When looking to invest in any service, it’s necessary to do your due diligence to get the best ROI. Hiring a professional resume writer is no different. However, the resume writing industry is not regulated, which means that anyone who knows how to use the Internet can throw up a website and advertise themselves as a resume writer. Unfortunately, job seekers who have never hired a resume writer may not know any better when it comes to knowing what to look for in a first-rate service and the warning signs to watch out for with resume scams that hide in plain sight.
I, as well as several of my colleagues, can attest to having worked with our fair share of clients who originally went with a budget resume service, only to become frustrated by the poor customer service, the waste of time and money, and the lack of results in their job search due to an inferior resume. In this article, I will be sharing 7 red flags to look out for when trying to separate the sketchy resume writing firms from the reputable resume writers.
- Does the deal seem too good to be true? We’ve all heard the old saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Over the years, there has been an influx of these low-end resume writing companies (aka resume mills) offering ridiculously low prices for $150 or less and insanely fast 24-48 hour turnaround times. Many of these companies will have a “partnership” with an online job board (i.e. CareerBuilder, InDeed, etc.), which might make them look credible, except that they actually pay a royalty to these online employment sites for every sale they make just so they can advertise on their site.
The reality is that a legitimate professional resume writer will charge between $400 to $1,000+ on average and spend several hours getting to know you and your career goals. I personally spend anywhere from 6 to 15+ hours on a given project, depending on the client’s background and career-level. Some resume writers spend upwards of 20 hours. During that time, we are not just writing your resume. We are creating a personalized branding strategy that aligns with your career target(s) and providing you with the tools to help you navigate the modern job market and maximize employer response.
While the initial investment may seem expensive, try to think of it as an hourly rate. Now, remember that $150 budget resume? That number simply does not make sense when you account for the work that goes into consulting, writing the new resume, and all of the back-end processes and the fine-tuning with your input. You’re better off using that $150 to take yourself out to dinner, a movie, a massage—all of which will be more worthwhile than paying for a half-assed solution to an important problem.
- Are their writers certified? Many of these resume writing services will claim to be a professional resume writing company. They post fake credentials (i.e. Top 10 or Top 7 Resume Writing Service) and employ untrained and uncertified writers that take a ‘quantity over quality’ approach, often writing anywhere from 10-20 resumes per day using sub-standard, cookie-cutter templates.
This leaves no time for the writers to get to know you and build a creative marketing strategy that moves your career in the desired direction. From the time you receive your new resume to the time you’ve reviewed it, your writer will have worked on several new projects and there is no incentive for them to make sure that you are happy with the result. To them, you are a commodity and unless you believe you are like everyone else, avoid these companies.
Accomplished resume writers hold multiple industry certifications and memberships in leading resume writing organizations. When searching for a resume writer, check out his or her background. Many writers have won industry awards, attended and presented at industry conferences, been published in books and major media outlets, and are generally recognized as a thought leader and expert in their field, which is a major benefit for you as a job seeker.
- Does the company make unrealistic guarantees? I recently came across a company that was offering resumes for under $100 as well as a job guarantee within 30 days or a full refund plus $50 extra. Now, that may sound like a good deal until you check out their terms of service, which was full of obstacles designed to make the refund process as cumbersome as possible.
Let’s get one thing straight. A resume’s sole purpose is to get you an interview, not a job.
Here are 2 major reasons why the job guarantee is worthless:
- The average hiring life cycle typically lasts anywhere from 2-3 weeks and that time frame varies significantly depending on the industry and the type of position you are seeking. For instance, hiring a senior executive or a c-suite leader can take anywhere from 4-8 months due to a more thorough background process and the fact that there’s more money on the line because of higher salary levels.
- The hiring process is full of back-end processes that you, as the job seeker, don’t see. This includes: screening resumes, interviewing multiple candidates multiple times, waiting for the initial offer, reviewing the offer, negotiating salary and benefits, finalizing the offer, providing your 2 weeks’ notice at your current job, completing a background check, and agreeing on start dates for the new role. This process takes time and it’s not uncommon for delays to surface. Truthfully, 2-3 months is probably your best case scenario to account for any delays that may crop up along the way.
No legitimate resume writer will (or can) guarantee you a job. Instead, look for writers that offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. That’s an area that the writer has control over and most professional resume writers will work with you to make sure you are satisfied with the final product. Some resume writers will advertise 60-day interview guarantees on their website, usually backed up by a comprehensive terms of service agreement. The resume writing industry seems to be split on this area. Scientech Resumes does not offer interview guarantees because we cannot control the effort that a client will make in their job search. In the end, it is up to you to participate in the process and use your new resume to apply for positions that align with the resume focus and your qualifications.
- Does this company have an online presence? In this day and age, a company without a website should be reason enough to not do business. A strong web presence is essential to staying relevant in this modern digital age. On the other hand, don’t make the website the only selection criteria. There are plenty of mediocre resume services that have lured people in with a sharp website, while there are exceptional resume writers who have a moderate website.
- Do they have resume samples for view on their website? Most legitimate writers post samples on their website. If you do not see samples, ask! There is absolutely no reason why any resume writing service cannot show you samples of their work.
For those that do post samples, take a close look:
- Do the samples have a certain uniqueness to them?
- Do the samples use strong language or is it generic and puffed up with buzzwords?
- Do the samples emphasize quantifiable results and achievements or are they purely task-focused?
Professional resume writers blend sophisticated writing, design, and formatting techniques, such as testimonials, color, and graphics that showcase your impact, and help you stand out from the default-black-and-white-with-Times-New-Roman-font crowd. If you don’t care for the samples, it’s likely you won’t be impressed with the end product.
- Do they offer a complimentary resume evaluation from a real person? Every professional resume writer I know offers complimentary resume evaluations to understand your greatest challenges and to recommend solutions that will address your problems. Resume mills tend to work by an email evaluation, using a template stuffed with canned language that anyone can replicate. A legitimate resume service will want to speak with you on the phone or through video chat to learn more about your career goals and challenges to determine if and how they can help you.
- Is it a resume writing or a secretarial service? There are clerical services that will type your resume for you at a rate of $100 or more. This option is fine if a type job is all you need. However, this approach assumes that your resume is already good enough to land you an interview. These services won’t do you any favors when it comes to strategically positioning you for your target role(s), handling challenging career situations (employment gap or a transition), or crafting a personal marketing document that reads well for both humans and applicant tracking systems.
A recent Forbes article said that job seekers who hire a professional resume writer are 40% more likely to get noticed by hiring professionals than those who do not. While the initial investment may seem expensive, the majority of people see a rapid ROI—less than 1 work week’s pay—in their new position. To that end, I ask you, does your job search cost you now or will it cost you hundreds to thousands more in lost income, confidence, and opportunities?
Talk with a few different resume writers to find someone you feel most comfortable working with. One of the best ways to do this is through a referral or finding professional resume writers listed in the industry databases at the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches, the National Resume Writers Association, Career Directors International, Career Thought Leaders, or the Resume Writing Academy. Once you’ve found a few potential writers that may be a good fit for your career needs, take the time to speak to each writer and ask them questions about their background and writing process.
Not sure what to ask? Check out Thinking of Hiring a Resume Writer? 18 Questions to Help You Choose the Right One! Remember, you (and your career) are worth every investment.