Service of Editing

February 14th, 2013

Categories: Editing, Resume, Sloppy, Writing

devil-wears-prada

One of my editors was a part-time consultant at the first magazine I worked for and she taught me how to approach writers I’d edit in future: I did the opposite of everything she did. She attacked and demeaned writers ferociously. I’d return to my desk so jangled and distracted by her anger that I was barely able to jot down my name.

Picking and choosing

Picking and choosing

I thought of her when one of the students I mentor showed me the come-on she got from an online resume service that will revise a resume for $700. She’s a brilliant young woman who in this economy has organizations and companies asking her to intern for them, so she can pick and choose.

Fear is what this boilerplate selling service preys on. The very long cover letter and even longer critique, with a few tweaks to make the recipient feel that it’s written for them, would fit many people in a range of industries.

The second paragraph of the cover letter begins, “Let’s be honest.” What a turnoff and warning about the quality and sincerity of the service. Choosing to initial cap Candidate in the letter and Hiring Manager in the critique……whose pandering style book are they following? 

hiring-managerI’ve read hundreds of resumes between hiring, directing a mentoring initiative and participating in scholarship selection committees and I’ve helped revise countless others. This woman’s resume is easy to scan or scrutinize. I disagree with the critique: “Your resume is difficult to read and is a victim of bad design.” The subsequent implication that her resume was tedious and/or confusing smacks of additional scare tactics. Hers is succinct, clear, and coherent.

edit-copy1I wonder if they’d pay me $700 to edit their cover letter. “In fact your resume has one of the hardest sales challenge [sic] of all: to convince employers, who are complete strangers, that you are someone who could be a difference maker in their organization.”

Would you pay five cents for a critique that includes: “Let’s face it ___[name of potential sucker/client], you’re an experienced Marketing, not a resume writer.”

five-centsWhat’s a Marketing?

And, let’s face it, if someone had read the resume they critiqued, they would know that this young woman is a computer software engineer whose experience is light in marketing though moving briskly in that direction given the graduate degree she’s pursuing and internships she’s completed. Guess the online resume revising place has no boilerplate for transitions and outstanding combinations of skills.

I didn’t have to read farther than the next sentence to confirm that the person who was going to revise it also needed to tighten up her writing style. She wrote:  “Still, a professional at your experience level,” [did she mean “a person with your experience”]– is actually a student launching her marketing career.

Back to “Let’s be honest,” my mentee said that she couldn’t take credit for business results and outcomes that she was urged and advised to provide but which she didn’t cause. 

I agree with the company rep that a resume is a sales tool but I also believe in truth in advertising and treating the person I’m editing with respect, not with inappropriate chumminess on the cusp of rudeness.

Both editors–mine and this one–were trying to foment insecurities, one to grab a power advantage and to feel superior, the other to get a patsy’s money. Do you know of similar tactics? How do you protect yourself from falling for such swindlers?

 nail-biting

8 Responses to “Service of Editing”

  1. Scott Ossian Said:

    Many years ago, naively, I fell for an expensive scam out of London such as the one you describe. When I consulted a solicitor friend, in part to try to get some of my money back, in part to stop others from being suckered, he told me to forget it. What the scammers were doing was perfectly legal. No doubt, what your scammers were doing was also perfectly legal. The only defense against them is to use your wits.

    Of course, such scammers do give editing a bad name, which reminds me of an editing story I’ve never forgotten told by my 10th grade English teacher. We were reading “Absolom, Absolom” and finding out about Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner’s amazing talent as a writer. If hadn’t been for the spectacular editing job done by his agent, his first novel, “Sartoris,” might never have made it to print.

    No author worth his salt will deny it. A good edit always helps.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Scott,

    I’m with you: There’s nothing like another pair of eyes + even better, a good editor. You can edit yourself up to a point–scary how many glaring things I see when I write just a few words. Sometimes I wonder how I ever dare hit “Publish” or “Submit Comment” or “Print.”

  3. Dhanya Said:

    Amazing post Jeanne! Totally agree with you on this one. Loved the pictures too.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks Dhanya,

    A good way to deal with a company such as this is to pass on its services. Trouble is, the owners have found a weak spot and will thrive because of it!

    Before spending money on such a service, if a person doesn’t know someone who could advise them, he/she should ask the company for the names of the last 10 people who used the service to check results.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Resume writing services are not new, and like every other business, there is a variation in quality. Anyone contemplating paying hair raising sums for such a service is deserving of scant sympathy. Whatever the enterprise, things haven’t changed since (and probably before) Roman times: “Caveat emptor.”

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    A friend paid $hundreds to a person in a school’s career development office [conflict of interest, anybody? She’d taken courses there. And by the way, it is not a school with which I have dealings]. I agreed that the results were lackluster [I was being polite] and revised it for her. He was furious when he saw the revisions and “forbade” her from using the new version! What misplaced ego..what a rip-off.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Takes two to tango. If the friend is foolish enough to use what she considers substandard material, she will pay the price. May the experience bite her hard enough to learn to stand on her own two feet.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I didn’t ask what version she used. I have no skin in the game. However I believe if writing or resumes or anything else isn’t something you’re good at, bring in the specialists, they can be well worth the money.

    However this online company and the double-dealing career development person who should be giving his services to students as part of his job and is terrible at it are dangerous.

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