Are professional resume writing services worth it?
Professional resume writing services can be very valuable or totally worthless. Learn what to look out for when hiring a resume writer.
Have you ever had one of those moments where someone asked you something as simple as what kind of hobbies you enjoy and you instantly forget every fun thing that you’ve ever done in your whole life?
Early in my career, that’s how I used to feel every time I needed to update my resume.
I was routinely getting positive feedback from my superiors and I sincerely felt as though I was producing high quality work at a fast pace, but every time I’d sit down to try and put together a winning resume, I would just stare at the blinking cursor. Or worse yet, I’d write something generic or hacky.
As a writer and a marketer, selling myself should kinda be my deal, right? So why the heck was I drawing a total blank whenever it’s time to talk about my accomplishments?
Mostly because talking about myself feels icky
However, resume writing is a skill like any other. Although I’m still not particularly comfortable talking about myself, I have developed my resume writing skills. This development came partly because I’ve been in roles where I was part of the interview process. During these times, I often had to complete coursework for me to stay updated on hiring trends and best practices for new employees.
Being on the receiving end of hundreds of resumes over the years has given me the ability to identify what works and more importantly—what doesn’t. I’ve seen hundreds of templates, designs, and strategies, and I’ve even successfully offered professional resume writing services myself as a lucrative side hustle.
I know firsthand that resume writing can be difficult, but do you really need to hire someone to do it for you? Let’s talk about it.
Do you need a professional resume writing service?
If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not you should hire a pro resume writer, we’ve got a few questions for you to ask yourself before you make a decision.
Are you a strong writer?
Let me first say that I know a lot of people who consider themselves poor writers but actually have great resumes. I’ve worked with a variety of friends, family members, and clients who trashed their own writing ability, but when I started to re-write their resume, it only ended up needing minor editing.
You won’t need Pulitzer Prize winning writing abilities to cobble together a decent resume, but you should definitely have the fundamentals taken care of. Cohesive sentences, spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all things that employers will be looking at, and mistakes could give the impression that you don’t have an eye for detail.
If you’re not a strong writer and you know it, you should consider hiring a professional resume writing service.
Do you have solid research skills?
Writing a resume can be tough if you don’t have any basis for comparison. What things should I be including or omitting? How do I stack up against my competition? Am I including relevant information?
This is where the research component comes into play. When I wanted to make a career pivot into content production, I read every job posting I could find for content-related roles. I took an audit of the kinds of skills and requirements that employers were listing, and then I customized my resume and portfolio to showcase the skills I had that best fit the trends I was seeing in job descriptions.
Additionally, I started searching job boards for other candidates’ resumes. On job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Career Builder, you can use the “employer” section of the site to look up candidates that match the job title you’re applying for.
This is a fantastic way to see how you stack up against your competition and get ideas for the type of things you should be including in your resume.
If your research skills are strong, you probably don’t need to hire a professional resume writing service.
Do you have an eye for design?
As if it wasn’t enough to have to generate a single document that encapsulates your entire career and commercial viability, that same document also needs to visibly stand out in a pile of 100+ other resumes.
A few years ago I was the hiring manager for a role that received over 200 applications. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get tired of looking at the same black and white Microsoft Word template again and again.
Have a friend take a look at your resume and then describe the design to you without reading the content. Are they using words like “dry”, “generic”, or “sterile”?
If so, it might be time to look for some outside help, or check out resume templates from design tools like Canva.
Can you afford it?
If you have expendable income and have answered most of the questions above with “no”, then a pro resume writer might be a good fit for you.
However, if money is tight or you’re in between jobs, I might suggest taking the time to wordsmith your own resume.
Professional resume writing services generally aren’t cheap and if you find one that is– run.
In my experience, a quality service is charging between $250-$500+. This of course doesn’t mean that just because they’re charging a lot that their service is good, so you’ll still need to do your due diligence. But if someone wants to charge you $99, you’re probably getting a recycled template and a rookie writer.
Circumstances where I don’t recommend hiring a professional resume writer
Now that you’ve asked yourself the pertinent questions regarding whether or not you may need the help of a professional resume writer, here are a few scenarios where I would advise against hiring help.
You’re consistently getting interviews
This is the first thing I ask anyone who comes to me for help with their resume. If you’re sending your resume out and you are consistently being contacted for interviews, it’s likely that your resume is not the problem.
That doesn’t mean that your resume couldn’t use some improvements but if you are hearing from interested employers regularly, but still not getting hired, that means your resume is doing its job and you might need to brush up on your interview skills.
However, if you’re sending out your resume constantly and all you’re getting in return is weeks or months of radio silence, you may need a resume writing service to help you.
You’re not qualified
You would think that this would go without saying but it’s a common occurrence for jobseekers to hire a resume writer with the expectation that they’ll’ be able to get hired for a job that they’re clearly not qualified for.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t be optimistic and shoot for a role that’s a little over your experience level, but you need to be realistic about your expectations.
A resume writer should be able to package your qualifications in a manner that will make you an attractive candidate, but they can’t invent work experience that you don’t have.
A headhunter requires you to use their resume writing service
I remember the rush of adrenaline I got the first time a headhunter reached out to me. After years of having to knock doors down to get a gig, I was finally at the point in my career where I was being sought after. Or so I thought…
It turned out that this particular headhunter wasn’t actually a highly connected professional with a network of powerful business contacts. This recruiter was trying to sell me on their professional resume writing service and told me that they wouldn’t be able to work with me unless I paid them $350 to have my resume rewritten.
It’s not unheard of for a headhunter to suggest resume changes, but if their partnership with you is contingent on you paying them for a new resume, I would be very hesitant to work with them.
Signs of a good professional writing service
Now that you know the circumstances in which it’s recommended that you do or don’t seek out a resume writer, what kind of things should you be on the lookout for to ensure that this is a good service? What are the red flags?
Knowledge of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Applicant Tracking Systems are computer programs that assist companies with automated recruiting and hiring solutions.
Have you ever seen a job opening that was way over your head, but since it only took a few clicks to apply you thought “eh, why not?”. That is exactly why employers use ATS. One of the core functions of the software is to scan resumes for relevant terms to preemptively judge a candidate’s qualifications before a live person spends time reviewing it.
It’s highly possible that you already meet the requirements for the roles you’re applying for, but your resume isn’t optimized in a way that even gets it in front of a live human!
That’s why it’s critically important to make sure that your resume writer is very familiar with ATS and its parameters.
Direct knowledge of your industry
As a resume writer, I won’t take on a client that is in an industry that I don’t have at least a working understanding of. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for a lot of other resume writers.
It’s crucial to ensure that your resume writer is very familiar with your particular industry. Especially if you are in a technical role with specific terminology and advanced concepts.
Before making any type of agreement, you should interview your writer to get a feel for their experience level with candidates like yourself.
A discovery process
While you’re in discussions with a potential resume writing service, make sure to ask them what their discovery process is like. It’s important for you to interview potential resume writers, but once you’ve found one you like, it’s equally as important for them to interview you.
A good writer will want to ask you for more details about your work experience, responsibilities, and accomplishments. It’s their job to draw all relevant and useful information out of you so that they can craft a resume that will give a clear and complete picture of your qualifications.
Personally, I would be hesitant to use any resume service that only wants to communicate electronically. That’s not to say that these services are necessarily bad, but the more technical your position is, or the more advanced you are in your career, the more likely it is your writer should have an in-depth conversation with you to get a clear picture of your value as a candidate.
A final word on resume writers
Professional resume writing services won’t be right for everyone, but I hope that after reading this guide you’ll be prepared to judge whether or not it’s right for you, and how to judge the merit of any resume service that comes your way.
Have you ever hired a resume writer before? How’d it go? Let us know in the comments!