Recently, I received a message from someone—let’s call her, Claire—who had her resume updated following a massive layoff at her most recent employer. Nearly nine months later, she’s still searching for her next job after seeing no results (interviews). Naturally, this scenario would discourage anyone. As we continued talking, she revealed the name of the company that she used for resume services, whose name I won’t mention here. However, I will say that this particular company is one of those organizations that we in the resume writing industry would call a “resume mill,” whose ultimate goal is to churn out resume after resume after resume with quality as an afterthought.
Unfortunately, Claire’s story is not unique. Over the years, I’ve worked with a few clients who got burned by these low-budget resume services that offer unrealistic guarantees, apply a one-size-fits-all approach when working with clients, and give the resume writing industry a bad name. However, it’s the people who invested in those services that make out the worst, being no closer to getting into their next job faster.
As a result, I was inspired to write this article, which will hopefully serve as an informative guide for those of you who may be thinking about investing in resume services now, or sometime in the future.
If hiring a resume writer is new territory for you, the first thing you need to know is that the industry is not regulated.
This means that anyone who knows how to use the Internet can create a website and advertise resume writing services, even if they have no prior experience writing on a professional level.
What follows is a list of 18 questions—by no means comprehensive—that you can ask a prospective writer to obtain useful information about their services and avoid the pitfalls of a discount service.
- Are you certified?
The easiest way to begin your search is by finding a certified resume writer. You can consult the databases of leading resume writing organizations, such as the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARW/CC), National Resume Writer’s Association (NRWA), Career Directors International (CDI), Resume Writing Academy (RWA), and Career Thought Leaders (CTL) Consortium. Many certified writers hold membership in multiple organizations and are listed in the database, along with their certifications—a great way to check if their credentials are legit!
- What industry certifications do you possess?
Certifications are a key indicator that the writer is committed to staying up to date on the latest resume writing trends and job search technologies, which is a major benefit for you as the job seeker. Certified writers must meet the mandatory membership, continuing education, and renewal requirements to maintain their certification(s). For a better understanding of the different resume writing credentials and what they mean, please check out Dissecting the Patchwork of Resume Writing Credentials.
- Tell me about your professional background and what led you to pursue resume writing?
Having an idea of a writer’s background will help you make a more informed decision about who you will feel most comfortable working with. Most resume writers come from diverse backgrounds outside of HR and recruitment. If you’re in a unique career field, especially one of those hard-to-fill technical positions, finding someone who has worked in or specializes in writing for professionals in your industry can be helpful. Personally, I believe that this is more of a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must have’ since a strong resume writer will be able to review your work history, compare it against your job target(s), and perform the necessary research before writing your resume.
- Do you have samples that can be viewed on your website?
Viewing resume samples will give you an idea of the quality of work by the writer. If a writer does not have samples posted on their website, don’t be afraid to request. Note whether the samples are unique or if they all seem to follow a generic template or language.
Great resume writers leverage a blend of sophisticated writing techniques, combined with personal branding, content development, formatting, and design strategies to enhance readability for the 3 types of readers (recruiters, hiring decision-makers, and applicant tracking systems) who will see your resume.
- Do you offer an initial complimentary consultation?
Most reputable writers offer free, non-obligatory sessions that are designed to get to know you, understand your career goals, and determine if working together would be a great fit. Most writers will also provide you with some valuable feedback on your current resume and how well it aligns with your career goals. Use this opportunity to speak directly with the writer and ask some of these questions!
- Will I work directly with you throughout the process or will you assign a writer to me?
Each writer has their own way of working with clients. Some offer a one-to-one personalized service where you will work directly with the business owner throughout the entire process. Other writers employ a staff and assign a writer to your project. Both approaches offer pros and cons.
While many people prefer to work one-to-one with a specific writer, consider that you may be looking at longer turnaround times, while a larger firm with a staff of writers tends to have faster turnaround times and lower prices. If you choose to work with a larger company, be sure to ask about the credentials of the writer that you will be working with. Reputable firms employ writers who possess a CPRW designation or higher, whereas the low budget firms may outsource your project overseas to unqualified writers.
A con of working with a large resume writing organization is that it can be a lot more challenging to call or email your writer a few months later to ask a question involving your job search or your resume. Meanwhile, a resume writer who’s been in business for a number of years and is dedicated to serving as your strategic partner and career management resource may be your best bet for years to come as you change jobs/careers and seek promotions.
- What is your process for working with clients?
In order to find a writer you feel comfortable with, it’s important to learn about his or her client information gathering process. Some writers have you fill out a detailed client information questionnaire while others will arrange for a one-to-one personalized consultation, or a combination of both the questionnaire and the consultation.
Scientech Resumes uses the one-to-one personalized consultation approach, which is a great fit for some but not for others. Keep in mind that if you want a powerful and effective resume that gets results, you will need to actively participate in the client information gathering and resume writing process to a certain degree.
Your resume will only be as good as the information that you provide the writer to work with.
- Do you offer access to resume writing and career management resources?
While working one-to-one with a solo writer can be a higher investment, many of these writers will provide you with more personalized service and access to value-added resources that facilitate the job search process, educate you on the power of personal branding, and instruct you on how to use your new resume and other documents during your job search.
- Are you active in the industry? Or do you attend conferences, training, etc.?
A writer who actively attends conferences, training, and other professional development seminars shows that he or she is committed to the profession. Many writers also partner with leading career management blogs, websites, and other organizations—all of which indicate that he or she is valued as a thought leader and expert in their field.
- What have previous clients said about working with you? What sorts of results have they achieved?
This question is great for getting access to verifiable testimonials. Check out the recommendations on the writer’s LinkedIn profile. You can see who actually wrote the testimonial, view the reviewer’s profile to confirm that they are a real person, and see how the writer benefited a particular client within a certain industry. Google reviews are also a great place to search since they have a better engine for predicting fake reviews, which are not tolerated.
- How long have you been in business and what services do you offer besides resumes?
Just like any industry, the more education, training, and experience that your writer has, the better he or she will be at writing your resume. Most resume writers offer job search strategy and interview coaching within their process or as standalone and bundled services, as well as supplementary training products. Even if a resume writer does not offer a specific service, chances are high that he or she knows someone that they can refer you to.
- Do you provide LinkedIn profile development services?
LinkedIn has become the leading social network for your next career opportunity. Over 97% of recruiters and hiring professionals use LinkedIn daily to find top talent, especially when it comes to those hard-to-fill technical roles and executive and c-suite positions. Nowadays, many hiring managers are finding highly qualified candidates through LinkedIn and requesting the resume as a formality later in the hiring process. Therefore, it’s in your best benefit to have an engaging LinkedIn profile that communicates your personal brand in a clear, consistent, and congruent manner.
- How long, on average, do you spend on a given resume project?
Producing a targeted, branded, and evidence-based resume takes time when you factor in the initial consultation, the in-depth client information gathering process, background research, documents review, the actual writing of the new documents, multiple rounds of proofreading, initial document delivery, and additional rounds of revisions with the client input. Personally, I spend anywhere from 6 to 15+ hours on a given project (and I know a few writers who spend upwards of 20 hours).
To get the best results, look for a writer who will invest the time to get to know, understand your career goals, and develop a winning personal brand strategy that sets you up for success.
- How do I know what services I need?
A resume writer must be able to listen and ask the right questions. Once they have a clear picture of what you’re looking for, many writers will present solutions in the form of a resume service package that addresses the problems you’re facing in your job search.
- What do you guarantee?
This will vary among resume writers. Some writers offer interview guarantees whereas others offer a satisfaction guarantee. Scientech Resumes offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee and I think that all writers should do the same. At the very least, find a writer that promises to make as many revisions as necessary (within reason) so that you feel confident to use your new resume in your job search. Keep an eye out for writers and services that guarantee interviews within an unrealistic time period (i.e. 30 days).
- Do you have up to date knowledge of applicant tracking systems (ATS), keywords, and other technologies used in the modern job market?
Both ATS and the Internet have revolutionized the way that resumes are read and how the modern job market works. A strong resume writer is up to date on the latest ATS technologies and recruitment trends and knows how to tap into the power of keywords to boost your resume’s effectiveness. This is critical because your resume must read well for ATS and skim- and detailed readers to prevent interviews from slipping through the cracks.
- How much do you charge?
These services can average anywhere from $400 (entry-level) to $1,000+ (executive/c-suite) and higher depending on any additional services (i.e. LinkedIn, interview coaching, etc.) that you invest in. While this may seem high, it’s important to consider the time and effort that goes into producing a solid resume and what that investment can deliver for you. Most of our clients shave days, weeks, and months off of their job search and recoup their investment in less than one work week’s pay. As a baseline, you can expect to invest somewhere between 2-3 days salary for a high-quality resume service.
A better way to look at the investment is to ask yourself the following: have you considered how much your job search could be costing you each day, week, and month that you’re unemployed?
- How is my LinkedIn profile different from my resume?
While a resume writer will draw on content from your resume to write your LinkedIn profile, your new LinkedIn profile should not be a carbon copy of the resume that the writer produces for you. Instead, it should tell your story in a more casual and humanizing way that inspires people to want to connect with you and start a conversation. Your resume is written for a specific audience, based on the different roles that you are targeting, while your LinkedIn profile takes on a broader view that focuses on establishing your personal brand and building meaningful connections.
The resume writing process is very personal. Therefore, finding the right writer who will take the time to get to know you and understand your career goals is essential to walking away with a resume that communicates your unique value, credibility, and expertise. This process can take time. Therefore, it’s recommended that you speak to a few different writers and narrow it down to someone who you will comfortable having an honest conversation about your professional history.
What other questions would you like to ask a resume writer? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Scientech Resumes helps job seekers worldwide, looking to pursue or advance a career in a STEM industry, communicate their unique value, credibility, and expertise. We are dedicated to working with people across all career-levels (from new graduates to c-suite executives) who understand that an investment in themselves pays dividends. I know you’re great at what you do. Let’s get where you want to go, with greater results. Get started today with a no-obligatory, complimentary consultation!