How to Choose a Professional Resume Writer

12 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Preparing a Resume

Experts differ on whether you should hire a professional resume writer or write your own. It's wise to turn to a professional resume writer if you've never had a resume; if you have a checkerboard job history; or if you haven’t thought about resumes in years.

Follow these tips to choose a personal resume professional wisely:

  • Choose a resume writing service, not a clerical service. Many clerical services do a nice job of word processing your resume for a fair price of $100 or more. A clerical service is a useful option if that’s all you need. A resume writing service pro knows a great deal about the business of marketing you to employers, has the latest trends and buzzwords on tap, and coaches you through potholes in your job history.

  • Ask around for a great resume pro. The best way to do so is to get a referral, either from a satisfied customer or from someone in the business — a local career center consultant, recruiter, employment agency consultant, or outplacement consultant. If you’re being laid off, inquire within your corporate human resource department.

  • Request a free initial consultation. Request a free, brief, get-acquainted meeting in person or on the phone. Speak not to the boss or a sales representative, but to the writer. The same firm can have good and poor writers. Ask the writer what general strategy she’ll use to deal with your specific problems. If you don’t hear a responsible answer, keep looking.

  • Watch out for overuse of forms. Most resume pros ask you to fill out a lengthy, detailed form. The form is a good start, but it’s far from enough. Eliminate the firms that don’t offer dialogue with the writer. The resume pro should interview you to discover your unique experience and strengths.

  • Look for a fair price. Expect to pay between $150 and $1,000 for most resumes. Executive resumes may range from $500 to $1,600. Never pay by the page — longer isn’t better. If you’re using a two-page resume, you can probably pay for a core resume and customize only the first page for each different job, while retaining the second page across your search.

  • Check out samples. Ask the resume pro to show you samples of his resumes. Look not only at content but at production values. Choose a resume pro who has invested in state-of-the-art technology: a good computer and a laser printer. You judge the quality of the content, layout, word processing, paper, and printing.

  • Look for targeted resumes. Look for a resume pro who understands the concept of a targeted resume. You need a resume that has “you” written all over it — your theme, your focus, and your measurable achievements — all matched to the career field or position you want. Skip over those who sell the same cookie-cutter resumes over and over.

  • Consider a certified resume writer. Resume writers who belong to resume-certifying organizations are likely to stay up to date in resume effectiveness; some earn continuing education units (CEUs). Here are the “big three” certifying organizations:

    • The Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches was the first in the resume-writing industry to certify professionals who meet the required criteria of experience and examination. Those who become certified are allowed to use the title Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) after their names.

    • The Career Directors International Professional Association is well regarded in the industry and offers four levels of resume certification: Certified Advanced Resume Writer (CARW), Certified Expert Resume Writer (CERW), Certified Master Resume Writer (CMRW), and Certified Federal Resume Writer (CFRW).

    • The National Resume Writers’ Association started as a spin-off of PARW but is now independent. Those who become certified through this group are allowed to use the title Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) after their names.

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The Essentials of Preparing a Resume

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