What You Need to Know Before You Pay Someone to Write Your CV

What You Need to Know Before You Pay Someone to Write Your CV

Writing a strong resume is important, but it’s also hard. You might have heard that some people hire a resume writer, or maybe you’ve seen ads for resume writing services promising a free professional review of your resume. It’s tempting—especially if you’re desperate for a new job or your search has dragged on for a while.

Think about it: Should you pay someone to write your CV?

Is it a good idea to have your resume written by a professional? The short answer is yes, it can definitely be beneficial to your job search.

The other day I had an interesting conversation with a stranger in a matatu. After exchanging pleasantries, we dove into the deeper talk of our different professions, the companies we work for and what exactly we did. As I explained my bit, his facial expression changed when I mentioned CV writing as a service offered at Corporate Staffing Services Ltd.

Clearly, he had a big problem letting someone write his CV.

“Why should I pay someone for a professional CV?” he asked. “You don’t know my qualifications, what I’ve been through, the jobs I have done or even what kind of job I am looking for. Unless you prove me wrong, I believe choosing to pay someone to write your CV is just wrong. They will only misrepresent you to recruiters.”

Unfortunately for him (or fortunately, depending on where your loyalty lies), I was in the mood to prove him wrong. And not just with empty reasons, no. With actual facts. So if you’ve also been asking the same question, below are the reasons I gave the stranger and I am telling you now.

6 Facts You Need to Know Before You Pay Someone to Write Your CV

Fact Number 1 – Your Best is Not Necessarily the Recruiter’s Best

Have you ever tried writing an important text or email and had to consult someone else to ascertain that what you wrote made sense? We all do.

Why? Because sometimes we need a second person or third to weigh in on the correctness and sensibility of our messages. The last thing you want is to make a silly mistake that changes the entire meaning of what you intended.

The same applies when writing a CV. You don’t even need to pay someone to write your CV here, all you need is to get a second opinion from a professional.

Fact Number 2 – Not Everyone is a Good Writer

Some people are just not good at writing. Others hate sitting in one place for more than 30 minutes, and others despise using computers. Yet, for you to come up with a good CV that recruiters will use to decide your suitability, these three things are very important.

You need to be a very good writer to ensure your CV is free of grammatical errors. You need more than 30 minutes to sit and concentrate in order to come up with a mistake-free CV. And you need to use a computer for the process to be complete.

If you consider this to be too much work, then your only solution is to outsource the task. So ask yourself this; would you rather pay someone to write your CV professionally or get an amateur? I know I’d pick the professional. How about You?

Fact Number 3 – You are Not an Employer or Recruiter

One truth about the recruiting and hiring process is that you are not really in control. You could think you are qualified for a position, and that your CV demonstrates those qualifications. However, according to the recruiter, your CV shows that you don’t match what the employer wants.

But why? You wonder. The only answer I can give you here is that you are not the recruiter. In every shortlisting process in a job opening, recruiters usually have a list of things they are looking for. If your CV does not show this information, then you don’t qualify.

Imagine the different outcome if someone working directly with recruiters was to write your CV.

Fact Number 4 – Most Job Seekers are Afraid to Brag about their Qualifications

Remember when they told you it is wrong to brag? That you should never blow your own trumpet? Well, this does not apply when it comes to applying for a job.

To impress recruiters and get through to the interview, a job seeker must be ready to brag as much as they can. Unfortunately, this is one area where most people are afraid of. You become too afraid to brag that you forget to list your most important qualifications.

If you are a victim and this is costing you interviews, let someone else do the bragging for you.

Fact Number 5 – Some of Us Don’t Know the Most Important CV Sections

Recruiters have to deal with poorly formatted CVs on a daily basis. Sometimes, they even find it hard to find one qualified candidate in an entire database of CVs, to invite for a job interview. Yes, it sure is unbelievable. But it is also very true.

In such cases, recruiters usually have to re-advertise the position in the hope that the second time will bring in better CVs. And the biggest problem? The CVs usually have a lot of information, but it’s so poorly formatted that you can’t tell head from tail.

Fact Number 6 – Sometimes it’s Just Better When a Professional Does it

You know that feeling you get when you are working with a professional in the game? They answer each and every question you may have and offer guidance even in areas you had not thought about. It is such a fulfilling experience, isn’t it?

That’s what you get when you decide to have your CV professionally written. You get guidance about the current job market, know what employers usually look for in a CV, and what you can do differently to stand out.

Also, and I know you will love this, a professional will always give you a free CV review if you ask nicely. Who doesn’t want free stuff?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU PAY SOMEONE TO HELP WITH YOUR RESUME

Before you spend your money, however, there are a few things you should know—including what exactly a resume writer or reviewer does, how to decide if you should hire one, and, if you decide to go for it, how to do your homework and pick the right one for you.

What a Resume Writer and/or Reviewer Does

First, you need to make sure you understand what a resume writer or reviewer can—and can’t—do for you. If you don’t have the right expectations going into the process, you’re likely to be disappointed.

What’s the Difference Between Resume Writing and Resume Reviewing?

As you look to hire a professional to help with your resume, you’ll come across the terms “resume writing” and “resume reviewing” and it’s important to understand the range of things these terms can mean. They’re almost—but not quite—interchangeable.

Most services and individuals offering “resume writing” will not actually create an entirely new resume for you from nothing. Instead, resume writing means rewriting.

Most resume writers will want to see your existing resume, and they’ll usually need you to fill out a questionnaire or worksheet or have a long conversation with them about your experience and goals—most commonly, you’ll need to do a combination of these things.

However, in its lightest (and cheapest) form, resume reviewing can mean a professional looking over your resume and providing some actionable advice for you to make updates yourself. This is often what you’re getting if you sign up for a free resume review. Tread lightly here since the advice may not be personalized to you: I, a content editor and writer, once submitted my resume to the same free resume review service as my mother, a nurse, and we got nearly identical feedback despite our extremely different goals and industries.

You might also choose to work with a coach who reviews the resume you’ve written, shares advice on how to improve it, and then gives you feedback on the changes you make. This kind of service will probably do the most to help you learn how to write better resumes yourself in the future.

What Can a Resume Writer Do for my Resume?

Your resume is a story about why you’re the right person for a given job. Experienced resume writers are adept at asking the right questions to pull out the most relevant information about you and packaging it in a way that tells an engaging and persuasive story.

There are also some common errors that (good) resume writers won’t make or will catch, including bullet points that list responsibilities rather than achievements and a lack of consistency throughout the resume (usually because people are just adding recent jobs onto old resumes without making sure everything tells a coherent story and is formatted the same way).

A good resume writer will help your resume stand out the right way.

You can definitely do all these things for yourself, but if you’re overwhelmed, stuck, or don’t have the time or energy to immerse yourself in the nuances of resume best practices, a professional might be the right choice.

Do I Still Need to Be Involved in the Resume Writing Process?

Hiring a resume writer doesn’t mean that you’ll magically receive a perfect resume without any thought or work on your part. If you want to do it right, it should be a partnership. This means the writer is learning about you and your professional history, listening to what you want from your resume and your next job, and getting input from you throughout the drafting and revising process. This also means you’re putting the effort in to share all the relevant information needed to make your resume the best it can be.

Once It’s Done, Can I Submit the Same Resume for Every Job I Apply To?

Whether or not you work with a professional, it’s an absolute must to tailor your resume for every position you apply to. This means making changes to emphasize the most relevant experience, skills, and achievements for each role as well as switching up language to make sure you’re including the right keywords from the job description.

A resume writer should gear their work toward the types of jobs you plan to apply to, so a professionally written base resume should already showcase most of your most relevant experience. But every job is a little different and you should expect to make tweaks. Perhaps a certain company is looking for someone with knowledge of uncommon software that you happen to have experience with, but it’s not on your base resume because most companies don’t use it. Adding the name of that software to your professionally written resume could be what lands you the interview.

If you’re applying to more than one type of job—let’s say, for instance, you’ve worked in both marketing and development and are applying to roles in both—you might have to make more changes for different applications, or you might consider working with a professional on two (or more) base versions of your resume.

Will a Resume Writer Design My Resume?

Resume writers often will format your resume, but if you’re looking for someone to make a heavily designed resume, it’s not a given. And that’s probably a good thing. Applicant tracking systems (ATSs)—the programs that many companies use to process and organize resumes—can’t always parse fancy formatting. So a good resume writer will make sure your resume has clean, simple formatting an ATS can read. Most coaches, for example, typically focus “not on the fancy details, but what is going to help you get through [the ATS] and land that interview.

Resume formatting is also about appealing to the human reader. Good resume writers should make sure the resumes they write are easily scanned and understood by someone who might have a lot of applications to go through in a short time.

If you're looking for a heavily designed resume, you should be upfront about that expectation and prepared for the possibility that you’ll need to pay more or even hire someone separately.

Is Hiring a Resume Writer “Cheating”?

If you’re considering hiring a resume writer, but are concerned that it feels dishonest or is “cheating,” worry no more. Unless you’re applying to be a resume writer yourself, your resume isn’t meant to be a sample of your work, but rather an accurate reflection of your qualifications for a job. As long as what’s written on your resume is true, there’s nothing dishonest about it.

How to Decide If You Should Hire Professional Help for Your Resume

Almost anyone can benefit from a resume writer, but working with one can be especially productive in some scenarios. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you decide whether to write your own resume, hire a professional, or even seek out an entirely different kind of career coaching.

Do You Know What Your Job Search Goals Are?

Effective resumes are “a combination of your goals and your history. If you don’t have the goals piece, that makes the resume a lot less effective.

So if you’re not sure what type of positions you’re going to apply to, a resume writer can’t deliver a good product and it’s a waste of everyone’s time and your money to make them try.

Does Your Job Search Situation Fall Into One of These Trickier Categories?

There are a few situations where hiring a resume writer might be particularly helpful. If you fall into one of these categories, your resume may be a bit more difficult (though not impossible) to write on your own:

  • You’re making a career change
  • You haven’t applied for a job or updated your resume in a long time
  • Your career history is extensive and you need help narrowing it down
  • You’re going back to work after a long employment gap
  • You’ve had a bunch of jobs and/or side gigs that might look unrelated
  • You’re a freelancer looking for a full-time job
  • You’re in a niche market or transitioning out of one (such as government, the military, or academia)
  • You don’t have the time needed to create a high-quality resume
  • You’re not a strong writer and need help clearly stating your achievements
  • Your job search has gone on for a while with little success

Do You Need Motivation or Help Overcoming a Mental Block?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people I know say, “I just need to update my resume, then I can start looking for a new job,” and stay stuck in that stage for weeks or even months. When your resume becomes a barrier preventing you from making progress in your job search, you should consider bringing in a professional. If it feels too big, too daunting, too confusing, seeking support to create the best possible resume for yourself so you can…focus your energy on other aspects of a job search is a great option.

Resume writers can also help motivate you, especially if you’re feeling deflated from a job hunt—with all its rejections and radio silences. 

How to Pick the Right Resume Writer

If you’ve decided you want to hire someone, you’ll quickly realize that “there are thousands and thousands of coaches out in the world who say they can help you with a resume. While many of these coaches are legitimate, not all of them are going to be a fit for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you find a resume writer or service who will give you the biggest leg up on your job search.

Is the Resume Writer or Service Reputable?

Before selecting a resume service or writer, you want to make sure that your choice is qualified and that you’ll get the product they’re promising. There’s not a one-size-fits-all in terms of what makes a successful, impactful resume writer. But there are a few ways to try to assess your options.

  • Look at reviews—both on their own website and third-party sites.
  • Check for certifications. They’re a sign that a resume writer or coach is qualified—but not the only one.
  • Understand the criteria. If you’re looking at resume services with a lot of writers, you might want to find out what standards and vetting processes they have in place. The service’s website might include this info or you could ask for it directly before agreeing to use them.
  • Ask for referrals and recommendations from your network. That way you know that someone you trust was happy with the work the resume writer did.

Are There Red Flags?

Here are a few red flags to watch out for from resume writers or services. Most aren’t definite dealbreakers, but might be a signal to dig deeper or consider looking elsewhere:

  • Job guarantees: Some resume services will guarantee that you’ll get a job in a certain number of days or your money back. Be wary—there’s likely fine print with some extreme qualifications you need to meet to be eligible. Plus, no one can realistically guarantee that you’ll get a job based on your resume alone, no matter how fantastic it is. Landing a job depends on so many factors—including the job market, the number of jobs you apply to, your experience, your performance in interviews, and the speed of the hiring process where you’re applying.
  • Extreme prices: If a service is free or less than $100, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. At prices that low, you might not be getting personalized advice or your information could be sold to third parties for advertising purposes. On the flip side, if a resume writer is charging in the high triple digits or more for just a resume (and you’re not a C-suite executive), make sure they have the experience and results to justify it or skip straight to cheaper options.
  • Lack of transparency: Before paying for anything, you want to know what you’re getting, right? A service or writer should be upfront about their prices and process, including how many rounds of edits you get and what type of file your resume will be delivered in.
  • A final result you can’t easily edit: You still need to tailor your professionally written resume for each job you apply to, so your resume should be “very nimble”. If a service is going to deliver an end product in a file format you can’t edit (such as an image file or a file you need special software to open) or is so heavily designed that changing up the text will mess up the formatting, look elsewhere. Note: It’s fairly common (and not a red flag) to receive a PDF and an editable document.
  • Generic advice or lack of input needed from you: If you’ve already submitted your resume for a review, and it’s clear from the results that whoever wrote the feedback didn’t read your resume, tread very carefully before giving the service more money. Or if a resume service doesn’t ask for more information about what kinds of jobs you’re looking for or anything else about your experience, consider whether your money is better spent on something more personalized.

What’s Your Timeline?

You should have an idea of when you need your resume to make sure that the resume writer you choose is able to deliver on time. If you want to start your job search “soon,” spending a few weeks on your resume might be fine, but if you spotted a perfect job you want to apply right away before the posting comes down, you might need it in a few days—in which case you need to make sure the resume writer can meet your deadline (and you should be willing to pay extra for a rush job).

What’s Your Budget?

Resume review and writing services can range in price from free to thousands. Typically, you should expect to pay at least one hundred to a few hundred dollars for a professional to rewrite or revise your resume. Folks far along in their careers, especially at the executive level, tend to have to pay more than early-career job seekers.

Different writers and services might have different resume packages that include more revisions, more time to talk with the writer about your job search goals and resume strategy, or even additional coaching products—and prices will range accordingly. So think about what you can afford. If you don’t have a lot to spend, it might make more sense to get a lighter resume review from an experienced resume writer who’s a good match for you rather than a full rewrite from a service where you’re not quite sure who’s writing your resume or what quality the end product will be.

What Is Your Ideal Process?

As mentioned earlier, every resume writer and reviewer needs some amount of input from you. But the amount and type of involvement you have in the process can vary. Do you want some tips on your resume that you can use to update it yourself? Do you want the writer to handle the writing and go back and forth with several rounds of revisions to make sure it’s exactly how you’d like it? Do you prefer to talk about yourself over the phone or will filling out questionnaires allow you to organize your thoughts better?

Think this through before you look for resume writers and be prepared to ask probing questions about their writing or review process to make sure it lines up with your expectations and needs. If one resume writer isn’t offering what you’d like, move on to another.

Do They Have Experience Helping People in Your Role, Industry, and Situation?

While looking for writers, see what industries, careers, and situations they have experience with to ensure they have a track record of helping people like you. A coach who has a background in the industry you’re looking for work in is especially helpful because they “can speak the language. If you have to choose, it’s typically better to find someone who’s familiar with where you’re going in your career, than someone who’s familiar with where you’ve been. 

Is Their Personality and Style a Good Match for You?

Before you make a final choice, try to get a sense of who the writer is beyond their experience. Read anything they’ve written on their website, LinkedIn, social media, and various professional profiles. Pay attention to both tone and content. Are they warm and bubbly or no-nonsense and to-the-point? Neither is good or bad per se, but you might prefer one over the other.

Look at reviews and testimonials and watch for any common themes. Do multiple clients say that they’re a good listener? Or that they infused some humor into the process? You can also use a free initial phone consultation or any pre-hire conversations with the writer to get a sense of how they communicate and if they’re a good fit for you.

You likely work better with some colleagues than others because of their personalities and work styles. A resume writer is no different. You’ll get your best possible resume from someone you gel with.

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