You are humming along healthily when suddenly a career crisis shakes you, causing great job pain, and perhaps even job loss. You don’t know what to do. The pain is stifling – all you can focus on is stamping it out, and quickly. You rush to an all-purpose career ER, which may include quickie resume services, a cobbled together LinkedIn profile and blast of your resume to thousands of recruiters and hiring company CEOs.
You haven’t taken time or done the introspection to really focus on your next step, so you build an “I’ll-do-any-job” resume. This document is filled with “responsibilities for” and a laundry list of statements that blandly assert you “regularly exceed targets” and that you are good at “creating reports, coordinating projects and leading people.” All of this is smattered with the appropriate acronyms, buzzwords and metrics that prove you are smart and have a lot of accountability.
You get the drift – your resume is loosely disconnected brain dump of all things you’ve ever done, and your search strategy is equally disheveled.
So, you decide to slow down and build a higher performing result, with the help of a strategic resume writer. Following are six tips to help guide you during the selection process.
Don’t: Google for the quickest, cheapest writer.
Do: Research your writer and identify someone who understands the strategic steps needed to create a unified, compelling career story. A finished career story is more than data and numbers; it is a nuanced overview of how/why you do what you do and why it matters to your target hiring company.
Vetting out a great writer will take time. Unfortunately, if you use Google to search, you will net tens of thousands of results, and not all of the first-page results display quality. If you want someone who is an expert at SEO, then hire the company that shows up first in a Google search. But, if you want to ensure you find an introspective strategist, go beyond Google and check industry association websites, such as Career Directors International or National Resume Writers’ Association.
Moreover, and possibly most importantly, ask around. If you are a member of an industry association, check with members you admire, inquiring if they’ve ever used a professional resume writer. Ask a friend or former colleague. Then, dive deeply into the referred resume writers’ websites and research their value and credentials.
Really read and think about the details of what you uncover. Use your gut. Bottom line, vetting out an excellent resume writing ‘strategist’ with a reputation for results versus a low-cost resume tactician will take effort.
Don’t: Hire someone who is not a writer. Many people claim to know what a good resume looks like, but knowing a good resume when you see it is not the same as knowing how to write a muscular resume story.
Do: Look for someone who either has a degree in writing, English or journalism or has deep experience in writing. Many folks with no formal training or certifications are exceptional writers – they have a knack and practice deliberate passion for crocheting words together and developing art. Others become experts over time, and through rigorous training and practice.
Whatever the case, writing is a talent that must be practiced and honed, over and over. Former recruiters, former HR professionals, former hiring managers, former marketing strategists, etc., are hanging shingles as resume creators daily; some can write and others cannot. Vet out the writers. You can tell – you just have to look for their proof.
Once you locate them, read their website, read their blog, look at samples of their work, Google their name specifically and read what you find, note testimonials from satisfied clients; do your due diligence.
Don’t: Hire an under-informed resume writer. A strong writer understands how to organize thoughts into words, and a strong resume writer deepens this skill by studying and understanding the career industry niche, hiring decision makers’ needs, recruiters’ wants and even how you should communicate with, or even bypass, human resources in your search. They also are realistic about what their writing can, and cannot do for you.
Do: So, find a realist who will be up front with you. A realist will tell you that even the greatest resume strategy, woven together with the most compelling chapters and commanding plot line will not necessarily skyrocket your search results if you depend solely on online applications and job boards.
They know that you must learn the art of netweaving your way into a new company. This will, more than likely, take more time, and a forthcoming writer will articulate the value of a multi-pronged approach to job search.
You may even have to accept a less ideal and even lower-paying job to support you while you take the time needed to strategically re-architect your message and re-plot your search plan. An informed resume strategist will not mince words when consummating the sale of resume services, and will even risk NOT landing your business in order to tell the truth.
Don’t: Imbibe hundreds of career bloggers’ posts particularly if you are focusing in on writers who have never written a resume word in their life. If the writer is not a resume writer but insists they know precisely which words NEVER to include in a resume and they know EXACTLY what turns a hiring manager OFF when reading a resume, then read their work with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Do: Find a blogger who is a resume writer and key in on their core message. If it resonates and makes sense, then read further. If their message extends beyond selling their services and makes you a bit uncomfortable, while also excited about the possibilities, then dive deeper.
While it may be healthy to juxtapose a few non-resume writer articles against the resume writers you are considering, use your common sense. Some career writers are media sensationalists, simply seeking out acclaim and Google rankings. Others truly have your best interest in mind. Look for those.
Don’t: Hire someone who doesn’t care. This is a tricky one. If your resume writer does all the work for you and/or you do not feel a bit uncomfortable or pressed to push yourself further than you would on your own, then your resume writer probably does not ‘care’ enough. What makes it tricky is that it is human nature to want to outsource all the work instead of facing the rigorous job of changing jobs.
Do: Consider someone who will push you to the depths of your accountability comfort level. It may even hurt a little. If they really care, they will make you get deeply involved in the process of weaving together You, Inc. They will give you homework during the resume development process and will hold your toes to the fire to thoughtfully complete your tasks.
Don’t. Hire a writer who will take the easy way out and sell the same old resume stories you’ve been spinning for the past 10 years.
Do: Find someone with perspective and who will, as co-founder of Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk says, “frame your truth.” In her article, Resume Advice You Never Hear, Trunk says, “If you cannot tell stories about yourself from multiple angles, then the single story you have on that paper controls the rest of your life.”
The strategic resume writer understands your career design plans for your future and helps architect substantive, forward-looking stories. While these stories don’t lie, they confidently dismiss unnecessary story points that no longer support your goals and magnify those that will resonate.
A strategic resume writer seeks out the colorful threads that animate your value and leave irrelevant threads on the cutting room floor.
By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter
“Beware hiring a resume writing amateur.
A professional writer writes full-time and daily, and is well trained and experienced.
Her words elicit a visceral reader response.”
The above was a recent status update that I published on Facebook. It resonated with several of my careers colleagues who then added value with their passionate comments.
“Amen, Jacqui, and if I may add –
“A good resume writer is expensive; a bad one is more expensive.”
In my 14 years’ professional resume writing experience, this theme resonated, as I continually have met with and resurrected resumes for clients who have worked with less than stellar resume writers on this crucial career dossier.
These assertions, therefore, beg the question:
Like many people, I have a strong opinion.
I’ll offer what I believe are 6 key traits that define a ‘good resume writer.’ If you are considering hiring and partnering with a professional resume writer, perhaps this list will help you more easily identify your best-fit writer.
A good resume writer …
1. Writes resumes full-time, and is a ‘writer.’ Though I intuitively weave interview prep and career ‘coaching’ into the resume process, my primary niche (and business bread and butter) is resume WRITING. I spend an inordinate number of hours peering at Word documents on my MacBook Pro, unscrambling word stories from 25-page executive preparation worksheet puzzles, and shaping elegant and powerful career stories.
It just so happens my bachelor’s degree is in writing, with a journalism emphasis, but that isn’t necessary to be a good resume writer. The point is, a writer WRITES, and she not only has a knack for writing, for the English language and for evoking emotion with her language skills, but practices and hones her abilities daily.
2. Is scientific in her approach. She analyzes your unique situation, performs extensive research through an interactive question-and-answer process with you and assesses the results. She then experiments with a blend of colorful, yet pragmatic and professional words, formats and strategies until she arrives at the perfect career resume chemistry. Her word strategy will elicit emotional responses from the targeted readers (aka, people who have an influence in hiring you!).
Careers industry icon, Executive Director at Worthington Career Services and Certified Professional Resume Writer Janice Worthington, expressed the confusion and dismay created when careerists and job seekers solicit resume-writing expertise from resume writing nonprofessionals:
“I have spent a lifetime with disappointed job seekers
because their buddies (from recruiters and HR managers to senior execs and grandmas) wrote resumes with murky strategies.”
Resume writers are trained and experienced in content and strategy development. We are centered on perfecting stories that grab – and maintain – attention. Ask any successful resume writer, and she’ll tell you her work has never been shunned by an interested decision-maker because it was one line, one bullet point or one page longer than the self-appointed experts’ assertions.
3. Is not solely focused on keywords and resume length and doesn’t cater her writing (just) to recruiter preferences. Keywords, intuitively woven into the resume are vital, particularly for job-board and corporate career website ATS systems and human eyes initially scanning your document.
However, emphasizing mass distribution and scanning tactics in your career search is career limiting. Propel your search through targeted, strategic activities aimed at hiring decision makers. Think networking, LinkedIn, social media and company research to garner attention. My friend, Barb Poole, president and founder of Hire Imaging, LLC, and a Certified Master Resume Writer, wrote an excellent post regarding resume networking strategies in this blog post: Are you needlessly stuck in your job search?
As well, remember, the odds of a conversation with a recruiter landing you a job are about .0035%. As well, their requirements are focused primarily on employer wishes and ‘not’ your needs!
Employers employ recruiters (job seeking candidates do not employ recruiters); as such, recruiters’ desires to quickly shorten their fat stack of resumes to a manageable bite size means they seek to ‘weed you out’ versus retaining your resume. It’s a ‘pain management’ technique, and certainly makes good sense for the recruiter.
4. Is Your Marketing Agent. While ardent in creating a career marketing message that is steeped in value and in harmony with the prevailing preferences, a good resume writer understands that career marketing is JUST that, marketing, and it both bends, and breaks traditional writing rules, and leaves some prevailing opinions in the dust.
To this end, a good resume writer focuses energies on what is in YOUR best interest to market you, even when this means ‘breaking’ recruiters’ resume rules. Moreover, we can also help you with adjusted resume versions, aimed at recruiter and other gatekeeper needs, to ensure your arsenal is fully equipped for all scenarios.
“About recruiters, recruiters tend to dislike all the strategies we as resume writers implement to sidestep potential negatives, including elaborate formats. But these strategies work and employers like to be wooed!”
She continues on by explaining that resume writers must continue putting their signature on resumes, to make them ‘pop’ in order to help job seekers differentiate themselves and make an impression.
5. Continually is learning. For each career writer, continuing education will be defined differently. For me, continuing education involves professional organization membership and active contribution on committees and boards. Many of us also have earned resume-writing-specific certifications. Find someone who clearly cares enough to not only stay current on job search and resume trends, but who aspires to better themselves, on YOUR behalf. They are never fully satisfied with the results of their last resume project, and always are wanting to grow and stretch.
6. Eschews the idea of resume ‘refreshes and updates,’ when what you really need is a newly transformed career positioning document. She knows that resumes are tailored strategies and not tweaked updates of an outdated, unkempt and often amateurishly written resume.
While trusting your instincts is generally a good rule of thumb, you may also need to get uncomfortable when hiring your professional resume writing partner. The world wide web has spawned a plethora of resume writing experts in the past few years, many who gain notoriety by espousing unfounded, career-limiting rules.
Instead, do your due diligence, research and partner with a true resume strategist and passionate writer who will harness the words of your career into a vigorous, compelling story that provides the career gains you deserve!