How to Choose the Best Resume Writer for You

(Article by: Emily McIntyre)

While sound strategy, tenacity and a hearty dose of fearlessness are crucial to today’s successful job hunt, a targeted, compelling resume is, perhaps, the linchpin when it comes to getting potential employers excited about you.

But, for so many of us, constructing a resume is about as pleasant as spending the weekend cleaning out Grandma Edna’s musty, cluttered basement, or having your wisdom teeth removed.

Or worse.

It’s awkward. It’s confusing. Frankly, it can be quite overwhelming.

How, exactly, does one transform a living, breathing career full of challenges overcome and unique accomplishments and distill it into a modern, professional looking sheet or two of paper—that conveys exactly who you are and why you are perfect for your targeted role?

For some, there’s one logical answer:

Hire a qualified resume writer.

But, where do you begin? And, how do you know if you’re even a good candidate for a professional?

If you know what general type or types of jobs you are looking for, but need help figuring out how to best package your capabilities for your target audience, a resume writer may be a key partner in making it happen.

What does a resume writer do?

Yes, of course. They write resumes. But great resume writers aren’t just “good writers.”

They’re excellent listeners, strategists, and sorter-outers of information. Great resume writers also know how staffing and recruiting decisions are made, both from a technology standpoint and a “how human-decision-makers-roll” perspective

Dawn Rasmussen, Chief Resume Designer at Pathfinder Writing and Career Services in Portland, Oregon, summarized the role of a resume writer well.

"Our job is to act as an informational ‘referee’ — someone who can help sift through a job seeker’s background and drill down to the most important (and relevant) parts that connect directly to the hiring employer’s needs,” she said.

“The essence of what a resume writer does is to clarify the value that a candidate brings to the table and tell their career story in a way that leaves a target company positively salivating to pick up the phone and call the person in for an interview.

“Basically,” she added, “a well-crafted resume makes an employer sit up, pay attention, and worry that the competition might snap that person up before they do!”

Sounds great, right? Next question.

What’s the process of working with a resume writer like?

Every resume writer is different, so if you’re thinking about hiring one, make sure you find one whose process aligns with your preferred style.

For example, Jenny and team prefer an initial consult (phone, video conference, or in person) followed by email communications. Some resume writing firms conduct all correspondence through questionnaire and email, and others are all-hands-on, with multiple meetings. Whatever means the resume writer uses, the first part of the process will involve information gathering and strategizing.

Jessica Hernandez, President and CEO of executive resume writing firm Great Resumes Fast, said her team will initially collate important information about each client’s career history, experience, accomplishments and career goals. They then use this input to create a messaging strategy and a resume that’ll pass through applicant tracking systems (resume scanning software), make sense to the first human gatekeeper, and impress the hiring team.

What else is important when considering a resume writer?

“Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions,” said our own Jenny Foss.

“Even better, if you know someone who has worked with a resume writer, ask if they’d recommend that person or service. This typically is not a small investment for people. You absolutely want it to be more than worth your while; you want to feel great about the end product and have it help you move more quickly toward your targeted job.”

Also important to note: There is (literally) no barrier to entry to becoming a professional resume. You, today, could fling open your doors and announce to the world that you are now a resume writer.

This can be quite detrimental to unsuspecting job seekers, Dawn said.

"After the Great Recession, a flurry of people hung out their shingle as ‘resume writers’ when in fact, they were only using templates and poor writing to fleece people out of their hard-earned money."

All the more reason to do a bit of due diligence before taking the leap.

Here are a few things to consider / questions to ask:

  1. Does the writer have a professional website that resonates with you and gives you some assurance that these are genuine (and current) professionals who genuinely care about your success?

  2. Does the writer (or firm) seem to command thought leadership in the industry? Can you find blog posts, articles or other evidence that suggests they understand deeply how this game works and what hiring managers will want to see on resumes?

  3. Can you see samples of their work?

  4. Do you see glowing reviews? Positive reviews from real people online or referrals from acquaintances can be so helpful. A great resume writer will happily connect you with a few of their past clients so you can chat with them and learn about the process and how successful they were.

  5. Do they have any professional certifications (e.g. CPRW, NCRW), membership with professional organizations, or other visible public involvement?

  6. What was the path that led them to become resume writers? And, do you think that this path aligns well with what you’re trying to accomplish?

  7. How many years have they been doing this and, how do they keep their knowledge fresh? (Nothing worse than that long-in-the-tooth resume writer that keeps right on dishing up advice worked well in 1999.)

  8. Do they offer a free intro consult or conversation to determine fit? (At, we absolutely do.)

Red Flags to Watch Out For:

The downside of the thriving resume industry is that there really are charlatans who will take your money and deliver a terrible product, even critiquing professionally-written resumes to impress you and then butchering your existing resume. Avoid this kind of disaster by keeping an eye out for obvious and subtle red flags.

Andrea Gerson, Founder of Resume Scripter, points out that some "resume writers" actually outsource the writing to others — and pay them very little to do so!

"Many of the large resume writing companies (also known as “resume mills”) farm out projects to low-cost freelancers with questionable resume writing skills,” she said. “When making this investment, you can certainly find ‘fast and cheap,’ but in this industry, you typically get what you pay for."

(Andrea, by the way, offers JobJenny customers a 10% discount on her services with promo code JOBJENNY.)

Dawn echoed Andrea’s statement.

"Want a $50 resume? Believe me, you will get what you pay for! Any quality writer cares deeply about you as a client and cares deeply about their reputation. Most small businesses thrive on referrals — we want you to be happy so you tell your friends and family for referrals."

Another red flag is a resume writer who will eagerly quote 'success rates' for job seekers using their resumes. There are too many factors influencing the success of their clients' job hunts, including the amount and type of networking being done and how the job search is conducted. Better to see samples of the writer's work and talk with past clients.

If a resume writer has a low Yelp rating or most online reviews are negative, this would also be a strong indicator that something is, well, a bit off.

Someone who is brand new to the field cannot call themselves an experienced resume writer; if they have unlimited availability, there's a reason!

Also, expect professional follow up. If the writer doesn't stay in touch with you and follow professional standards of communications, they are unlikely to produce a professional resume for you.

If you’re on the fence …

It's hard to know whether you need a resume writer, and ultimately it's your personal decision. Jessica says, "If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated it’s a good sign you should consider hiring a resume writer. The burden lifted off your shoulders will be worth it!"

Dawn adds, "If you aren’t sure how to state your credentials in a meaningful, powerful way, then you probably need to hire a professional resume writer. Most people don’t write resumes except maybe once every few years, so that skill is pretty rusty. But that’s what professional resume writers do, day in and day out. We take our craft seriously and take the time to educate ourselves on current hiring trends, preferred formats, and what hiring managers / recruiters / headhunters are seeking."

Jenny, a Certified Professional Resume Writer herself, said, “If you’ve got at least a ballpark idea of what type of role you’re trying to land, but maybe aren’t getting traction or don’t know quite how to position yourself as a ‘smack-in-the-forehead’ obvious match for that role? Then it’s probably well worth considering.”

And the best part about finding a great resume writer?

Jenny and her writing partner Karen Friesen (also a Certified Professional Resume Writer) pride themselves on their writing skills and strong knowledge of the hiring process, of course.

But the thing that people seem to really gravitate toward when hiring Team for professional resume writing is their levity and what a client once dubbed as their “huge G.A.S. (give a sh#t) factor”.

“Even under the best of circumstances, no one — and I mean no one — is like, ‘Yayyyy, job search!’ or ‘Yayyyy, it’s time to write my resume,” said Jenny. “It’s really stressful and heavy feeling. Great resume writers won’t just make the process survivable, they’ll be encouraging and energizing. Heck, they may even make it fun.

“Essentially, they’ll make sure you feel like you have someone in your corner and rooting for you every step of the way.”

And really, don’t we all need our own personal cheerleaders?

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