10 Tips for Choosing Professional Resume Help

By Laura DeCarlo

How do you best come up with a resume that ushers you into prime interviewing territory? Should you hire a professional resume writer or go it alone? Professionally crafted resumes not only boost your confidence but actually make money for you by shortening your job search — for example, when you are searching for a $50,000-a-year job, each week of unemployment costs you about $950 in lost pay.

By working with a certified professional, you can dramatically reduce the time you spend unemployed.

Choose a resume writing service, not a clerical service

Most people need much more than a typing service: identifying keywords for your target position; describing your unique selling proposition (USP) and bottom line value; capitalizing on the challenges you faced, actions you took, and results you attained; determining how to overcome little glitches such as layoffs and job gaps; and even figuring out how to make volunteer leadership relevant.

Truly talented resume professionals make it their business to know what it takes to sell you to the various audiences who will review your resume.

Zero in on certified professionals

Despite the lack of recognition, professional resume writing is a serious industry with training, certification, and continuing education requirements. Find a resume writer who holds a certification from a reputable organization that requires continuing education and champions adherence to new trends.

The best organization today is Career Directors International (CDI), which offers a variety of resume certifications. When you visit their website, you can find a job seekers portal called Find a Career Pro, which allows you to search for a resume writer and/or career coach to assist you.

Request a free initial consultation

Request a free, brief consultation, which will be handled in person, on the phone, or by online video chat. Speak not to the boss or a sales representative, but to the writer. The same firm can have good and poor writers.

Expect an initial consultation to involve many questions about you — your prior career and current goals — and how the resume writer can help. If you have specific challenges or concerns, voice them. If the resume writer doesn’t know how to answer them, you should probably keep looking.

A consultation is not a DIY conversation. This session is exploratory in nature to determine what you need and how the writer can help.

Evaluate the writer’s resume samples

When shopping around on websites, look for resume samples and expect them to be good. If you find samples that use weak words, tell but don’t sell, are mostly empty or far too full of content, and aren’t playing up keywords, challenges, actions, and results — run!

Ask for references

Some resume writers have hard-hitting testimonials that include all or partial elements of a client’s name and even the jobs they landed. But others serve up fluff. In either case, you’re going by what the resume professional lists on his or her website.

You can check LinkedIn and even Facebook to see whether they have third-party recommendations. You can also ask for references to contact. Most resume writers can give you a short list of satisfied clients who have agreed to act as a reference.

Don’t expect more than a handful of references. Most job seekers wish to remain anonymous, so a short reference list is common, no matter how talented the resume professional.

Watch out for overuse of forms

While many professional resume writers have you fill out a detailed form at some point in the process, a form is rarely the best way for someone to gather all the needed information to write your resume. The resume professional should interview you either before or after you fill out the form to make sure all your unique experiences, strengths, and accomplishments have been uncovered.

Identify generalists and specialists

In resume writing, you may run into generalists and specialists. For instance, if your career is in information technology, then you want to make certain that the professional you select has knowledge and experience working with people in your field. Occasionally, you’ll find someone who has worked in your profession and is now a resume writer, but it is more the exception than the rule. Typically, a specialist is simply someone who prefers to work with job seekers in certain niche professions.

Conversely, don’t be afraid of generalists. Generalists with all the right bells and whistles are also skilled at extracting information, performing any necessary research, identifying keywords, and marketing you on paper through both powerful wording and dynamic layout. Experienced generalists will have worked with job seekers in multiple fields and at multiple levels, which gives them flexibility and adaptability to meet any challenges.

Look for a fair price

Prices vary by locale and depend on a number of factors, but expect to pay between $300 and $1,000 for most resumes. Executive resumes often range between $750 and $2,000. You pay the most in these situations:

  • Heavy time investment

  • Killer job market

  • Challenging problem

  • Customizing

  • Document packages

Take aim

Customize! For maximum impact, you need to target each resume you send out to a specific employer or career field. Look for a resume professional who understands this concept. You need a resume that has “you” written all over it — your theme, your focus, and your measurable achievements — all matched to a career field you want.

Know that a cheap resume is no bargain

Appreciate the hidden costs of a poor resume: A hack job can cost you good job interviews.

When the finished product is in your hands, you should be able to say:

  • This is an OnTarget resume. It shows that my qualifications are a great match for the job I want.

  • This resume suggests that I offer the employer a good return on investment by showing how I can make or save the company more money than I cost.

  • I like reading my resume; it won’t put the recruiter to sleep.