Dear Bev: How do I find the best professional resume writer?

by , Jun 29, 2009, 4:15 PM
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There's no shortage of resources that offer resume writing services. The challenge is how to choose the right one. For help navigating the process, I asked some professional CV writers, as well as large career sites for their advice.</p><p>

  

Where to Start

Career Builders, The Ladders, Vault and even The Wall Street Journal, are among the major Web sites that offer resume writing services. These resources and others large ones like them generally outsource writing.

 

If you're looking for an individual writer or a small group of writers, check with your friends and business associates for referrals. Reading blogs and articles on career advice will also net some recommendations.  In addition, there are at least six associations that offer training or certification programs. Standards for each vary, and they all provide lists of writers by geographic region or by specialty. Beware, the lists are long and may add to, rather than simplify, your choices.

 

Comparison Shop

With so much to choose from, don't settle too quickly. Consider doing some comparison shopping. "Even if you like the first person you talk to, take a look at other writers as well," says Louise Fletcher, founder of Blue Sky Resumes. "It's important to make sure you have a rapport with the writer, and you like their style."

 

"This is a significant investment, anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. More importantly, it's your career, and you have a lot on the line. This should be a very strategic document," adds Louise Kursmark, president of Your Best Impression.

 

Ask For Samples

"Resume writers should be able to show you samples of their work or have something on their Web site that gives an idea of their writing style," says Barbara Safani, president of Career Solvers. Look at several samples to see if the person is using "cookie cutter" templates or if the resumes are unique and the writing is sharp. "Is the person writing clear messages and communicating value? Are they getting past tasks and talking about impact?" Safani asks.

 

Big career sites will also provide samples. The Ladders has a section on its site that features member testimonials and articles about their resume writing experience, explains Ware Sykes, director of Career Services.

  

Qualifications

Most of the pros I talked to advised that clients look past professional certification as the main criteria in choosing someone. Instead, evaluate the writer's skills. Find out about his or her background. Was he or she in HR or working for an executive recruiter? How many years has he or she been writing resumes? Is this a part-time or full-time profession? If the writer can't or is unwilling to answer questions about their background or if his or her site doesn't convey a professional presence, that's a warning signal to stay away.

 

Consider asking the writer for references from past clients. Check LinkedIn or the writer's site to see if they have client testimonials.

 

Specialization

Some writers feel it's crucial to have a background in the field they are writing for. Jane Turkewitz, president of T and Jam Resume Services and a former media-marketing executive commented, "If the writer doesn't understand their clients' business, they won't know how to delve into their backgrounds and get the right information for a strong resume."

 

Sykes agrees. "We pair clients with a writer who specializes in writing resumes for their field. A software engineer and a marketing professional have very different areas of expertise which means their core competencies and accomplishments should be presented differently."

 

But not everyone saw eye to eye on the subject. "The strategy for writing is consistent across industries and part of the writer's job is to probe and put things in context. A good writer should be able to write for people even if they haven't been in their industry," said Safani.

 

A spokesperson from Career Builders weighed in somewhere in between: "It really depends on the client and their background, as well as their job searching needs. As more and more job seekers look to transfer their skills to other industries in this tough economy, it can be helpful to have a more general skills-based resume than one that is specifically tailored to one particular industry."

 

The Process:

Generally clients will have a preliminary phone conversation with the writer to discuss how they work and what to expect. Writers, whether they are affiliated with large career services or are individual practitioners, will often offer to give a free brief evaluation of the client's existing resume. Most writers have contracts that specify what they will be delivering.

 

After they're hired, the writer will provide you with a detailed questionnaire or have a lengthy phone interview with you. Many will do a combination of both. Be careful you're not just working with a typist that will take your answers and make them look pretty. The interview should delve deep into your goals and interests and what you uniquely have to offer.

 

It's up to the client to be a fully invested partner in the process in order to produce the best results. You have to be willing to provide information. Expect to invest time in the process.

 

Time Line

Don't call the day before your big interview and expect to get a professional resume. There was agreement that it should take anywhere from 5 to 14 days for the first draft to arrive. Resume revisions are expected and generally done as part of the overall cost. However, everyone puts limits on revisions in terms of how long you have to ask for them and how many they are willing to do.

 

Resume Length

General agreement was that resumes should be two pages, except for more junior or entry-level clients. "The resume should be long enough to contain essential information and not any longer. My almost unbreakable rule is not to exceed two pages. You have to match the attention span of people reading it. I'm always striving to get to the essential core," commented Kursmark.

 

Cost

You should be able to get a quality resume for between $400-$600 if you're a mid-level executive. If the price is below $200, that's a red flag. A senior level executive should expect to pay between $700-$800. A C-level executive might pay up to $4,000, but that price generally includes some personal branding and coaching.

 

For deeper information from each of the resume writers interviewed visit http://www.dearbev.com.

 

There's no shortage of resources that offer resume writing services. The challenge is how to choose the right one. For help navigating the process, I asked some professional CV writers, as well as large career sites for their advice.

  

Where to Start

Career Builders, The Ladders, Vault and even The Wall Street Journal, are among the major Web sites that offer resume writing services. These resources and others large ones like them generally outsource writing.

 

If you're looking for an individual writer or a small group of writers, check with your friends and business associates for referrals. Reading blogs and articles on career advice will also net some recommendations.  In addition, there are at least six associations that offer training or certification programs. Standards for each vary, and they all provide lists of writers by geographic region or by specialty. Beware, the lists are long and may add to, rather than simplify, your choices.

 

Comparison Shop

With so much to choose from, don't settle too quickly. Consider doing some comparison shopping. "Even if you like the first person you talk to, take a look at other writers as well," says Louise Fletcher, founder of Blue Sky Resumes. "It's important to make sure you have a rapport with the writer, and you like their style."

 

"This is a significant investment, anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. More importantly, it's your career, and you have a lot on the line. This should be a very strategic document," adds Louise Kursmark, president of Your Best Impression.

 

Ask For Samples

"Resume writers should be able to show you samples of their work or have something on their Web site that gives an idea of their writing style," says Barbara Safani, president of Career Solvers. Look at several samples to see if the person is using "cookie cutter" templates or if the resumes are unique and the writing is sharp. "Is the person writing clear messages and communicating value? Are they getting past tasks and talking about impact?" Safani asks.

 

Big career sites will also provide samples. The Ladders has a section on its site that features member testimonials and articles about their resume writing experience, explains Ware Sykes, director of Career Services.

  

Qualifications

Most of the pros I talked to advised that clients look past professional certification as the main criteria in choosing someone. Instead, evaluate the writer's skills. Find out about his or her background. Was he or she in HR or working for an executive recruiter? How many years has he or she been writing resumes? Is this a part-time or full-time profession? If the writer can't or is unwilling to answer questions about their background or if his or her site doesn't convey a professional presence, that's a warning signal to stay away.

 

Consider asking the writer for references from past clients. Check LinkedIn or the writer's site to see if they have client testimonials.

 

Specialization

Some writers feel it's crucial to have a background in the field they are writing for. Jane Turkewitz, president of T and Jam Resume Services and a former media-marketing executive commented, "If the writer doesn't understand their clients' business, they won't know how to delve into their backgrounds and get the right information for a strong resume."

 

Sykes agrees. "We pair clients with a writer who specializes in writing resumes for their field. A software engineer and a marketing professional have very different areas of expertise which means their core competencies and accomplishments should be presented differently."

 

But not everyone saw eye to eye on the subject. "The strategy for writing is consistent across industries and part of the writer's job is to probe and put things in context. A good writer should be able to write for people even if they haven't been in their industry," said Safani.

 

A spokesperson from Career Builders weighed in somewhere in between: "It really depends on the client and their background, as well as their job searching needs. As more and more job seekers look to transfer their skills to other industries in this tough economy, it can be helpful to have a more general skills-based resume than one that is specifically tailored to one particular industry."

 

The Process:

Generally clients will have a preliminary phone conversation with the writer to discuss how they work and what to expect. Writers, whether they are affiliated with large career services or are individual practitioners, will often offer to give a free brief evaluation of the client's existing resume. Most writers have contracts that specify what they will be delivering.

 

After they're hired, the writer will provide you with a detailed questionnaire or have a lengthy phone interview with you. Many will do a combination of both. Be careful you're not just working with a typist that will take your answers and make them look pretty. The interview should delve deep into your goals and interests and what you uniquely have to offer.

 

It's up to the client to be a fully invested partner in the process in order to produce the best results. You have to be willing to provide information. Expect to invest time in the process.

 

Time Line

Don't call the day before your big interview and expect to get a professional resume. There was agreement that it should take anywhere from 5 to 14 days for the first draft to arrive. Resume revisions are expected and generally done as part of the overall cost. However, everyone puts limits on revisions in terms of how long you have to ask for them and how many they are willing to do.

 

Resume Length

General agreement was that resumes should be two pages, except for more junior or entry-level clients. "The resume should be long enough to contain essential information and not any longer. My almost unbreakable rule is not to exceed two pages. You have to match the attention span of people reading it. I'm always striving to get to the essential core," commented Kursmark.

 

Cost

You should be able to get a quality resume for between $400-$600 if you're a mid-level executive. If the price is below $200, that's a red flag. A senior level executive should expect to pay between $700-$800. A C-level executive might pay up to $4,000, but that price generally includes some personal branding and coaching.

 

For deeper information from each of the resume writers interviewed visit http://www.dearbev.com.

0 comments on "Dear Bev: How do I find the best professional resume writer?".

  1. Kurt Ohare from ohare & associates
    commented on: June 30, 2009 at 10:15 a.m.

    You make some valid points - particularly about finding a resume writer that knows your industry - which is crucial.

    As someone who views many thousands of resumes a year - it's easy to pick out the "manufactured" vs the "personal" versions. And rarely do the commercially prepared resumes "work" as well as the editions put together by the owner.

    Resumes border on boring - reverse chronological order with a list of 5-10 bullet points below each heading. If you have doubts - look at people with similar titles on linkedin.com for ideas.

    A couple of tips: "Skill Based" resumes are out, Never start your resume: "executive with 20 years of experience' use MS Word.doc only and please name your electronic resume "your name.doc" - OH, I almost forgot - spellcheck and proofread.

    Somehow I can't see paying someone that much money to put together something you can do yourself. Unless you need the reassurance.

    Don't be afraid to ask your Headhunter to take a look and make comments - they can help you tailor it to the needs of a particular employer - or help you adjust it to the correct level. They work with resumes all day long - and it's free.

    Kurt OHare President
    OHare & Associates

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