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Cheap is a word that feels negative. And it’s not one that I use lightly. But the fact is, hiring a cheap resume writing service may hinder your career prospects.
To spare you this possibility, I wrote this post explaining what tends to go wrong in situations where a cheap resume writer is hired. Here we go.
In the industry, we refer to cheap resume writing services as “resume mills”. They produce discounted (cheap) resumes at scale.
Yet, whether or not you consider a resume “cheap” depends on your perspective. Everyone has a unique perception of value.
Let’s say that you are a Supply Chain Director at a national retailer. Your annual salary is a few hundred thousand dollars.
For someone at your level of income, a $2,000 investment in a professionally written resume might seem like a reasonable idea.
However, if you’re a Shift Manager at a local brewery, you’re probably earning in the vicinity of $65,000 per year. So $2,000 would seem quite steep.
It’s all subjective.
Income aside, though, I want you to choose a resume writer that’s right for you. This begins by understanding why some resumes cost $500, while others cost more than $2,000.
It’s a straightforward equation:
Resume Cost = Expertise (skilled resume writers can charge more for their time) + Time (how many hours they devote to you as an individual job search candidate).
Now that you’re clear on the math, let’s look at the 4 main reasons cheap resumes fall short.
1. You Practice False Economy.
You get what you pay for – this old adage is true. There are only so many improvements you can make to a resume on a low budget—namely, updates that don’t require a significant degree of customisation.
- Matching a resume’s verbiage to a job description.
- Injecting keywords from a job description.
- Adding standardised achievements and responsibilities.
- Updating layout.
- Improving grammar.
In other words, it’s possible to receive a relatively generic product geared toward a particular direction. Unfortunately, your resume will be pretty much indistinguishable from all the other applicants.
Which means recruiters are likely to skip right past you—quite the opposite of your intention.
Now, 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, there are two factors will help your resume grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers:
- 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- and skill-intensive.
So only a resume writer who possesses a considerable level of commercial acumen can weave these into your resume effectively.
Thing is, cheap resume services don’t have the margins to hire high-quality talent. Which means their writers don’t have the commercial business experience to make commercially sound decisions about which aspects of your career need to be emphasised (and which need to be placed in the background).
But here’s the worst part.
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 an executive. To be considered for those roles, you must position yourself as a unique answer to an employer’s current commercial needs.
2. You Waste Career Opportunities.
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 a top-tier resume writer by your side, your next move could be a step up to being Director of Finance at a large, blue-chip organisation.
Being the esteemed advisor to the CEO, you soon find yourself knocking on doors of bona fide, highly-respected positions. And five 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. So, you decide to apply for a Financial Controller role at another organisation.
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, if you landed that first Director of Finance role.
This 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.
And luck is for leprechauns.
A superior resume writer will be able to craft your experience to position you as the obvious, unique solution to a hiring manager’s problem.
A cheap resume-mill writer, in contrast, will compensate for their lack of commercial acumen with keyword stuffing (which they’ll often explain as “ATS optimisation” to make it past the recruiter’s screening technology).
In other words, a short-term decision to hire a budget resume writer brings luck squarely into the equation.
You’ve left your next career move in the hands of chance and hope versus 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.
- Transactional approach to sales.
- 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?
So you want to have a high-performing resume, but don’t have the funds to hire a top-tier resume writer?
You have one other option up your sleeve: write it yourself.
With some time and effort, you can do as well as—or better than—a cheap resume writer.
I’ve written a number of guides on the topic for your reference:
All the best with your job search.