Choosing a resume writer to use is very similar to selecting an attorney or accountant. You want to find a true professional who has the right amount of experience and expertise, at a fair price, to lead you though the process. Here are six things to consider when choosing a resume writer:
1) Do they pass the 10,000 hour rule? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he goes in depth about the idea that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to really master a subject area or skill. The idea applies for athletes, actors, musicians, doctors, and yes, resume writers. 10,000 hours comes out to about five years of full-time work or 10 years of part-time work. After 10,000 hours, you can be sure that your writer has seen just about every client scenario possible and developed a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Keep in mind that a tremendous amount of experience doesn’t always translate to exceptional work. Trends in the job search and resume writing realms change often, so it’s critical to find a writer who isn’t stuck in their ways and can adapt to the constant technological and social changes.
2) Are they well-versed in your industry and function? Today, we live in a world of specialists. The jack-of-all-trades is finding it more and more difficult to survive. When paying good money to have somebody prepare your resume, you want to work with somebody who specializes in your line of work. Writing a resume for a lawyer is very different than writing a resume for a programmer. There are countless nuances specific to each profession, and there’s not a writer alive today who is well versed in all of them. If you’re in sales, find a writer who knows sales. If you’re a non-profit executive, find a writer who understands the non-profit arena. At The Executive Element, we often turn away clients outside our areas of expertise because we know that are other writers out there that better understand their background and will ultimately provide a better service.
3) Do they have a strong online presence? A website is no longer an optional marketing tool, it is a requirement. Any professional resume writer who doesn’t have a basic website that lists their credentials and services isn’t really a ‘professional’ resume writer. For those writers that do have a website, is it modern and well-written? I’d be hesitant to hire a writer who claims to be an expert in ‘personal branding’ if their brand is being communicated through a website created in 1997. Additionally, you should be able to check out your writer on LinkedIn, and hopefully, view recommendations from satisfied clients.
4) What is their process? How does the writer go about collecting enough sufficient information to write a quality resume? Do they use worksheets or schedule a phone consultation? Most good writers will usually do both. While worksheets can be a bit cumbersome for the client, they are the easiest way to collect sufficient basic information such as job titles and dates, basic job responsibilities, education, associations, etc. The worksheet should also ask the client to try to list quantitative achievements whenever possible.
While the worksheet is a great starting point, a phone consultation can help tie all the information together and provide an opportunity to communicate information that may not fit into the worksheet format. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on a new resume, you have every right to speak to your writer and discuss the project as you see fit. I would be very leery of any service that doesn’t make every effort to collect as much information as possible before starting the project.
5) Have you seen samples of their work? Some writers are hesitant to post samples on their website because they think potential clients will just copy their samples and never purchase their services. We’ve found that this rarely happens. When viewing a writer’s samples, think like a hiring manager. Does the sample resume have a contemporary format? Are the most important pieces of information easy to find? Can you get a clear understanding of the client’s core skill set and value he or she can bring to an organization? Are cliches overused? If you’re impressed with the samples, chances are good that you’ll be pleased with their service. If the samples are underwhelming, move on and find somebody else.
6) How much does it cost? There is a tremendous range of fees that writers charge for a resume and cover letter. You’ll find people offering resume writing services on Craigslist for $29. You’ll also find established writers that charge $1500+. Both are fairly ridiculous. Somebody charging anything less than $100 would have to do several projects per day to make a decent living; meaning, volume is their priority, not quality. On the other end of the spectrum, there are more experienced writers (often published) who charge a fortune simply because they can. They have the credentials to demand top dollar and they tend to be very selective with the clients they choose to work with. There are plenty of high quality firms that charge somewhere between $300 and $700 for a resume package, which is a fair price to pay for the average management- to executive-level client.
Clearly, there are lots of things to consider when choosing a resume writer, but ultimately, it comes down to selecting somebody that you’re comfortable with. A referral from somebody that had a great experience is obviously a good way to go, but in the absence of a referral, do your homework and ask lots of questions.