The Truth About Cheap Resume Writing Services

4 big reasons to stay away.

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Some resume companies offer cheap resume writing services - often for less than $200. Can a cheap resume get noticed by recruiters?

Hiring a cheap resume writing service may wreck your career prospects. I don’t want that to happen to you, which is why I want to spend the next few pages explaining what tends to go wrong in situations where a cheap resume writer is hired.

But first of all, let’s define what “cheap” means.


What Is A “Cheap” Resume Writing Service?

Everyone has a unique perception of value.

For example, let’s say you work as a Supply Chain Director at a national retailer and your annual salary is a few hundred thousand dollars.

For you, investing $2,000 in a new resume might seem like a reasonable idea.

However, if you’re an Operations Manager at a local brewery, your salary is probably more in the vicinity of $70,000 per year. So $2,000 would seem quite steep. It’s all subjective.

(Related Article: Should You Pay Someone to Write Your Resume?)

Regardless of your income, you need to be aware of this:

Writing great resumes is a function of expensive skillsets multiplied by time. 

This is precisely why hiring a resume writing company which produces relatively inexpensive resumes at scale (known in the industry as a “resume mill”) is often an exercise in false economy.

Let me explore 4 main reasons why such resumes fall short of expectations.


1. You Can’t Do Much Without Money.

There are only so many improvements you can make to a resume on a low budget.

The main changes you can make are the ones that don’t require a significant degree of customisation. For example:

  • making the resume sound more like a job description
  • injecting keywords
  • adding standardised achievements and responsibilities
  • updating layout
  • improving grammar

In other words, it’s possible to provide a generic product. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get recruiters’ radars with a resume that screams “me-too”.

(Related Article: Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Resume Writer).

Don’t get me wrong – a face-lifted resume which attempts to convey your suitability for a role is certainly better than a poorly formatted list of roles, but it’s not the type of document that will produce spectacular results.

In my experience, the two factors which help your resume grab attention of recruiters and hiring managers are:

  • its ability to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  • its ability to tie your career moves into an overarching, commercially relevant career narrative

These two factors are also the most time-intensive – and can only be built into your resume by people who possess a considerable level of commercial acumen.

At this point cracks in the promises of cheap resume writing service mills start to show.

Companies which offer cheap resume services don’t have the margins to hire high-quality talent – and they can’t spend a considerable amount of time on your resume.

Predictably, they fail to deliver on the two key factors I described above, which means their resumes are unable to:

  • articulate what makes you uniquely different from a similarly qualified candidate.
  • explain your career moves in a way that reinforces your value proposition and emphasises your key competencies.

Cheap resume writers also can’t make commercially sound decisions about which aspects of your career need to be emphasised (and which need to be placed in the background).

The net effect is obvious:

  • your resume reads like a job description, which means you’re seen in the same way as every other “standard issue” applicant in a recruiter’s inbox.
  • your resume provides no commercial context to your experience, which means you get ignored by hiring managers (who are primarily interested in you from a commercial context of their specific business).

Perhaps most damaging is the fact that a cheap resume effectively casts you as a lower-level candidate – because it merely demonstrates the ways you were of value to past employers, rather than explaining how you can be of value to future employers.

This difference is particularly important if you’re applying for a role as a senior manager or executive.

To be considered for those roles, you must position yourself as a unique answer to an employer’s current commercial needs.


2. In The Long Term, You Lose.

If you were the Prime Minister, would you go to war with a collection of cheap tanks, aeroplanes and poorly trained, underpaid troops?

Of course not.

You might not like the idea of war. (I don’t either). But the military analogy is surprisingly relevant. When you go to market, you enter a battlefield. And your adversaries (fellow candidates, if you prefer to be more gentle) are competing for a few highly desirable roles.

In such a scenario, the candidate who is most well equipped and trained usually wins.

And yet the cost of hiring a cheap resume writing service isn’t as obvious as one in the example of entering a battlefield with a substandard army.

The reason is that the “cost” isn’t immediate.

It can take months of sending out a bad resume to realise that you’ve just thrown away opportunities, wasted time on pointless interviews, and missed out on income.

Due to frustration and desperation, it’s also possible that you’ll settle for a role that you’re overqualified for. Then you could spend the next 10 years unnecessarily stuck in roles that don’t challenge or excite you.

For example, let’s say you’re a Group Financial Controller at a leading Australian insurer.

With the right resume writer by your side, your next move could be a step up to being Director of Finance at a large, blue-chip organisation.

(Related Article: Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Resume Writer).

Being the esteemed advisor to the CEO, you soon find yourself knocking on doors of bona fide, highly respected positions. And 5 years later you find yourself firmly in the C-suite after being promoted to the role of a CFO.

But let’s say you don’t land that Director of Finance gig.

The feedback from the recruiter was that another candidate was a better fit from a culture perspective. You’ve heard that comment many times before, right? But did you realise that your resume played a huge part in that decision?

So you decide to apply for a Financial Controller role at another organisation. You’re successful.

Another four years pass before you receive an internal promotion to Head Of Finance. You tell yourself that your career has progressed, which it has.

But you’re not doing anywhere near as well as you would in the first scenario. 

And that brings me to the next reason why cheap resume writers are examples of a false economy.


3. You Rely On Chance.

Great career moves are your assets. But mediocre career moves are your liabilities.

A great resume writer will be able to position your experience in a way that positions you as the obvious, unique solution to a hiring manager’s problem.

A cheap resume writer, in contrast, will compensate for their lack of commercial acumen with keyword stuffing (which they’ll often explain as “ATS optimisation”).

This means a decision to hire a budget resume writer is also a decision to leave your next career move dependent on chance and hope than strategy and direction.


4. You’re A Number In Their System.

Cheap resume writers compete in the marketplace through the value discipline of operational excellence. It means in order to survive, they need to maintain:

  • a high-client churn rate
  • a transactional approach to sales, and
  • a high level of standardisation in their products.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing operational excellence—if you’re Amazon, UPS, or even your local chemist. These companies are expected to produce products and services that are low-fuss, predictably uniform and practical.

However, qualities which make a resume stand out in a recruiter’s inbox are usually the polar opposite of “low-fuss”, “predictably uniform” and “practical”.

Your career history contains unique quirks, moves, and highlights.

These nuances require the attention of a skilled, experienced, creative professional who is not watching the clock, but is committed to creating and articulating your value proposition while weaving your career into a cohesive story that aligns with your targeted direction in the strongest way possible.

Great resume writing companies understand no two resumes are the same. Which means they build business models not around the discipline of operational excellence, but around customer intimacy and product leadership.


What If You Have A Limited Budget?

Do you want to have a high-performing resume, but don’t have a budget to hire a top-tier resume writer?

(And by the way, did you know that Arielle is #1 ranked resume writing service in Sydney and in Melbourne?)

You have an option up your sleeve: write it yourself.

You can often do as well as—or better than—a cheap resume writer by writing your own resume. I’ve written a number of guides on the topic, so I suggest you use them for guidance:

This option does require investing a significant amount of time in yourself.

Here’s what I recommend: for at least 3 days, set aside 2-3 hours per day for learning the nuances of resume writing. Then write your resume, sleep on it, and do a couple of rounds of revisions.

The results won’t be in the same league as the ones that can be achieved by an elite resume writer, but they will result in an improvement over your current resume.

Having said all that, I don’t think DIY is your best option. If you’re serious about your career, I recommend that you invest in a top-notch resume writer.


– Irene



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