Questions to Ask a Resume Service
If you’re serious about getting results in your job search, here are some questions to ask as you review websites for resume writing companies and speak with resume writers. (Note: These are the sort of things you should try to find out; I’m not suggesting that you interrogate them!)
1. What type of business are you? What services do you offer other than resumes? Companies offering resume writing typically fall into the following categories:
- Secretarial or typing services — many of them claim to be “resume writers,” but have no legitimate credentials.
- Jack-of-all trades freelance writers — many writers and editors claim to do resume writing, but lack knowledge of hiring, current career marketing trends, and resume writing best practices.
- Resume mills — these large, factory-style operations draw you in with snazzy websites and alarming resume critiques, then treat you like a number. The quality is often poor. Even the better ones tend to employ somewhat inexperienced writers.
- Small resume writing / career coaching firms — this is who you want if you want results and a partner in your job search; look for someone who demonstrates a commitment to the career industry.
2. Are you certified by a reputable career industry organization? Most committed professionals are certified in resume writing through respected industry organizations. Certification requirements vary, but they all involve passing an exam or program to demonstrate a high level of ability. Look for a certified writer and verify the credential with the organization.
3. Do you provide assistance with LinkedIn strategy and LinkedIn profiles? LinkedIn.com can be a valuable tool for job seekers, but to maximize your chances of success with it, you need effective strategies and a profile with advanced search optimization. Many resume writers are not yet up to speed on LinkedIn or don’t know these advanced strategies and techniques. Look for an expert who provides training and profile writing.
4. Is this a side business? In other words, do you have a day job, or do you run your business full time?
Many low-priced resume writers have day jobs, and they just do resume writing to make some extra money. Chances are, their full-time jobs will take priority over their resume projects. Consequently, they might not be willing or able to devote the time necessary to produce a high-quality product that will get you results.
5. Are you involved with any professional associations?
A serious career industry professional will be an active member of industry groups. The three largest and most respected organizations in the industry are the National Resume Writers’ Association (NRWA), the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC), and Career Directors International (CDI). Be wary of large firms that display an association’s logo; that doesn’t mean all of its writers are members.
6. Do you have at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field? Watch out for “writers” who aren’t formally educated. Often, they tend to be typists or secretaries who lack writing ability, business knowledge, and hiring experience. Look for someone with a degree in communications, journalism, English, human resources, business, career development, or a related field.
7. Do you provide help with job search strategy and interview preparation? If you want to be successful in your job search, you need an effective job search strategy, networking skills, and interviewing skills. A serious resume writing firm will offer job search and interview coaching, supply training products, or provide referrals to reputable career coaches that partner with the firm.
8. How many years of business experience do you have? Do you have hiring experience?
Good resume writing requires insight into the business world. Someone who has less than 5 years of business experience will probably lack the insight needed to produce a world-class resume. Look for someone with years of experience, particularly if it involved being a manager and hiring job applicants.
9. Are you an accomplished and credentialed writer? Writing ability is important. Look for evidence of serious writing credentials, like work published in books or respected media outlets; professional writing awards; paid work experience as a writer; or a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in English, communications, or journalism.
10. How long, on average, do you spend on a resume for someone like me? To develop a world-class resume, a writer usually needs to spend anywhere from three hours (for an entry-level candidate) to eight or more hours (for an executive).
11. How much do you charge? Bearing in mind how long it takes to do the work well, estimate an hourly rate. Does it reflect the fees that an accomplished, serious professional would charge–or fees that reflect desperation, incompetence, a disregard for quality, or a fly-by-night operation? (Keep in mind that the hourly rate a business needs to make is 2-5 times the hourly rate that an employee with those skills would be making at a job.)
12. Are there any hidden charges I should know about? Many resume services have hidden charges or exorbitant extra fees for things like revisions and file conversions. These fees can add up, and you might end up paying $50-$100+ more than you expected.
13. Do you have expertise in incorporating keywords into resumes, and optimizing resumes for applicant tracking systems? Do you use special software for this?
If you’ve been applying for jobs and not getting interviews, it’s probably because the employers’ applicant tracking system (ATS) software is screening you out based on keywords. Resume writers who are on the cutting edge are now using special software to optimize resumes for ATS software.
14. Who will handle my project and how does that work? Many of the bigger Internet-based resume services outsource resume writing to workers in India. Also, some low-priced firms are set up like factories; one person will interview you, but someone else will write the resume. When hiring these firms, you have no way of knowing in advance who your writer will be or what his or her credentials are.
15. Will the content of my resume be original?
Many low-cost resume firms are “cookie cutter,” relying on software with pre-written resume templates for different professions. For example, if you’re an accountant, the company will simply pull up an accountant resume template and use the same wording for your resume. Bad idea! You won’t stand out among your competitors.
16. Do you specialize in my industry or profession? This is a “nice to have,” not a “must-have.” A resume writer who specializes in your field will have a better understanding of what questions to ask, the hiring landscape in your field, and your industry’s jargon. However, a top-notch resume writer can often do great work even for professions he or she is unfamiliar with at first.
17. Will you be there for me for the long haul?
When dealing with a large resume mill, you’re not going to get a partner in your job search; you can’t call or email your writer two months later with a question about your job search. Think about it–do you want to have someone who will be there for you after the resume project is complete, and who can be a partner in your career for years to come as you change jobs and seek promotions?