Have you spent hours working on your resume, but haven’t received a good response from recruiters?
If so, you’re probably wondering whether or not it’s finally time to pay someone to write your resume.
And you’re probably wondering whether the cost will be worth it.
Well, wonder no more. Today, I’ll present you with pros and cons for each of your options:
- Paying a typical resume writer to write your resume
- Writing your own resume
- Commissioning Arielle Careers to craft your resume
Each option has its own unique limitations and benefits. And your investment is different at every level.
SOME EXPERTS SAY THAT RESUME WRITERS ARE UNNECESSARY.
To complicate the issue further, Laszlo Bock — Google’s famously chirpy ex-SVP of People Operations — recently fired a shot across the bow of resume writers everywhere.
He said that you should not “waste money on something you can get for free.”
Instead, he argues that you should find someone who has the same role that you’re aspiring to obtain. Then you should “emulate” their resume.
In other words, you should pay attention to how this person described his or her experience and accomplishments, and phrase yours in a similar way.
After all, their resume got them the job. So if you don’t stray too far away from their formula, you should experience a similar fortune, right?
Bock’s argument sounds logical in theory, but in practice, it’s just as ineffective as telling someone to go on a date and emulate Brad Pitt.
I’ll fully debunk his argument shortly, but first, I need to begin by defining the value that your resume provides.
After all, how can you determine whether or not you should pay someone to write your resume if you don’t know what a great resume can do for you?
THE VALUE OF A GREAT RESUME.
A strong, crisp, achievement-focused resume will have a positive impact on a number of stages in your job-search process.
In case you didn’t know, your resume will be used:
A) By Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS):
- To perform an initial screening
B) By Recruiters:
- To perform an initial human screening
- To inform an initial screening
- To construct their interview(s) (by creating targeted questions about parts of the candidate’s background)
- To sell the candidate to hiring managers
C) By Hiring Managers, Pre-Interview(s):
- To construct their interview(s) (same as above)
- To dive deep into specific details (by reflecting on parts of the resume)
D) By Hiring Managers/Panels, Post-Interview(s):
- To inform final hiring decisions
This process acts as a funnel, and it is designed to eliminate a large portion of candidates at every stage.
In other words, in order to get a job offer, you need to sell yourself in the best possible way at every stage of the process.
In addition, any weakness in your resume will be placed under a microscope at least a half-dozen times.
The conclusion, I hope, is obvious: one of the key factors that contributes to your success (or lack thereof) is getting your resume in order before sending it out.
Here are your 3 main options.
1. PAY SOMEONE TO WRITE YOUR RESUME.
Preferably, this “someone” should be a professional resume writer.
However, just as marrying someone isn’t a guarantee of a happy life, hiring a resume writer is not a guarantee of having a resume that sells you as the candidate of choice to employers.
I have written quite a lengthy memoir on how to choose the best resume writer. And another one on why you should avoid cheap resume writing services.
Here’s the summarised version:
A lot of my clients come to Arielle after having their resume “professionally written” and not seeing an improvement in their marketability.
Inevitably, I see many examples of work produced by people who make a living by writing resumes.
(Bonus Read: Example Of A Resume For The Australian Job Market).
Below are my observations about their work.
Most of them are able to add value to your resume in the following ways:
- Outline your responsibilities and achievements
- Clean up the language
- Improve the formatting and layout
This is certainly a good start. Sadly, most (read: all) of them fall short in the following key areas:
A) They’re Not Able To Inject Commercial Acumen Into Your Resume.
In other words, they often succeed at ticking the boxes off a person’s career against the description of a position, but they are almost never able to contextualise what this person can do for the employer.
For example, if you were to equate this situation to marketing a pharmaceutical product, you might say that this medicine is great because:
- It’s compliant with all regulations
- It’s made in a best-in-class factory.
- It’s made with state-of-the-art technology.
- A 4-year Harvard study has been performed on it.
But you forget to actually say, “It’ll stop your headache in under 10 mins.”
B) They’re Not Able To Weave A Storyline Through Your Career History.
This point is particularly important if you:
- Have a complex career history
- Are at a senior level
- Have gaps in your resume
Resumes without an overarching narrative are usually very keyword-heavy. They also tend to read as if a list of tasks has been copied from a job description, then pasted into the document.
You look competent, but identical to your competition. There’s nothing to differentiate you in a positive way. Whether you’re a CFO, marketing manager, or sales assistant, you become a “standard issue” candidate in a recruiter’s inbox.
Most traditional resume writers lack the marketing and branding chops necessary to prevent this situation from occurring.
Incidentally, it also presents one of the main problems that most people run into when they attempt to write their own resumes.
Which brings me to my next point.
2. Write The Resume Yourself.
When writing your own resume, you quickly realise how difficult it is to sell yourself on paper.
This challenge has a lot to do with the marketing skills I mentioned above, but it is compounded by the fact that you lack necessary objectivity.
Sure, over a few beers, you can talk about your career for 5 hours. But in a 500-word document, what do you need to say to grab a recruiter’s attention? And how do you need to phrase it?
Everything becomes a big blur, and certain questions can baffle you:
- “What should I say?”
- “What do I put where?”
As a result, most DIY resumes I see sound more like obituaries than compelling documents:
“I led the analytics team.”
“I was responsible for sales and marketing.”
“I answered phones.”
Furthermore, resumes written by their owners tend to offer no sense of depth into who the authors are. They also offer little insight into personality. For example:
“I’m a hardworking, enthusiastic person…”
Achievements also tend to be weak (or missing altogether):
“I grew revenue by 20%.”
That’s nice, but what’s the context? Why is it a good achievement? How does it compare with the industry metrics?
Perhaps you’re telling yourself: “I do not want to pay someone to write my resume.”
If so, the DIY option is certainly on the table. I would not expect miracles. But if you invest a good amount of time and apply yourself, you can probably do as well as some resume writers out there.
And I’ve got you covered on that front. I have a number of guides online, which cover the topic of DIY resume writing:
- Ultimate List of Resume Mistakes
- How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume (New Rules of Resume Writing)
- How to Write Resume Achievements Like a Pro
- How to Explain a Career Transition on Your Resume
- 3 Linguistic Mistakes That Horribly Deflate Your Resume
By the way, DIY resumes are notorious for having problems with layout, formatting, and grammar. All of these issues are addressed in my guides above.
After you write it, I recommend that you call in a favour with a recruiter or HR manager, and ask them to take a look over it. A few caveats:
- Ensure that this person understands the sector you operate in.
- Ensure that this person has recruited candidates at your level of seniority.
When it comes to articulating a narrative of your entire career, this approach may still result in a weak resume.
To eliminate that weakness, you’d also need someone with a marketing skillset to provide input. But in my opinion, doing that extends beyond the scope of a “DIY resume”.
If you’re going to go to such lengths, you might as well pay professional to write your resume.
(Bonus Read: Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Resume Writing Service).
3. Hire An Arielle Careers Resume Writer.
Not to brag, but at Arielle, we provide a very different type of resume writing service.
When you pay us to write your resume, we tend to create something that looks like a classy, polished resume on the surface. However, it contains a high-revving marketing engine under the bonnet.
We believe that your resume must do the following:
A) Get Past The 3 Gatekeepers: ATS, Recruiter and Hiring Manager.
Each of these blockers looks for different elements in your resume. The ATS looks for keywords and common phrases, but is easily confused by anomalies in language.
Meanwhile, a recruiter looks to “tick the boxes off” and match a candidate to an available job opening.
Finally, a hiring manager (who understands the requirements of the job in the greatest detail) will be looking for what makes a candidate stand out. For the hiring manager, achievements are also important.
B) Communicate Your Brand via Overarching Storyline.
A compelling resume starts by building a chronological story of a candidate’s career, which starts with the objectives that a person was brought on to achieve.
As the resume unfolds, it takes readers on a journey that they can understand. What did this person do to reach this objective? At the same time we see those objectives demonstrated as key competencies.
C) Articulate And Communicate Your Unique Value.
A lot of people don’t know what they bring to the table, which is why they need someone to write their resume. They may have an idea, but they’re not sure if it actually stacks up in the marketplace or if it’s right.
(For instance, is stopping a headache in under 10 mins good enough to compete in the market?)
We can verify that we can back it up with evidence from their career (though our discovery session), but also—critically—give them that objectivity and market insight.
(We’ve done this for a long time and have worked with people in their sector and at their level of seniority.)
So we can verify that it’s a good selling point, and that it will cut through in the market. Once we’ve done that, we can then concisely articulate a value proposition similar to the above medicine example—clear and simple.
WAIT. WHAT ABOUT LASZLO BOCK?
By now, you should be able to see why Laszlo’s argument doesn’t hold up well.
Let me articulate the 3 main problems I see with his point about not paying someone to write your resume.
A) Networking Limitations.
First of all, many people will find it difficult to find someone’s resume to emulate— because they don’t have networks that are strong enough.
Laszlo is the world’s most famous HR executive. As such, he is quite distant from the fact that a lot of people don’t have strong networks.
B) Emulating Is A Weak Strategy.
It’s unlikely that the person you’ve chosen to emulate has the same career trajectory as you.
It means you may be able to use this approach to improve the language in a few of your achievements, but you will not be able to position yourself as a unique candidate.
Yes, that’s right, there’ll be no Overarching Story and no Unique Value Proposition.
This approach limits you to showing up as “one of the masses”. You may stand out as one of the better ones in that group, but you’ll still be firmly stuck in it.
C) Great People With Bad Resumes Get Jobs.
It’s possible that an individual’s resume has had little to do with their success.
For example, the person whose resume you’ve decided to emulate may have gotten the job you want by being headhunted.
They could have had a pre-existing, favourable relationship with a recruiter or a hiring manager. Or they could have known someone at the company who helped them get a foot in the door.
Again, Laszlo’s advice is given from an Ivory Tower.
IS PAYING SOMEONE TO WRITE YOUR RESUME WORTH IT?
Cost and value are subjective terms. How much is your time worth to you? Are you comfortable enough to live off your savings while you look for a job?
Many people are. They’re not in a rush.
But if you need a job to pay the bills, consider the following scenario. “If I pay someone to write your resume, they might charge me an obscene amount: $5,000.” That’s a lot of money for a resume, right?
Well, yes. But consider this…
You send the resume out and find that it receives a much stronger response from employers.
You end up shaving 6 weeks off your job search. And because your value was more strongly articulated, you are able to negotiate a 5% higher starting salary. If your salary is $100K and you stay in the job for 4 years, here’s how it would pay out:
100K/52 * 6 = $11.5K
(12*4 – 1.5 = 46.5)(100/12*0.05) = 19.4K
And don’t forget the price of the resume is inflated on purpose here—to make a point that choosing a resume writer on cost alone is not wise.
What’s most important is the resume’s ability to sell you.
Top brands understand this concept, so they spend enormous amounts of money on selling themselves. Don’t forget that you, too, are a brand.
MONEY IS ONLY ONE PART OF THE EQUATION, THOUGH.
For many of us (especially at the executive level), getting the right job is important.
You may have 2-3 jobs left in you, and you want to make them count. Or you’re mid-career, and the right next move will rocket you to the executive level.
Then The One appears, and you really want it. So do you really want to find yourself armed with a substandard resume?
A classic war analogy applies here:
It’s time to go to war, and you have a strategic target you need to hit. Would you want to have an army that misses targets more often than it hits them?
OH, AND ONE MORE THING.
A comment we often hear from our clients is this – the process of having their resume written helps them gain clarity about their careers and achievements.
Some people don’t ever talk about their careers, and most people don’t really reflect on their achievements.
By taking a deep dive into this process, they get reacquainted with their careers and start ‘owning’ it again.
So beyond the documents, they have been through a process that has forced them to recall the good stuff, which actually gives them self-confidence.
We get a lot of this kind of feedback: “Wow, I’ve actually done a lot, haven’t I?”