If you fall for a trap that offers “cheap” resume writing services, it will wreck your career prospects.
I don’t want that to happen to you.
This guide will explain why you need to avoid cheap resume writing services (and what to look for instead).
Then I’ll show you what you can do if you have a limited budget for job searches.
Let’s get into it.
WHAT IS A CHEAP RESUME WRITING SERVICE?
Everyone has a unique perception of what “cheap” means.
For example, let’s say you work as a Supply Chain Lead at a national retailer. Your annual salary is a few hundred thousand dollars.
For you, investing $2,000 into a new resume might seem reasonable.
However, if you’re an Operations Manager at a local brewery, your salary is $70,000 per year. So $2,000 would seem quite steep.
It’s all subjective.
(Bonus Read: Should You Pay Someone to Write Your Resume?)
There’s one element of this argument that holds true:
Writing a great resume isn’t cheap.
Why isn’t hiring a company that provides cheap resume writing services in your best interests? Let me share 5 reasons with you.
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 improvements you can make are the ones that don’t require a significant degree of customisation.
Some examples of such improvements are:
- Making your resume sound like a job description
- Injecting keywords
- Creating run-of-the-mill achievements and responsibilities
- Updating the layout
- Improving the grammar
In other words, it’s possible to provide a generic, personal branding service.
Here’s why I say “generic”: To create a unique-to-you, commercially relevant, artfully articulated personal brand, you need high-calibre consultants. Such people cost money (which is a point I’ll cover in more detail shortly).
You won’t get far in the market with a generic, impersonal brand and a face-lifted resume.
(Bonus Read: Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Resume Writer).
This kind of resume is certainly better than nothing, but it’s not the kind of high-impact activity that will improve your marketability.
The two biggest drivers of marketability are:
- Eliciting and communicating your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
- Creating an overarching career narrative
These two activities are also the most time-intensive.
At this point in the process, the cracks in cheap resume writing services start to show.
Since cheap resume writing services don’t have the margins to hire high-quality talent, they can’t allow their writers to spend a considerable amount of time on your personal brand.
Therefore, they can’t:
- 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.
- Make commercially sound decisions about which aspects of your career need to be emphasised (and which need to be placed in the background).
These inabilities result in two types of resumes:
- One that reads like a job description, which means you’ll never get a call from a recruiter. (After all, you look like every other “standard issue” applicant in their inbox.)
- One that provides no commercial context to your experience, which means you’ll never get past the recruiter. (You’ll also be ignored by hiring managers, because it doesn’t speak to their needs as a commercial business.)
Most importantly, the cheap approach effectively casts you as a lower-level candidate to recruiters and hiring managers. 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.
Here’s the next problem:
2. In the Long Term, You Will Lose.
I get it. You want to get a great job, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money in the process.
But there are some things in life that you never want to skimp on. Resume writing is one of those things.
Think about it this way … If you were the Prime Minister, would you want to go to war with a collection of cheap tanks, aeroplanes, and poorly trained, underpaid troops?
Of course not.
The cost here is clear: Your adversaries will outmanoeuvre, outgun, and outsmart you.
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 (err, fellow candidates, if you want to be more gentle) are competing for a few highly desirable roles.
It’s a competition. In such a scenario, the candidate who is the most fully prepared, equipped, and trained usually wins.
And yet the cost of working with a cheap resume writing service isn’t as black-and-white as getting into a fight 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 possible that you’ll settle for a role that you’re overqualified for. Then you could spend the next 10 years unnecessarily stuck in middle management.
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 organization.
(Bonus Read: 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’re firmly in the C-suite, but now you’re CFO.
But let’s say you don’t land that Director of Finance gig, so you settle.
(The feedback was that another candidate was a better fit from a cultural 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 try your luck at applying for Financial Controller roles at another organisation. Then you’ll get the exposure and experience you need, as well as the potential for a promotion.
You do your time: Another four years passes before you receive an internal promotion to be 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.
Then you can help ensure that your next move is a step up.
A cheap resume writer will compensate for their lack of commercial acumen with keyword stuffing (which they’ll often explain as “ATS optimisation.”)
This differentiation will make your next move more dependent on chance, rather than a strong, targeted strategy.
4. You’re a Number in Their System.
Most cheap resume writing companies have to use cookie-cutter strategies, because they wouldn’t be able to make a profit if they did do any creative work.
Resume writing is a dynamic skill.
As the world we live in gets buffeted by technological, cultural, and economic headwind, the principles of resume writing evolve in a steady fashion.
But more importantly, every single resume is different. Every client has a unique career history and different needs.
A cookie-cutter approach rarely leads to a positive response from the job market, so it will almost always be low-quality.
In addition, cheap resume writing companies will be unresponsive.
They only allocate 30-60 minutes to writing each resume, which means they don’t have time to communicate.
These companies allocate most of their resources to optimizing the efficiency of their processes and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
In other words, they compete in the marketplace through the value discipline of operational excellence.
So 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 be cheap, low-fuss, convenient, and practical.
But for obvious reasons, this business model would not work as well for a brain surgeon. Which brings me to my first reason why you shouldn’t choose a cheap resume writing service:
Your career is more closely related to a brain than it is to a box of paracetamol.
Your job history contains unique quirks, moves, and highlights.
These nuances require the attention of a skilled, experienced, creative professional who is not watching the clock. A quality writer is committed to building a value proposition for you. This person wants to weave your career into a cohesive story that aligns with your targeted direction in the strongest way possible.
If your career is as important to you as your brain, then a cheap resume writing service is not for you.
Great resume writing companies understand that writing resumes requires creativity that’s backed up by a comprehensive marketing strategy.
No two resumes are the same.
And unlike scale-based models, quality agencies value client retention. For example, my company (Arielle Careers) allocates most of its resources to innovation, including:
My philosophy is simple: If we focus on being market leaders while writing our resumes, we don’t need to be as aggressive with front-end sales and marketing.
5. You Won’t Be in the Hands of Thought Leaders.
Cheap resume writers have to employ cheap labour.
Cheap labour often equals a lack of commercial acumen, which is an essential skill for writing a compelling resume that speaks to the needs of recruiters and hiring managers.
This skill is gained through one of these options:
- Holding roles as senior managers or executives at reasonably sized organisations.
- Directly reporting to senior business leaders on strategic business matters.
In addition, the person who writes your resume needs to have considerable chops in marketing and copywriting.
Such people are senior, rare, and in-demand. So they won’t work for entry-level pay.
In contrast, a cheap resume writer usually has a background that demonstrates little career progression, and is comprised almost entirely of unrelated hops across industries and professions. Usually, writers cross roles in junior recruitment, admin, HR, career counselling, and organizational psychology.
THE SOLUTION FOR A LIMITED RESUME WRITING BUDGET.
Do you want to have a high-performing resume, but have no budget to hire a top-tier resume writer?
That’s OK. 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:
- The Ultimate List of Resume Mistakes
- How to Write Resume Achievements Like a Pro
- How to Turn a Resume into a Masterpiece
This option does require investing a significant amount of time in yourself.
Here’s what I recommend: For at least 5-7 days, set aside 3-4 hours per day for learning the nuances of resume writing. Find the mistakes, correct them, 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.
Hiring a professional resume writer is an important career decision. The cost of hiring the wrong person to write your resume can be considerable.
You can only avoid falling for the empty promises of a cheap resume writer by choosing carefully.