Should an Executive Write His or Her Own Resume?

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I wrote the following as part of a Career Thought Leaders Consortium discussion that is ongoing regarding “Can You/Must You Write Your Own Resume.” Hopefully my observations will provide some perspective on the subject for any of you wrestling with whether to write your own executive resume or delegate that process to a professional.

Consider the scenario of a brilliant inventor who has developed a fantastic, groundbreaking product that will change the world as we know it. He is also a savvy businessman, and has built a top-notch team around him to ensure efficient and timely production and delivery of the product, unparalleled customer service, and strong financial management. However, despite the fact he has no specialized marketing training or aptitude for writing marketing copy, he decides to develop all the marketing literature himself. He figures he knows best the features and advantages of his product and the difference it can make to those who buy it, and wants to pinch a few pennies. The marketing initiative falls completely flat, no one buys the product, and the company fails.

This situation is closely analogous to that of a high-caliber job candidate who thinks or has been told that “You can and must write your own resume.” Even a casual observer could tell you that the man with the groundbreaking product in the above scenario was a fool to represent himself and his product to the market, and that he was “penny-wise and pound foolish.” Anyone who has reached management or executive level knows that to be effective you must identify experts in key areas and delegate responsibility to them. Certainly a wise executive provides input and remains involved with the various functional areas of the organization, but does not personally execute.

A quality marketing department would have worked extensively gathering market intelligence and input from all departments regarding this man’s groundbreaking product, ensuring production of powerful and compelling marketing copy. Any reputable and truly professional resume writer will work in a similar fashion, involving a client substantially in the information-gathering process and drawing out those aspects of his or her experience, education, management style, and achievements that distinguish this “product” from the competition. The candidate has engaged in extensive introspection and reflection regarding his or her past experiences and potential value in the marketplace, while at the same time ensuring that those things learned are reflected powerfully and articulately on paper.