Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Resume Writer

The scenario is pretty clear.  Sam gets laid off, after working for the same company for over 5 years.  He hasn’t been keeping his resume up-to-date.  He reads how today’s job market is “different,” and it can easily take 6 months to a year to find something else.  He knows he needs to take action, now.  But he’s feeling spun around by the lay-offs, unprepared.  He sits down to update his resume and doesn’t know what to do.

Plus, he wants to give himself an edge.  So he does some quick online searches and decides to hire a resume writer.  But how does he know he is going to get a good, effective resume out of the deal?  

In my workshops and with my clients, I see a disproportionate number of badly crafted resumes, prepared by “professional resume writers.”  It breaks my heart and makes me angry.  

If you don’t know what a good and effective resume is, how do you evaluate the resume writers so you can find a good one? 

First, do some online research or ask your friends for recommendations.  Make a list of 3-5 candidates, and call them up.  Here are some questions you should ask.

1.) Ask for examples of their work, resumes they have written, and for references. Then call those references.  Find out about the results of working with this resume writer, as well as the overall experience.

2.) Ask about the effectiveness of the resumes they have created. (“Are people getting more interviews with your resume?”)  You are hiring a resume writer to get results. If they don’t know their effectiveness, how can they know their resumes are any good? 

3.) Find out what their process is.  How do they work?  How many conversations will you have? Some resume writers never even speak to you. Some only communicate online.  Some limit the number of conversations. Will you get to review a draft?  My own process includes a first conversation, then a first draft, then a 2nd conversation to review that draft, and a final copy – which you can maintain going forward.  There is also typically homework for you during this process.  Sometimes a 3rd round of edits is required (very rarely).

4.) Are you the writer?  If not, who is? I was surprised to find that sometimes the person you speak with is not the resume writer!  Do you really want someone writing your resume you don’t ever connect with?  Keep in mind that a good resume needs to reflect your personality and your voice. 

5.) What is the final product?  Is it a MS Word document you can edit and maintain? Or will you have to go back to the resume writer for updates?

6.) What’s the time frame? How long will it take for you to get a resume you can send?

7.) What is their experience writing for the industry you are in?  E.g. IT professionals need someone who understands how to write a technical resume.  Acting resumes are a completely different format all together.  Do they have experience writing for your field, your industry?

8.) What is their experience writing for individuals in your situation?  Do you have gaps in your work history? Are you changing fields? or careers?  Ask them how they handle these situations.

9.) What will they need from you?  What is your role in this process? 

10.) Last but not least, ask about the cost.  Get specifics.  Do you pay it all up front, or after you receive a draft, or after your final copy? Do they offer any sort of guarantee?  If you are unhappy with the results, what are your options?  Will they offer you a refund (full or partial)?  Is there a contract involved?  Find out what the commitment is on their part and yours.  This is all part of the cost.

You’ll note I omitted certification from this list.  Certification isn’t a bad thing, I just haven’t found certification to be an indicator of competence. 

Ultimately, the key to hiring a good resume writer is to interview them, ask questions, be an informed consumer. Even if you have access to resume services as part of an outplacement package provided by your employer, I still recommend you ask these questions.

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Client Stories

At the time I hired Lori, I was looking for someone to help me develop a resume which focuses on career transitions.  I had hired a coach who did not hear a word I said and sent me a resume that was totally wrong.  Lori, on the other hand, did listen to what my needs were and asked me pointed questions.  I decided to work with her and never regretted this decision. Lori helped develop two resumes which highlighted skills needed for two different types of positions.  She was easy to work with, took all my comments into consideration, and made the appropriate revisions.  In the end, I received two resumes which I was totally happy with.  I would recommend Lori without hesitation.  She is a true professional and a delight to work with.

Marsha Weil, New York, NY