Not all resume writers are created equal. I am one and have been for more than 15 years. During that span I’ve hired and supervised nearly 20 resume writers at Resume Deli and elsewhere.
Here’s my advice on how to pick a winner, but more so, when to fire your resume writer.
Fire your resume writer if…
…he doesn’t ask difficult, even aggravating questions. If your resume writer doesn’t get under your skin…if he doesn’t ask you questions about your professional background and accomplishments that make you want to sock him in the jaw, fire him! If you’re paying good money for a professional to write your resume, you don’t need a yes man stroking your ego and complimenting your every achievement. You need a thoughtful and client-focused expert who will not only acknowledge the elephant in the room, but drop-kick it!
- Were you laid off, or were you fired?
- OK, then. Why were you fired?
- Why did you stay with that company for seven years without a promotion?
- What happened that you don’t have any measurable achievements during that period of time?
- Did you do anything to develop your skills while you were on maternity/paternity leave?
- I know you’ve been studying belly dancing for 15 years, but you’re applying to an accounting position! Do you really think belly dancing belongs on your resume? [Answer: It might, but it might not. Bottom line: The question must be raised.]
Now let’s get one thing straight. Your resume writer shouldn’t insult you. He shouldn’t ask you these sorts of questions with a sharp tongue. But fact is, the answers to these types of questions will typically reveal the most real challenges that you face as a job seeker. Only by getting at the ugly details can your resume writer determine how best to deal with them. And believe me…they need to be dealt with, because they will come up during job interviews. If your resume writer avoids these topics in order to spare you the agony or him the discomfort, it means either a) he doesn’t know how to ask, or b) he hasn’t the foggiest how to listen thoughtfully to your answers. And if that’s the case, your writer can’t possibly understand what you’re all about. Fire him.
…she is a dictator. If your writer tells you what your resume should say rather than making recommendations and hearing you out, fire her. It’s your resume—not hers. You’re the one who has to send it out. You’re the one who has to speak about it at job fairs and during interviews. The resume has to feel good to you…like it belongs to you.
…your writer is defensive. If you tell your writer that he has misrepresented something about your experience and his response is defensive and/or he refuses to make changes, fire him. The process of writing your resume is one that requires back-and-forth between you and your writer. As a professional resume writer, I can guarantee you that your writer will have gotten a few things wrong when you receive your first draft…but that’s to be expected. It’s part of the process. What’s important is that your writer is astute enough to understand why it’s wrong and professional enough to take the proper time to fix it. (Hint: If your writer doesn’t get anything wrong, it probably means he hasn’t dug deep enough into your background.)
…she says there’s only one way to skin a cat. If your writer insists that it’s their way or the highway (which, by the way, leads directly to the unemployment office), fire her. She’s wrong. There are always multiple approaches to writing an effective resume. Your writer should work with you to determine the best approach given your goals, content and preferences.
…he’s a push-over. If your resume writer does everything you tell him to do, fire him! I am not a believer in “the customer is always right”. It’s the resume writer’s job to create a resume that the customer will feel good about and that will get that customer interviews. If your writer is blindly following your orders, they’re not doing their job. You don’t want a push-over…you want an informed thinker, decision-maker and organizer of ideas who pushes back in a way that earns your respect and doesn’t damage your working relationship.
In reality, sometimes a client of mine will demand that their resume be written in a way that I disagree with, and I let them know about it. If I can’t persuade them, I’ll do my best given the constraint they’ve posed, but I’ll always make sure the client knows that, in my professional opinion, we’re not hitting the mark.
…she can’t spell. If your resume writer provides you with a rewritten or edited document that has errors (e.g., spelling/grammar mistakes; misused or missing punctuation; inconsistent formatting and/or spacing), fire her. She’s either a poor writer or sloppy. Doesn’t matter which—you don’t need her.
…he can’t grasp your field/sector. A good resume writer doesn’t need to have had first-hand experience working in your field or industry in order to be effective. (Good luck finding a resume writer who has worked as a chemical engineer.) The best resume writers are highly intuitive, knowledgeable about the world of work and excellent writers and interviewers. A resume writer worth his weight in salt will do sufficient research before working with you in order to understand your work, accomplishments, etc. And it should only take you 15 minutes to know if your writer is prepared and able to work with you. Are his questions on point? Does he “get it”? If not, you know what to do…
Final advice: Test out before you shell out
Some resume-writing firms offer a free evaluation of your original resume. This is a good way to gage a writer’s understanding of your particular background and needs. It will also give you a sense of how responsive they are; how they write; what their tone is like; and what it might be like to work with them.