Are Professional Résumé Writers Worth the Expense?

This is an oft-asked question in many online forums, and as a professional résumé writer, I thought I would weigh in as objectively as possible on such a hot topic. (And hopefully avoid being ‘salesy’ at the same time!)

In my opinion, the main reason to hire a résumé writer is to ask for help in writing this career document. Plain and simple.

There’s a myriad of reasons as to why someone would want to hire a résumé writer, including the candidate having:

· Trouble getting the proper voice and ‘résumé lingo’ down
· Difficulty trying to figure out which accomplishments to highlight and how
· Formatting issues- not knowing how to strategically use white space and design elements to create a résumé that ‘pops’
· Limited time to spend on the document (or no desire to do it themselves)
· A need for a third party to objectively plow through the job seeker’s background and clarify/define top value and accomplishments
· Little idea on how to build an effective marketing strategy to position themselves competitively
· Fear or insecurity in writing the résumé themselves, including lack of understanding about the strategy behind the document
· Poor writing skills/abilities

Before anyone decides to hire a professional résumé writer, it is important to define the career direction that is being pursued, in order to be able to articulate it clearly on paper.

Many times, people come to me expecting a career coaching session as part of this process. I am not a career coach (although many résumé writers are also career coaches); my job is to put the career direction down on paper and build the compelling fact-based case on why someone would want to hire you based on that direction. In short, I am a marketing strategist for a person’s career background. It’s my job to delve in, find the nuggets and bring them to the forefront to make the candidate shine. That’s where the real value comes from when hiring a writer – we are taught, as a society, not to brag or crow about our accomplishments, but the résumé is designed to do exactly that. A writer’s job is to couch it in terms that show your value to prospective employer, and there is a definite art to doing this.

However, some of the complaints I’ve seen online include concerns about how productive a professionally written résumé actually is for generating interviews.

That, to be fair, is a good point.

I’m the first one to point out that there are a lot of opportunistic ‘résumé writers’ out there (you see them on Craigslist with offers to write a résumé for $35) who really don’t do a good job; they do a tremendous disservice to the hard-core nitpicking perfectionist professional writers that have worked hard to build their clientele and business profile. I know; I have had to fix these ‘fly-by-nighter’ mistakes before, and really empathize with those clients who thought they were getting a such great deal with their limited funds.

My suggestion: check out the writer and make sure that they have taken the step to make YOU feel comfortable about their level of professionalism. It’s about you, remember? Did the writer join a professional résumé writing organization, and are they involved in their community? Those are telling signs as to whether this is someone you want to do business with, and also what you might expect if you book their services.

But the flip side to the ‘how productive is a professionally written résumé’ equation is also this:

Once a new résumé leaves the writer’s hands – how much does the candidate change it afterwards? Are they making mistakes in those changes, or not following the document theme or strategy? Is the job seeker sending the document to the right people or to the right jobs? Those are all things that are out of the writer’s control, and the precise reason why I can’t, in good faith, provide a ‘guarantee’ for interviews… I have no idea where the résumé is being sent. It could be that I wrote a résumé positioning a rocket scientist with a specific skill set in that field, when, in fact, the job seeker has gotten desperate and is now sending it to retail clerk job openings. There has to be a culture shift in the résumé to accurately reflect the relevant skills, abilities, experience and keywords to match different types of jobs being pursued. If that doesn’t happen, it’s certain death for that particular résumé’s viability with employers.

When it boils down to it, hiring a professional résumé writer really divides people into two groups. Some people see it as a ‘cost’ (or expense) versus those who see it as an investment. The cost people see it as not as much as what is being given to them, but instead, what is being taken from them – money. They already don’t see the value of having someone else help them.

Conversely, the investment perspective creates a means to an end. One résumé writer recently gave a perfect example illustrating this: A) Invest $200 with a professional writer and get hired in two months –OR- B) Write your own, get hired in six months and spend $5,000 of your savings in the process.

I take this investment perspective approach with potential customers- it’s your choice: either you make the investment in yourself or you do it on your own. Either way, I advocate that a résumé takes much more than a few minutes of typing in additional details to update it.

This document has to be a well-thought out and deeply strategized marketing piece that tells a prospective employer your story and provides a compelling reason to hire you. Résumé writers do this day in and day out, and have a solid handle on how to approach building this document’s strategy and incorporate the appropriate lingo and positioning. This process is never a one-way street. Résumé writers absolutely rely on their clients to provide important feedback to help shape the direction and add to the value of the résumé. It’s a partnership… and the ‘cost’ folks don’t understand this aspect either.

Truth be told: No matter how you update or create a résumé (either on your own or by hiring someone), it is important (actually paramount) that at the end of the process, you feel empowered yourself to take this document and modify it as needed. Your résumé has to be comfortable under your own skin and be an accurate mirror of who you are and what you can do. This alone can build confidence in your value with your current company, or to a prospective employer. Therein is the value of having a competitive document. If you feel that you can do this on your own or use one of the many free resources out there to help you take this step- that’s great. But there’s a whole field of résumé writers out there who also want to help, and can also infuse you with a deeper understanding of the strategy behind it to make you stand out as the great candidate that you are!