Career Report
September, 2010 — Issue 127


Hiring a Resume Writer

As job seekers find it tougher to compete for the attention of hiring managers, more of them have turned to résumé-writing services to help give them an edge, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. But before you pay for someone to re-do your résumé, it’s important to do some research.

Out of more than 400 members of the National Résumé Writers Association, or NRWA (one of two main trade associations for résumé writers), only 34 have attained the National Certified Writer Credential. That makes quality tough to discern. And with résumé-writing services costing between $100 and $2,000, it’s critical that you know what you’re getting before you pay up. According to the article, here are five questions to ask a résumé writer before making an investment:

1. Do you know my industry?

While some résumé writers promote their array of knowledge, it’s important to find someone who can also delve into your industry. A résumé for a finance role, for example, requires a deep understanding of quantitative skills. Recruiters reading a general, but well-written résumé, may be put off by what appears to be a lack of industry relevance.

This can be especially important for career switchers or others entering a new industry who don’t yet know the ins and outs of their new field, said Stacey Rudnick, director of M.B.A. career services at the University of Texas Austin McCoombs School of Business. “Make sure they speak that language,” she told the newspaper. Look for telltale signs like previous clients or industry affiliations to help gauge their industry acumen.

2. Can I see samples that aren’t posted on your website, please?

After posting his résumé on a job board two years ago, James Wester, a Dallas-based marketing consultant, said six résumé writers contacted him. He chose the one whose work samples he considered most impressive. “They were making résumés that looked different and stood out,” said Wester, who took time to read several industry-related samples that were e-mailed to him.

That’s an important step. Go beyond reading a résumé writer’s website and request relevant samples of his or her prior work via email. Ask to speak to references directly—don’t simply rely on written testimonials. While time-consuming, talking to others who used the service can give you a good idea of what you’ll be getting.

3. Are you skilled at working with people like me?

Weeks after Rosalyn Ray was laid off from her job as a medical health clerk last year, she decided to hire someone to revamp her résumé. “I wasn’t getting any hits,” she said. She found someone online, being initially wowed by the writer’s website, which boasted dozens of résumé samples along with testimonials. More than $100 later, her résumé came back full of typos and misspellings. “I didn’t do much due diligence,” admitted Ray.

After her initial blunder, Ray did find someone who was capable of improving her document. Besides being local and available for a face-to-face meeting, the writer also had experience working with candidates looking for mid-to-entry level positions in her industry, the same sort of jobs Ray was targeting, she said.

4. How will you tackle writing my resume?

Résumés edited or created from scratch by lackluster writers are easy to spot because they often read like the experience is too good to be true, said Richard Freeman, a principal recruitment consultant at recruiting firm Hays Plc. “It’s almost always a series of amazing achievements and it looks like it’s written by someone who is trying to sell you,” Freeman said.

To avoid a résumé that skims the surface and to get one that actually points out your skills and responsibilities, inquire about the professional’s writing process and communications style. Look for résumé writers who do over-the-phone interviews or present job seekers with extensive questionnaires to really get at each person’s experience.

Since candidates rarely have just one version of their résumé, it’s also important to be sure a writer has a capacity to discuss different versions later in the job hunt, Rudnick added.

5. So, what did you do before you were a resume writer?

Before signing over your résumé to a writer, it may be a good idea to ask for some insight into his or her background. While a résumé writer doesn’t need a specific degree, experts point out that previous experience as an executive recruiter or human resources manager is a major asset. “If someone owned a florist shop for 20 years and decided to go into résumé writing, I’d question how this person is qualified,” said Tom Heard, founder of eSearch Associates, an information-technology recruiting firm based in Louisville, KY.

To verify, don’t be afraid to so some online snooping, such as by looking up the writer’s name on a search engine or viewing their profile on a business-networking site like LinkedIn. And if the résumé writer claims to be part of a professional association, check the group’s online directory for his or her name.

News from BLK

Bob Larson,CPC, President of Berman Larson Kane, will be speaking at the NAPS 2010 Annual Conference. The conference is being held this year in St. Louis and will take place from September 29th through October 2nd.

We at Berman Larson Kane are pleased to host SHRM’s (Society of Human Resource Professionals) PHR training classes. If you are interested in obtaining your PHR certification, contact Tina Goodwin at for details.

Additionally, Berman Larson Kane continues to host the MIS Network meetings on Tuesday evenings. This is a wonderful organization that has help so many talented professionals in transition over the past 20 plus years. It is our pleasure to contribute in any small way to those who seek employment assistance.

The next webinar in the Berman Larson Kane FREE Job Seeker Webinar Series has been postponed to Wednesday, September 22nd from its originally scheduled date of September 15th. This webinar will tackle the subject of how to handle tricky interview questions. Click here to join the many thousands of job seekers who have already benefited from this program.