Can I be blunt with you for a moment?
The world of professional resume writers is a murky one.
To help you navigate this world, I’m about to share with you my thoughts on how to choose the best resume writing service.
However, my opinions are biased.
In the interest of total transparency, you need to know that I own and manage Arielle Careers.
We are a personal branding agency that provides, among other things, resume writing services to senior managers, executives and board members.
This means I clearly have a vested interest in writing a post which helps you choose the best resume writing service.
However, one of the reasons my agency is successful is because I have no interest in selling products that won’t work. Our philosophy is to always under-promise, over-deliver and obsess over the tiniest of details.
Also, we don’t work with everyone; we choose our clients carefully and yet are usually booked out 1-2 months in advance.
I’M NOT SAYING THIS TO BOAST.
Rather, I want to set the right context around this post.
While more business is nice, my purpose here is not to convince you to become our client.
It’s to help you navigate the complex, confusing (and – sadly – often unscrupulous) world of resume writers – and to hopefully help you choose the best resume writing service for you.
(And, if you do choose to enquire about our resume writing services after reading this article, I’d be honoured to hear about your planned career move in more detail).
WHY I WROTE THIS GUIDE.
Choosing the best resume writing service is difficult. And yet, it’s also one of the most important career decisions you’ll ever make.
- An excellent resume writer will position you in a way which communicates your commercial value, speaks to the needs of your potential employers and opens doors for you.
- An ordinary resume writer will clip the wings of your job application and make you look like every other candidate in the marketplace.
WHY HIRE A RESUME WRITER?
It’s important to realise that, when you engage a resume writing service, you do not buy a page full of fancy words.
The best resume writing services will provide you with something much more valuable than that – a document which shifts the balance of power between yourself and a prospective employer.
In other words:
A great resume writer will give you leverage over a potential employer and competitive advantage over candidates who are competing for the same role as you.
Ideally, your chosen resume writing service will provide you with:
- Confidence that you have a strong competitive advantage.
- Luxury of being able to enjoy offers coming to you, instead of you having to chase them.
- Freedom to choose between multiple lucrative job offers.
- Peace of mind that your application will rest on top of the pile.
Sadly, these hopes are often not realised. Here’s what usually goes wrong.
THE MOST COMMON RESUME WRITER FAILS.
To compensate for a lack of commercial grit, resumes are filled with over-inflated adjectives and empty statements which aren’t tied to a bigger purpose.
(Related Article: Ultimate List Of Resume Mistakes).
2. ATS OVERCOMPENSATION.
In well-intentioned, but clumsy efforts to help resumes pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS), resume writers stuff their work with keywords.
(Related Article: How To Write A Resume That Passes Through ATS).
3. WEAK STRATEGY.
Resumes lack a cohesive career story and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), never articulating the true value of the people they are written to promote.
3. DATED DESIGN.
Confusing, sloppy, difficult-on-the-eye design is common. Also, layouts are often not optimised for digital devices, thus frustrating recruiters who prefer to scan through resumes from mobile phones.
4. POOR TARGETING.
The positioning is generic or vague.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST RESUME WRITING SERVICE.
As you continue to look for the best resume writing service to engage, here are 7 things you should consider to help you make the right choice.
1. HOW IS THEIR OWN MARKETING?
A resume writer won’t be able to market you any better than they market themselves.
It’s an inescapable law of this industry.
That’s because the core process of resume writing is, in fact, not writing at all.
While superb writing skills are essential, 80% of the work involves discovering and articulating your points of differentiation, and weaving those points into a compelling narrative that’s commercially meaningful to prospective employers.
In that sense, the act of writing a resume is much more closely related to the field of marketing than writing.
As a side point, I discovered this the hard way, after trialling – and choosing not to hire – countless Oxford- and Cambridge-educated English Literature PhDs. Despite their enviable writing talent, they couldn’t craft a resume that would be noticed by employers.
When you’re searching for the best resume writing service, you’re looking for a rare breed of professional who possesses the marketing skills and business acumen to persuasively speak to the needs of your target market and help you out-market your competition.
A useful question to ask yourself is: how good is the resume writing company at marketing themselves, and how distinct are they, compared to their competitors?
Things to pay attention to:
- Positioning: Is it clear, confident and sharp? Or is it generic, vague and untargeted? Do they unequivocally know how they differ from their competitors?
- Writing: Is it generic, lifeless, dry and propped up by clichéd phrases like “extensive experience”, “comprehensive range of skills”, “working in many sectors” and “extremely passionate”? Or is it precise and crisp while also being emotive, meaningful and colourful?
- User experience: Does the design of their website overwhelm you? Or does it give you what you need, when you need it? Today’s resumes must be designed with user experience in mind.
- Imagery and graphics: What about nonverbal communication? How is imagery used to support the brand story? Do you see generic, overused stock photos? Or a sustained, strategic effort to ensure that unique images are used to enhance their core message?
- Attention to detail: The difference between good and outstanding marketing is always in the fine detail. Often a single word can transform the impression made by a brand. Do you see evidence of meticulous dedication to perfecting the message? Or does it look like they’re content with merely being “good enough”?
2. YOU (ALMOST ALWAYS) GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
Broadly, Australian resume writing services operate at 3 price points:
1. $50-$200: resume mills. “Bums-on-seats” operations which focus on spicing up the language and cleaning up the layout. Minimal attention paid to positioning and branding.
2. $200-$800: mid-weights. An attempt is made to use good language and target your resume to a specific role (with varying degrees of success).
3. $800 and above: typically the best resume writing services. The service aims to produce a resume which is, effectively, a marketing document which distills your value and aligns it with your desired career direction. A captivating story is weaved through your resume to tie it to the rest of your personal branding assets.
Cost has traditionally correlated positively with quality. However, I’ve lately noticed a disturbing trend where “resume mill” grade resumes are sold at “mid-weight” prices.
To avoid becoming an owner of an overpriced, but underperforming resume I highly recommend that you call the resume writing company.
Share with them your current career challenges and listen to their response carefully. Pay attention to the following details:
- Communication Skills: Is the person you’re speaking with a superb communicator?
- Quality of Advice: Is he/she able to wrestle with, tease apart and provide multiple options for your unique career challenges? Or is he/she giving you generic advice? Do you feel like you’re really being listened to and understood?
- Generosity: Is he/she willing (and able) to provide you with substantial value upfront, before closing the deal?
- Instinct: What’s your gut feel – is he/she the real deal?
3. LOOK OUT FOR FAKE TESTIMONIALS / REVIEWS.
The authenticity of testimonials is almost always impossible to verify.
A more reliable sign of credibility is a substantial number of positive reviews on Google Places. This platform includes checks and balances which attempt to ensure that reviews are authentic.
However, Google Places reviews can also be fabricated. Thankfully, they’re often easy to spot.
Most of the time, fake reviews will be written by the same person, which means they’ll inherit that person’s preference for sentence structure, tone, punctuation and rhythm.
They also tend to include an unnaturally high repetition of the same few points, which the resume writer knows are key sticking points for potential customers. For example, “at first I was concerned about the cost, but now I’m so glad I’ve spent the money”.
I recommend reading 5-10 reviews, paying close attention to what’s being said and how it’s being said. See if you can identify patterns in the language and stated benefits.
Note that absence of a photograph in a reviewer’s profile isn’t necessarily an indicator of inauthenticity. Due to the sensitive nature of this work, quite often clients prefer to remain anonymous.
However, be wary if profiles of most (or all) reviewers lack photographs.
Again, look for unnatural patterns.
4. ENSURE THAT THEY’RE A MATCH FOR YOUR LEVEL OF SENIORITY.
While you’re examining resume writer reviews, pay close attention to the profiles of the people who posted them.
Do they hold positions similar to yours? Are they cut from the same cloth as you? Do they write like you do?
This is an important factor to consider, because resumes at each level of seniority are expected to use language – and follow rules – that are specific to that level.
A resume writer might have five-star reviews from a dozen accountants and bookkeepers, but that doesn’t mean they can write an effective resume for a CFO.
The best resume writing service for you is one which has substantial experience in writing resumes for people who are at your level of seniority.
5. BEWARE OF CREDENTIAL FLASHING.
This may surprise you, but there are actually several certifications for resume writers.
These include Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified Advanced Resume Writer (CARW), and Certified Master Resume Writer (CMRW).
I don’t have them. Nor do any of my team members. And we don’t intend to get them.
After careful consideration, and after receiving a number of enquiries from people whose certified writers failed to produce effective results, I decided these certifications weren’t adequate.
In my experience, the performance of resumes written by certified resume writers is unnecessarily curbed, because the certifications were developed for a world that is rapidly disappearing.
Today’s hiring managers and recruiters play by the rules of Headhunting 2.0 [Read my interview with the BBC, where I explain this concept in detail]. The best resume writing services intimately understand the expectations of this new world.
I suggest you look beyond the certification credentials for up-to-date, real commercial experience.
Which brings me to my next point.
6. EXAMINE THEIR EXPERIENCE.
Today, most resume writers claim to have HR and recruitment experience.
However, they rarely explain what that means.
While HR and recruitment experience certainly helps to write a resume – because it provides a “behind the scenes” insight into the needs of hiring managers – it’s important to note that not all such experience is useful or relevant.
For example, administration managers who performed HR duties as part of their roles, or journalists who completed stints as recruiters, are unlikely to possess the same hiring competency, knowledge of the talent management lifecycle, or ability to add value as a dedicated HR Consultant at PwC.
Read between the lines. Identify and challenge any overstatements. Ask about the specifics of stated experience:
- Where was the experience earned?
- What did the job involve? Junior-level HR/Recruitment tasks? Or senior advisory and decision-making responsibilities?
- How substantial was the portion of the role that involved HR/Recruitment?
- Was the position held as part of a structured, successful HR/Recruitment career? Or as part of a temporary job?
- How long was the position held?
7. LOOK FOR EVIDENCE OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP.
Every resume writer will tell you that you should publish content and develop your online presence. However, are they putting their money where their mouth is? Or are they simply preaching?
If it’s the former, take a close look at the quality of their content. Read a few of their posts.
Does it seem like they really care about their chosen topic? Are they generating and broadcasting innovative and original thoughts? Or are they producing “content for the sake of content”, full of generic advice that looks like it’s been cheaply outsourced?
Here are a few other quick checks you can perform to help you choose the best resume writing service that’s in step with the times:
- Online Presence: What do you see when you Google their name and company? What happens when you Google their name in combination with words “resume writing” and “personal branding”?
- Authority: Have they written any content for legitimate, authoritative industry blogs?
- Credibility: Have their opinions been quoted by any credible publications?
- LinkedIn: Does their LinkedIn profile appear professional and engaging?
By publishing this post, I hope to achieve a reduction in the number of instances whereby talented professionals choose a resume writing service that can’t deliver the results they expect and deserve.
Do you think we might be a great match?
Before you reach out, take a look at who we work with. We select our clients carefully.
The clients with whom we’re most compatible often sense this fact before contacting us.
If you feel this might be you, then I’d love to hear from you.