for it), they really can’t take actually changing anything or being told that this needs revising.

  12. Joey*

    If it were my close friend Id say “lets bet lunch/$20/the drink tab on whose version of your resume will get you results quicker.”

    1. Mike C.*

      Seriously this. The best evidence is, “if it’s so great, why are you still looking?”

    2. Artemesia*

      I agree here. Propose an experiment. Tell her ‘career centers’ are notoriously out of touch and give outdated useless advice; this may be why you aren’t getting offers or interviews. Let’s do an experiment. Let me help you rewrite your cover letter and resume and let’s try it for a month and see if it works better. If it doesn’t, you then can go back to the old resume.

      I’d probably tell her that the people in HR you showed it to told you that she didn’t look like a good fit based on her resume and that you think they are making a mistake — that people can’t see what she has to offer.

      Part of the issue though is that you have obviously nagged and she has obviously resisted so you may not be able to do anything at this point. That is why I suggest being bold about it not subtle and proposing action i.e. an experimental test of a different cover/resume package.

  13. Dang*

    This is neither here nor there, but holy moly.. I missed the linked post about UofP and its comments… and… WHOA.

      1. Love my alma mater*

        You really turned your nose up at her school choice. I graduated from a for profit. Prior to the degree, I had a couple admin jobs but nothing serious. In the five years since, I’ve been in two jobs that required the degree and they happily accepted it. My first job, post-graduation, was as a director for a NFP college. They actually said that for profit schools have a bad rep but just a few years ago, an AA at a community college was considered crap but it isn’t anymore. CC’s are gaining more and more respect. Many of these newer schools are following the same path. The same level of dedication and education is required but they cost more. Quit turning your nose down at her degree. They aren’t all bad and can be helpful. Try being a supportive friend and less like her own personal judge.

        1. OP*

          I would have rather she went to a CC with a program to transfer to a state school to finish her BS. We have one of the best ranked CC’s in the country in our county as well as some top ranked state schools and universities all around us. Many CC’s are great. I am not talking about a CC.

          100K debt for degrees that aren’t accredited from a predatory institution is honestly criminal. I’ve said it before and I will say it LOUDLY: I am not judging her or her degree! I am saddened that in her quest to better herself after some very tumultuous life events, she was preyed upon due to her naivety. I am stating facts. Her “degree” is NOT recognized as legitimate from most hiring standpoints. That’s the fact of the matter. It’s not a “judgment.”

        2. Sadsack*

          OP is obviously trying to be a supportive friend and did not state in her post that she has ever told her friend that she thinks her school sucks.

  14. AnotherAlison*

    I think I’m on team let-it-go. I’m definitely not a helper who enjoys inserting myself into other people’s business anyway, but my husband is. Without listing off all the people and their situations that have frustrated the snot out of my husband, I’ll just say some people can’t be helped. When you help them, they’ll do something done to ruin it anyway, and somehow this will negatively affect you.

    You help her redo her resume, you send it to a contact, and then she gets hired but turns out to be a crappy employee. You look bad for recommending her. She is showing a few “bad employee” characteristics. . .I’d keep my relationship strictly personal.

    1. anon for this*

      As we say in AA meetings, help isn’t for people who need it; it’s for people who want it.

    2. OP*

      *sigh* Something to consider.

      I have never worked with her, so I don’t know how she is as an employee (I do know she is committed and dedicated to her jobs even the seemingly menial ones. She is a very organized and punctual person. But she takes herself very seriously and so there may be some issues with inflexibility there, which is definitely part of what’s making it hard for me to just say “hey, this is really bad and reflecting poorly on you)

      1. neverjaunty*

        OP: people do not generally respond well to “let me fix everything you are doing wrong because I know better.” Not many people like to feel like somebody else’s fixer-upper project.

        1. Rana*

          Yes. Especially since, even though you clearly care deeply for this person, there’s a tone of “but she does so many things WRONG!” running through your letter and comments here.

          What is she doing RIGHT? Maybe focus on that?

          1. OP*

            I stated several things that she does right, in my original letter and in the comments here. I’m not making her a “fixer-upper” either, as mentioned above. My factual “opinion” on her degree and her school aren’t about her as a person, but about my disdain for the predatory practices of that institution. My qualms with her resume, again aren’t attacks on her as a person, but rather a feeling of helplessness where I know someone who is organized, passionate, punctual and dedicated is being overlooked because her “marketing” materials are poor.

  15. jen*

    OP, i have been right there with my own friend. the for-profit school AND the terrible resume. a long, long job search. wouldn’t take most of my advice even though she asked for it, and i already work in that field (different city). you just have to be the support and if there’s an opening, try to suggest a tweak to something small rather than an overhaul. it could help her see things in a new light without feeling like an attack. but if there’s no real opening, just be there for her – job searches are frustrating and hard

    1. OP*

      They are frustrating and hard, for everyone! Which I think she uses that knowledge to explain why she’s getting no traction. I don’t think she realizes they don’t have to be THIS hard! haha.

  16. Dang*

    Honestly, I think being suggestive won’t work. You either have to come out and say something or just stay quiet about it. Maybe she’s responding defensively because she senses that you are critical but doesn’t really understand the whole picture of why.

    From her responses, it sounds like she’s not open to constructive criticism. So don’t put yourself in that position when she’s shown you time and again that she snaps and doesn’t appreciate your input. Sorry to be harsh, but I don’t think you can help her, and if you try, it’s going to damage your relationship further.

    1. OP*

      Maybe she’s responding defensively because she senses that you are critical but doesn’t really understand the whole picture of why.

      Yes, I think she thinks that I judge her for her choices because I’m been vocal in the past about how terrible I think ALL for-profit schools are, including the one she attended. I don’t judge her, I’m angry on her behalf but I don’t think she sees it that way. I need to consider how I come off, too. Thinking about it in depth has helped me realize my approach may be partially to blame but the other half is definitely she just might not be open to it and I may have to accept that.

      1. Rana*

        Unfortunately, you are kind of judging her here. You’re seeing her as a victim, rather than a person with agency who made a choice you would not have, and that’s coming through in a lot of your comments, as well meant as they are.

        She made the choice to attend one of those institutions, for good or for ill, and presumably to her it didn’t feel like a blind, silly choice when she made it. Yes, she may have been taken advantage of, but if she doesn’t feel that way, you run the risk of coming across as thinking “Oh, silly, naive friend, who was too trusting and ignorant to not be taken in by Bad For-Profit School.” No one wants to be thought of silly and naive, even if they end up regretting their choice.

        Even if her choice was/is objectively terrible, it was still hers to make, and unless she feels victimized by it, you need to respect her agency in making it.

        (Sorry if I’m sounding harsh; I’ve just been the recipient of too much well-meant advice that felt condescending, even when not intended to be, for just this reason.)

        1. Rana*

          And that may be part of why she’d rather listen to Bad Career Center than to you; if she admits that you are right and Bad Career Center is wrong, that’s tantamount to admitting that she made a shitty choice or was tricked by her school. That’s a hard thing to admit to oneself, especially after putting so much time/energy/money into something.

  17. Ultraviolet*

    Is there anyone among the contacts you intended to pass her resume to who would be willing to sit down with your friend for an hour and give her some career and job search advice? She might take it more seriously coming from someone else. And helping her build a professional network would be a huge favor.

    You could also drop the resume issue and advocate writing a better cover letter. It sounds like right now the things that make her a really good candidate are things that will come through more in a cover letter than a resume anyway.

    You could also try framing the resume improvements you’re arguing for as being preferences of your contacts rather than being simply right. I don’t feel great about that since your resume advice probably applies most of the time and her mistakes are probably mistakes most of the time. But it’s possible that she would be more willing to accept that you know your contacts’ preferences than that you have a lot of job-search expertise in general.

    1. Well*

      I should read the thread more carefully – I had the same thought. (Re: setting up a meeting with someone else).

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I always think it helps to hear an idea from one more than one person on these threads! It’s useful to know it seemed like a good idea to multiple people. :)

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I was actually searching to see if someone else had suggested this, too! It’s definitely best if OP can just let it go, but that is so much easier said than done. But even though it’s obvious that the friend doesn’t respect OP’s advice, maybe she’ll listen to someone in her field. And, since you mentioned networking, that can be hugely helpful too. The better her network, the less she’ll have to rely on her (terrible) resume and cover letter. (Not that they become insignificant, just that the network will help tip the scale.)

          1. OP*

            I have a dear friend (who I actually have in mind to give her resume to and is in a position to employ her or recommend her through the org she works for, but I don’t want to give it to her now in its current state) who has basically attainted everything she aspires to. She of course went to a credible school, had the right internships and volunteer work etc. But she definitely KNOWS what it takes and could be a great mentor. But I didn’t want to color her view of my “cousin/friend” by letting her see the resume as it currently is, so I haven’t brought it up. I’m not sure what to do in this regard.

            1. Ultraviolet*

              Yeah, that’s a real problem. Do you think you could convince your job-seeking friend that the prospective mentor wouldn’t like her resume in its current state, without worrying about convincing her that actually almost no one would like it? Maybe you could say you’ve discussed resumes with this contact in the past and are familiar with her opinions on them.

              Or maybe you could set up a meeting between the two without passing the resume along first? It would probably come up in the meeting but wouldn’t have to be the very first impression your friend makes.

              Finally, do you think it would work to tell the contact upfront that your friend has a lot of promise (as you described in your letter) but could use some guidance in areas like putting together an effective resume?

              Though I guess you also have to consider the possibility that the job-seeking friend won’t listen to the mentor’s advice either. If you think that scenario’s likely, you’d better consider its impact on your own relationship with the mentor.

              This is a really tricky and interesting situation, so I appreciate the updates!

              1. OP*

                I think she would be receptive, because she’s in a position that she aspires to be in and she’s such a warm and caring person she would never come across as intimidating so that my “cousin-friend” won’t feel “smaller”

                I think its possible if I told “mentor-friend” in a roundabout manner that her “marketing” needs some fine-tuning that she wouldn’t be closed off to helping her get a foot in and could possibly help.

                I’m doing some thinking on this. Not trying to be pushy or make her a project or anything but as AAM said, I will approach this once more, but I am going to be more direct but softer with it then I will let it go after that.

                If anything comes of any of this I will write AAM with an update.

        2. Ultraviolet*

          Uh, I now want to clarify that I meant it can be useful to advice-seekers to know which ideas seemed good to multiple people. Not just my ego or something…

  18. Dasha*

    OP, your friend may just need time. She’s probably really proud of her resume and feels like you are making a personal attack on her. Offer help one last time (per Alison’s wording), if she shuts you down let her know if she changes her mind you’re here to help and then let it go and be as supportive as you can to your friend.

    1. OP*

      She definitely feels my approach is a personal attack on her (it’s totally not!!) and I have to consider how I am coming across.

      1. KAPK*

        OP, what about taking her completely off the table? As in, no comparison to you or other job seekers, and no comment on your view of her resume/cover letter. Re-define your “help” so to speak.
        For example, she’s given you a really great opening by giving you her resume (would have been better if she had asked you to pass it along, but since you did, I think you should bite the bullet on this one) When she asks about it (or you could bring it up), you could gently tell her that after some thought, you weren’t fully comfortable passing along the resume for a job, but that you have a friend that is in the industry she’d like to get into and you could help set up a 30 minute informational interview if she’d like – to help her get contacts in the industry and to see how other people achieved their goals, and found jobs, presented their resumes, etc. You’d be more than happy to use your own network in that way. Connect the two initially and then you step away completely – let your contact develop their own relationship with her (it doesn’t matter if she sees her resume first or not, she can make her own determinations about your friend), let your friend seek the feedback she desires, let your contact bring up reviewing the resume if she deems it important/a part of their relationship.

        Your role here is to connect her with industry members who can give her honest feedback and input. You help her by helping her develop her to a network, however minute at this stage. Not by re-doing her resume. Generally, a good network is better than a good resume. ;-)

  19. kitty*

    I have a friend just like this.
    It’s so hard to “let it go” when you know you could help and she just doesn’t see the light. I guess what I would do is give it one last try, saying something like “I’ve done a lot of research lately on how to improve resumes and what current hiring managers want to see, and I can help you if you want.”
    “If you want” is the main statement here. By offering, you’ve showed her that you’re an available resource, and it’s up to her to reach out to seek and accept that help from you. If she brushes you off or calls you a know-it-all, then you really can’t do any more (and shouldn’t). If she is not mature enough to know how to use a great resource that’s right there in front of her, asking to be used, then she has a long way to go on her job search/planning for her own future.
    Sometimes we just have to let people grow on their own, because forcing them to accept help or taking something out of their hands and re-doing it ourselves is harming their ability to be successful on their own. Good luck!

  20. AndersonDarling*

    I wonder if the OP could tackle the problem by saying it would be fun to rewrite the resume. She really enjoys researching resume trends and writing them for friends. When you turn it that way, the OP is really asking the friend for a favor.
    Of course the friend may dump the new resume in the bin.

    1. OP*

      the funny thing here is it WOULD BE FUN FOR ME!! lol. I really do enjoy this kind of thing. I need to figure out how to frame it this way. It could work! If she dumps it, she dumps it. But I think I would be able to just let it go so much easier at that point.

  21. Molly*

    None of your business. You say she laments her career situation, but it doesn’t sound like she’s ever actually asked you to help. I find when people “want to help so badly” because the situation “breaks [their] heart,” their intentions aren’t typically coming from a place of actually wanting to help, but rather from a place of wanting to say “I told you so” and be right. Let her live her life, move on, and don’t worry about it. (Easier said than done!)

    1. Adam*

      From another angle, some people are “helpers” to the point where it crosses a line into something that feels more like “parenting.” I know a woman like this who wants nothing more to help in every situation imaginable. She’s always bringing treats or drinks even though we didn’t ask her to. You’ll mention a challenge you have at work and she’ll be texting you ideas she thought of the next day to handle it. Etc. Etc.

      On one level it feels sweet as she means well and she gets a charge out of being helpful, but after it goes on for a while you start to worry if you’re taking advantage of her kindness, especially since she doesn’t often ask for anything herself.

      And sometimes you just feel a little irritable when you want to do something for yourself. “You know, this my house. I can get my own water, but thank you [person].”

      1. AnotherAlison*

        And sometimes you just feel a little irritable when you want to do something for yourself. “You know, this my house. I can get my own water, but thank you [person].”

        Lol, I had a former martyr friend who was always doing this sort of thing. Drove me nuts. It’s my house. I’m not cleaning up after a party after midnight. I will happily do it in the morning, and I don’t really appreciate you doing it for me, because everyone else wants to chill out and you’re running around like an idiot putting away wine glasses and paper plates. But, in her mind we’re all a bunch of assholes for not jumping up to help her.

        1. Adam*

          Yep, she’s always asking if I need help cleaning after an event which is polite by itself. But sometimes she’ll just start doing it and I’m sitting there going “Err…everyone’s gone. You can go home now.”

          1. Adam*

            She really is an incredibly sweet person, but it gets to be a little much sometimes.

        2. Beezus*

          My sister in law is one of those. She volunteers to do things that she doesn’t want to do, and then feels sorry for herself that she has to do them and grumbles and guilts people about it. Or she gives things away that she regrets and wants to take back later! It’s this weird self-sacrifice thing that she expects other people to do in return, too. I love her to death, but it drives me up the wall and I will not participate in it. I’m very wary of accepting anything from her or offering her anything. I feel like I need to validate that it’s really voluntary all around, and that’s just exhausting.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yes, and there’s also the deal where roles in the friendship calcify — you go through one rough patch, and your friend helps you out a lot, and suddenly for the rest of your life you are The Troubled Friend and your friend is The Virtuous Helper. See this Onion article. I don’t think the OP and her friend are there, exactly, but it’s maybe worth being mindful of as she goes forward with any “gentle hinting about how I can fix this for you” plan.

    2. OP*

      (in the past she has asked for help, as far as finding job leads, because she knows I’m good at those kinds of things)

      But no, she hasn’t directly asked for specifically resume help since she graduated 4 years ago (and got the stellar advice from her schools career services *long sigh*)

      Lastly, this is definitely not an “I told you so” situation. I am genuinely frustrated for her. I am very upset she was preyed upon by her school and has an amount of educational debt that $10.50/hr will never ever be able to cover. It’s always going to be a bit of a struggle with that amount of debt on her shoulders, but she deserves better.

  22. misspiggy*

    This is going to make me sound horribly interfering, but I’ve completely rewritten several resumes in the past, when shared with me by email. I say, ‘It looks great! Your experience is really awesome, I had no idea you’d done so many cool things. I’ve just edited it a bit so that it would fit more precisely with (my field/the preferences of the person you wanted me to send it to). Feel free not to use it if it doesn’t work for you though!’

    And then I do a massive edit, without changing the substantive content, but significantly altering the presentational syle, and altering as much of the layout and formatting as possible without rendering it totally unrecognisable. I am a quick editor and I do this as fast as I can, so that it doesn’t look like I’ve spent hours on it and will therefore be offended if they don’t like it.

    I’ve only ever got delighted feedback from doing this (and the people concerned are still very much speaking to me…) That might be because it’s been a relief to my friends to see what ‘better’ looks like in black and white, without feeling overwhelmed by having to try and make all those changes themselves. And if the edit doesn’t work for them, they know they’re completely free to ditch it. I never follow up or check whether it got used. I also think that if you don’t draw attention to all the changes you’ve made, it’s not so humiliating for the other person; they can convince themselves that you didn’t change all that much really, so their hard work wasn’t wasted. YMMV, of course!

    1. HumbleOnion*

      I’ve done this too, for a guy I used to work with. He had a lot of great professional experiences, but left them off his resume in favor of a hobbies section. It was also in Courier font. After I gave it back to him, he started using it & was amazed by how many interviews he got.

    2. Magda*

      I agree with this approach. A graphic designer friend actually sent me a copy of her resume as a template, the style of which I pretty shamelessly copied. What was critical was that she offered it as an example but didn’t get bossy or picky about how I used it. I can tell you I would have shut down fast if she had.

      1. OP*

        Part of my background is in graphic design, so I have already redone her layout for fun! (It really is fun for me)
        But I need information from her in order to actually rewrite it. I know some things but most of what’s on her resume is job duties! No accomplishments, nothing to qualify her learned skills or achievements at work.

        I would feel a little crazy giving it back to her without acknowledging what I was doing though. You’re just tad bit braver than I am! haha

        1. Andrea*

          If she does ask for feedback, and seems open to it, maybe you can write her some questions to answer for each job to get her started on gathering info to rewrite? It could help to reframe her thinking and inspire her, although it might be more effective if you could get her to talk out some of the answers with you so that you can help her dig a little for the accomplishments that make her feel best.

  23. Just a reader*

    Just wanted to let you know that this page is forwarding automatically to I can barely write 3 words before being forwarded.

    1. L Veen*

      That kept happening to me as well. I finally gave up on AAM for an hour and now it seems to have stopped.

  24. J*

    I wonder if you could use one of your hiring manager friends as a respected authority. If you mention that the info came from someone else she might take it better. It sucks that she feels competitive with you but I’ve been there.

    1. OP*

      I have a friend who is an HR manager in a different field (a creative agency, and my “cousin/friend” wants to work in human services) but she is one of who I showed it to (without any identifying info on it) and she had a lot of thoughts.

      Maybe we all need to have a girls night and some wine and have a friendly evening and then I can bring it up later like “You know, Lisa is an HR manger, if you’re still having trouble with your search, maybe Lisa can offer some tips! I can let her know if you’re interested”

  25. Katherine Jameson*

    You are a really good friend, because frankly, she sounds like a pain in the butt! I don’t have much else to say because I’ve lost patience with people like this personally.

    1. OP*

      Thanks! I have lost patience with her before (it goes deeper than what I posted, I don’t think she will ever see this post, but just in case!) but that’s why I mentioned we have a more familial relationship than friendship. Because I love her, despite not always liking her.

  26. Well*

    OP, a suggestion:

    Offer to set up an informational interview for your friend with one of the people you know who works in her field. If she says yes, see below. If she says “I don’t see the point, why would I talk to someone if they don’t have a job to offer me” [or similar] I’d try to gently address that and get her to agree to it. (Based on how you think she’ll respond to criticism on her resume I’m assuming it’s at least possible she won’t value an informational interview, so I’d be prepared to field that.)

    Set up the interview for her with the person you think that you can be most candid with…and be candid. Tell them basically what you posted here, but at a higher level: that you love this woman to death, that she’s like a sister/cousin to you, that you think she’s smart, she’s got an amazing work ethic and would be a real asset to anywhere she worked, that you’re very proud of her — but that she clearly needs some advice on how to market herself, and her resume in particular is very weak. Ask the interviewer if they wouldn’t mind asking her for her resume specifically in advance of the meeting and then offering some feedback.

    Basically: if, as you say, she won’t hear it from you, try to pair her with a messenger she’ll listen to in an effort to help her out. It sounds like the kind of advice she needs is basic, so it’s probably more important that she hears it from SOMEONE than that she hears your specific version of it.

    And if she won’t hear the advice she needs from a professional in her field, well — you’ll have learned that the best way you can help your friend is by being someone who listens to her frustrations, not someone who helps her connect more effectively. That’s not the end of the world.

  27. Come On Eileen*

    Here’s the main points I pulled out of your inquiry, LW:

    1. I’m afraid I’ll offend her if I tell her bluntly that it sucks.
    2. She has a habit of thinking her education makes her a bit better than us.
    3. We’ve recently had arguments where she’s stated that I think I know everything.
    4. I’ve been “suggestive” in the past about things and it didn’t resonate.
    5. I don’t want to offend her and I don’t want to drive a wedge between us.

    This isn’t your problem to solve. Step away. Repeat after me: “not my circus, not my monkeys.”

    1. OP*

      *sigh* I’m still trying to avoid accepting that I may have to step away. Is it wrong to want to exhaust all options first??

      1. M-C*

        OP, yes, on some level it’s wrong. Because you haven’t been listened to so far, so all you’ve accomplished is setting her against the same advice if she comes across it elsewhere. And because it’s kind of like the oxygen mask on the plane – you have to consider your own mental health before you go all out to help someone else :-(
        And you know I’ve been in your shoes, in fact still am because my friend still hasn’t found a job (her current job is now even trying to can her) so it’s acutely painful. But we can’t help who doesn’t want to be helped..

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes, because you are making this about YOU. You keep talking about how it would be fun for you to rewrite her resume, how you know you could fix things, etc. The point at which you have trouble accepting that your friend gets to screw up her own life? Is the point at which you need to take a hard look at who is really getting the most out of this.

        1. OP*

          You’re misreading me, and thats fine. But no, fellow reader of AAM, I’m not making this about “me”

          I’m just stating that it is fun for me (and in the scope of what I do every day in my business) to reformat publications and so I’m not breaking my neck to reformat it, it’s fun for me to do it (Whether it be a resume or a newsletter or an invitation) not because it’s “fixing HER problem” but because I like to play with text and layout and design that works and that doesn’t mean its “about me”

          You’re taking this as if I am trying to fix her whole life. No, I’m trying to help her fix her resume as a tool to help her help herself. That’s all. So, thanks.

          But I am also aware that if it’s not something she will want from me that I get to let it go. I will also, then, get to decide how much of a sounding-board I want to be to her problems after that.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I did not get this out of what you are saying, OP.

          However, please consider the phrase, “exhausted all options”. What happens when we exhaust all options? For one thing, we have worked so hard and so long on something that we are left feeling broken and defeated. We, ourselves, become exhausted. In cases involving other people, we exhaust them, too.

          I don’t think this is where you want to land on this one, OP. It might be wiser for the long run to say, “I am here if you need me. I think I have some ideas for you.” And just let it go at that.

          1. OP*

            Yes, I was joking a bit when I said “exhaust all options” (if we were in person, it was said with a laughing tone and a bit of a “duh. I know I sound like I am doing “the most” right now!)

            Ideally I want her to have the RIGHT tools to do the fixing herself! That would be the most ideal thing. I want to continue to be a good friend. I will definitely let her know about having tips IF SHE WANTS THEM and some tools I can show her, and then if she wants more I will be ready to go! If she doesn’t I WILL let it go. It will be hard, I admit that, but I definitely don’t want THIS to be a cause of problems for us.

            Thank you!!

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m still trying to avoid accepting that I may have to step away. Is it wrong to want to exhaust all options first??

        Yes, kind of. This isn’t yours to fix. You need to step away because it’s not your life and she’s made it clear she doesn’t want your advice right now.

        See my original answer in the post, in fact — I’m curious about your reaction to that.

        1. OP*

          I agree with you but per your original answer, I am going to change my approach to “helping” and if she is not receptive then, then I will let it go (and that particular “is is wrong to…” reply was more in a playful tone/ joking manner) because yes it is not my problem to “fix” but seeing this resume and knowing this is what she is sending out everywhere, I don’t think I could just not say SOMETHING either.

          So yes, I am going to try something similar to this:
          “You know, I read a lot about job searching in this market and if you ever want me to help with your resume or point you toward some of the advice I’ve found most helpful, I’d love to.”

          and then, yes I am going to move on after that. I am enjoying the discussion here, as usual, though.

          Thanks again for taking my question on!

  28. Horn Tooting Toads*

    Ah yes, the “educated” friend who “knows more” about resumes, job hunting, and succeeding in today’s marketing … even though they are underemployed and have less interviewing experience than you. Sigh. It’s tough. But you just have to let them sink this one out.

    I have a friend who is smart, but has a bit of an ego, and he has asked me for resume advice a couple of times. Even though I was literally leaving the role he was applying to, and had helped hire others in that role before getting promoted … he still didn’t listen to a single thing I suggested he due on his resume. : ?

    News flash. He did not get the job!

  29. MsM*

    “I know she has a strong work ethic, is so very compassionate towards the demographic she wants to work with and passionate about her desired field. If she had the chance, she would shine and thrive and contribute wholly to the right organization. But it’s now obvious to me that she isn’t getting the interviews for the places she really wants to work because of her resume / school history and I really want to help so bad.”

    I think with a tiny bit of tweaking (remove the “it’s obvious this is why you’re not getting interviews”; replace with “this resume isn’t representing you the way I think you deserve to be represented”), you can tell her this and avoid coming across as a know-it-all. But if she still refuses, I think you need to bear in mind that her stubbornness and inability to look at public-facing communications with a critical eye are also part of who she is, and concealing that from her potential employers wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.

  30. AMT*

    The only suggestion I can think of is to show her examples of nicely-formatted resume templates and and say something like, “Hey, I wonder if a cleaner, more minimalist resume would help you get interviews. Can I help you update yours?” Maybe seeing a really nice-looking resume would help her get more enthusiastic

    But it sounds like her problem runs deeper than having a badly-formatted resume. It’s possible that her writing skills and inability to take feedback might not be helping her, either.

  31. Alexis L.*

    ugh this sort of sounds like me (mindset wise, not literally) : / Honestly, I agree with the other commenters re: Alison’s services. It’s a really incredible price for what she is doing (I looked at other resume reviewers’ services and they were incredibly expensive), and the slice of truth she dealt me was much needed. Only when I was willing to accept that I was doing something really wrong in my job search did I find Askamanager and jump on the resume deal. However, your friend needs to be willing to listen to criticism, and act on it, not react to it. And that is something that’s all on her.

    I will say this: I couldn’t get honest feedback from people I knew, because we were too close personally and they felt the constraint of politeness. It just wasn’t in them to “kick a dog when it’s down”, so the critiques I would get never went further than pointing out typos or vague concern. It sounds like that is what is happening between the two of you as well.

    And lastly, I think we need to think about the psychology of the person you’re describing. Why are they reacting in these ways? Why are we enabling them to carry on in their current behaviors? Who and what voice are they willing to listen to and in what context? Maybe that can help you decide what the best course of conveying your thoughts on her job search could be. Best of luck!

  32. smartcookie*

    OP, I am confused about why you aren’t passing her resume along as promised. If you have professional contacts that could be valuable for her, then withholding that assistance because of her resume seems extreme. It’s not hard for me to see how that would seem like a personal attack to your friend. Why not offer her assistance by forwarding her resume along with an offer to introduce that highlights the strengths that are hard to find on her resume?

    1. OP*

      A resume this bad would be remembered and could color their view of her. I don’t want to hurt her chances with a particular org and person in a position to help her by directly giving this to them. If she happens to apply for an opening there by herself, perhaps it will be filtered by HR without being in the direct hands of someone who would ultimately be interviewing her (if her resume was good enough / she fit their needs) and for them to remember her name.

      This isn’t just typical kind of bad. It’s REALLY REALLY bad. It’s actually worse than it used to be a few years ago. She received some advice at some point and it was really bad advice. I cannot get into specifics as to why it’s really bad, because it’s very specific.

      1. OP*

        *adding* when I asked for her resume to forward, I didn’t know it was in THIS state. I have seen her resume in the past because she’s asked for job lead help and some basic formatting before a long time ago. But something has happened in the past couple years, and when I got the resume from her, there was NO WAY I could send what she sent me.

        1. M-C*

          OP, would you still have a copy of that old resume? Can you get away with forwarding that instead, and pleading confusion if you get busted?
          I also like others’ suggestion of separating the formatting from the content. Yes, no doubt it needs everything, but if you can at least improve the formatting maybe that’ll be somewhat of a step forward? Divide and conquer and all that..?

          1. OP*

            Her old one is too outdated. Also, I wouldn’t feel right. I would rather she be aware of changes I made and make the ultimate decision on whether or not that is the one I present. But I wont present it as it is now, I just cant. I am going to have that one last conversation with her, per reading the thoughts here, and then move on from there – either to help her or to let it go!!

            1. RVA Cat*

              Would she be open to having you help her with something else, like maybe her LinkedIn profile? Then maybe you could share that instead of this terrible resume?

  33. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    Work wise or friendship wise… At some point, the sounding board might break.

    I try to be the best shoulder to cry on, but when you (general you) come to me several times for the *same* issue to which I give the *same answer* (solicited) then don’t expect me to shut up when you come back for the tenth time, still complaining. I will shut you up, nicely or maybe a little abruptly.

    Not because I’m a bad person, but… I see no point in listening to someone lament for years especially when they just.will.not.move.

    I was that person years ago and realized how far that took me. So I warn people about this (friend Nancy, also called Nelly in comments here, would probably tell you how mean I can be but if that’s how she takes it, so be it.

    I mean I love my sisters too but sometimes I just don’t like them so I need to stay away, soooo :/ …

  34. Susan*

    I’m not being a snob, I swear (full disclosure: I have a BFA, which is a bachelors of fine arts, so no high horse here). But from what I gather from the letter writer, it kind of made it seem like her friend has a BA of some sort? Just because she’s able to get entry-level jobs in her field that just require a high school diploma. My impression is that, while we just had that letter writer with an MBA from University of Phoenix and we collectively cringed — and I also think with a BS it matters where you went to school (since they tend to be applying for computer science, engineering, hard sciences jobs), but with a BA, I kind of wonder if the for-profit school is fine, especially since she has work experience now. If it’s her only degree, I kind of think you can’t take it off because a lot of even admin jobs these days want a college degree (even though someone with a high school diploma might be able to do the job as well). I think the masters degree situation is different because you can remove it without removing all evidence of higher education.

    But I’m making a few assumptions here that weren’t clearly stated, so many just think of this as food for thought.

    1. OP*

      She has a BS but is looking for the type of work that would generally be a BA. She has realized, after-the-fact, that what she wants to do is different than what she was told this particular degree was tailored to. So, that being the fact, even though her degree (when credible) is often sometimes considered for the types of roles she would like to get, her experience with working hands on with the demographic she wants to work with, is whats really going to be the most helpful to her, and if she could qualify that and highlight it, it would be of service to her.

  35. periwinkle*

    OP, I think a good option is to send your friend’s resume to one of your contacts and ask that person to reach out to your friend for a candid chat. “My organization looks for people in this field and we are looking for X, Y, and Z on the resume before we consider interviewing them. Your resume as it is now would not get a call back. I’m willing to help you refocus your resume.”

    But that’s pretty much your final role in this. Talk with your contact, tell that person about your friend who needs *honest* advice on breaking into the field, and then step back. It’s not your responsibility to fix the resume first. Maybe your friend would listen to a hiring manager in the field or maybe she’ll be like those delusional contestants on American Idol who thought that Simon Cowell was just too jealous to acknowledge their talent. As a wise person posted earlier in the thread, not your circus and not your monkeys.

    I screened resumes for a nursing recruiting agency and saw some really awful resumes even from RNs with decent experience and BSNs from non-profit schools. There were also excellent accomplishment-focused resumes from RNs with U of Phoenix degrees. It’s not just a school thing.

  36. OP*

    What I am going to do, is have that one final conversation with her. I am going to tailor my approach and leave the ball in her court. I am not trying to “fix” her. Ideally, I’d love her to be able to come to a blog like this and glean the information herself to be able to put it to use, because that is far more useful to anyone *you know, the whole give a fish/teach someone how to fish analogy* but I will not have not desired to make her or this a “project” to fix. I was honestly just a bit stunned at her resume when I received it and I personally couldn’t forward it on, but it also made me think about the fact that she is sending this out to other employers and it was a hard pill. I can’t describe it in detail here or in my email, because it would be much too identifying to do so.

    I appreciate the conversation here and being able to take a moment to reflect on my intentions and my approach. I will update if anything comes of this. We are going to have lunch this weekend anyway, so we’ll see.

    1. Soupspoon McGee*

      When my sister would complain about things I’d already given her advice about (and that she’d outright refused to do), I found a lovely phrase to give myself some distance and her some non-judgey support from me: “You’re smart. You’ll figure it out.” It works in all kinds of situations.

      1. Anomanom*

        HA! That’s the phrase my boyfriend uses on me when I am getting whiny about something work related. It is the signal that he is tired of listening to the same problem and I need to refocus on something new. It actually helps avoid a lot of arguments, as I recognize it for what it is, and also have no patience for complainers who aren’t actively working to change their situation. We all have a little bit of that inside of us though :)

  37. Raptor*

    Words that I try to make myself use when someone else has a problem I’d really like to help them solve…

    What can I do to help?
    Would you like my advice?

    And then, accept the answers they give you at face value and don’t push beyond this.

  38. The Strand*

    No one’s mentioned Captain Awkward. I think that blog will have some good feedback for the underlying problems here. The resume is just a red herring. The bigger issue is her attitude towards what she wants to hear, your attitude about giving advice/help, etc.

    It’s taken me many years to understand that some people need to make their own mistakes. Over and over, if necessary. I have a dear friend who asks my advice, and on a couple of occasions did exactly what I told her was ill-advised, and then suffered for it. I’ve come to realize that maybe I’m not so different… maybe we all have some mistakes we just have to ride through, with no one stopping us from our own worst selves.

  39. mel*

    Maybe now is the time for some Tough Love?

    It’s a bit of a judgement call – do you really think it’s just resume format that is hindering her search? If you really think she can elevate herself above low-rung jobs with just a high school diploma on her history (where do you live, can I move there????), then it might be worth “starting a fight”. After a certain point, for the sake of sanity I would just flat out explain: “I’ve given you advice and you never take it, which indicates that you don’t value much of what I say. I would prefer that we don’t discuss your job search until you’re willing to help yourself.”

  40. andrea*

    Friend won’t take advice. Does the person giving it have a successful career, maybe she knows what shes doing. A real friend will tell you the things you don’t want to hear. My usual approach, so tell me how IS your resume working for you. “You think you know everything” I don’t think I know everything, but I DO KNOW your resume isn’t working.

  41. KM*

    A little late, but, if I were the OP and this person was really my friend, and didn’t want advice about the resume, I’d pass it on to my contacts and TELL THEM, “Hey, I know this resume is maybe not written in the greatest way, but I’ve known this person for a long time, and she has a great work ethic, etc, etc.” I don’t really understand the basis for the “I can’t forward it on” argument.

  42. maxine*

    A bit late, but I wanted to point something out.

    You say this isn’t about you, and while it’s true that your motivation is concern for your friend, it’s your OWN anxiety at her struggles that is keeping you so engaged.

    It’s clear that you have a horse in the race, otherwise you wouldn’t be fighting so hard. The solution? Get your horse out of the race, it’s HER race. Rest your horse, get him interested elsewhere. It’s not selfish to put your horse out to pasture, it’s *selfless* to give your friend a chance to rise to the occasion on her own. It’s *selfless* to have a well rested, motivated horse to offer (*IF* she ever directly requests help), instead of a horse that’s been demotivated and worn-down by opposition.

    I may be new to this site, but I’m not new this problem. In my case, I suffer from tons of anxiety, so I used to try to fix everything and everyone around me to solve my anxiety. However, that just created fights and more anxiety, which made me try to fix everything, which just created more resentment, and around and around the cycle went.

    The best way to control your surroundings is to know when to let go. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. :)

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