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The "WOW" Factor—What Does It Really Mean?

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
One of the first steps in getting your resume professionally preparedis having it analyzed by one or more resume companies, to see what it's lacking and how it can be improved. Any good, honest company will offer this analysis or critique for free. Usually what happens is you send them your resume, and within a day or two you receive a written analysis that details the weak points of the document, and gives you some examples of how it can be strengthened.

The problem lies in interpreting that analysis.

Too many companies today have resorted to using the resume critique as a sales tool rather than as a helpful guide. They fill their critiques with buzzwords, confusing rules, and flowery prose designed to convince you to purchase their resume package on the spot. I call this "WOWing" the potential client, because a great majority of these companies always include a section that says your resume is lacking in the "WOW" factor. Yet they never tell you what the WOW factor is, or how to spot it.

Here are some helpful hints for breaking down a typical resume critique.

1. Understanding The WOW factor. Many companies utilize form critiques, and one way to distinguish them is if you see the phrase "Your resume is missing the 'WOW' factor." They'll follow this statement with some generalized items your resume is missing, but they'll never tell you what the "WOW" factor actually is. Well, in simple English, the WOW factor means your resume presents your accomplishments and skills in a manner that's easy to read and presents your information in a logical manner.

2. Deciphering the lingo. Do you know what Core Competencies are? How about action verbs? Ever heard of the STAR strategy? Most people outside the resume industry haven't, so when companies include these terms in their critiques without explanation it's just a way for them to sound important. Beware of firms that do this. (BTW, Core Competencies are your job skills, action verbs describe things you've done, and the STAR strategy is a way to group accomplishments and actions in a bullet point.)

3. Dealing with criticism. Companies use critiques to sell resumes. Frequently, this means the analysts are told to be harsh with their comments, in order to convince people they need resumes right away. While the goal of any critique is to point out flaws in a resume, many companies go too far, saying problems exist where there are none, and even using "canned" critiques that aren't adjusted to each person's resume. They'll soften the blow with smiley faces and kind words, but in the end they'll tell you your entire resume is worthless. Be aware of this going in, and know that it's not personal; it's just a sales tactic.

Weeding out the dishonest companies
  • Get multiple critiques: Send your resume to as many companies as you can. You'll soon see that many of the larger companies will send back the same critique, almost word for word. When this happens, you'll know to avoid them.
  • Ask for clarification: If you're unsure about something in the critique, ask for further explanation of what they mean. If they don't provide it, odds are they don't know the answer.
  • Look for mistakes: I once had a client who received a critique from another company, and in it the analyst stated the resume needed a Skill Sets section. Yet the resume plainly had a Skill Sets section right at the top of page 1! This shows that some companies use templates for their critiques.
  • Beware the WOW: Anytime you see the WOW factor mentioned in a critique, beware of the company. Odds are they're using a standard form, rather than looking at your resume personally.