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

What did you need at the time you hired Lori?

I wanted to work in my industry and didn't know how to progress any further than I was. I knew I had much experience that could be put in the industry of my choice but not how to parlay that experience. I needed guidance.

What did you and Lori do together?

Many, many things. Overall, to get clear in my mind what I offered and really what I wanted in a work environment. Every week was another epiphany after another. One of my favorites was the "knowing your core values". Having had some experience on this subject I was all ready to dive-in. Core Values is key. Knowing your core values. 

Lori makes it so easy to pinpoint. One time we were speaking about something else and we both realized...OMG...that is a core value for me. I hadn't written it down before, but discovered later that if ever a core value fit was the one I mentioned at that time.  Knowing that piece of information also answered a long standing question in my head.  One of the "why's" as to my constant upset with other places I had worked.

What were the results from working with Lori?

Many things. One is a great looking resume. I thought, wow, I look good and it was all from work I had already done elsewhere but didn't know how to say it or present it. Another is the clarity of knowing where I will feel good when I do work. What I really want and with the kind of people I really want to work with on a daily basis. This entire process is so valuable. The best money I ever spent and I am not kidding or exaggerating. I was only hoping it would be valuable and it really was valuable.< I know stuff and it has value and is marketable. Lori showed me those things and it gives me confidence.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Lori delivers above and beyond. The highest quality of exchange, 'more than you expected.' I told my friends this over and over: 'I wish I had her 10-20-even 30 years ago.' Every one, and I mean EVERYONE, needs a Lori. Her understanding,patience, how she problem solves, putting things in simple terms, was mind blowing. I wish I could that well. I present a problem and she could turn it around and yes...another epiphany.

Lori, is worth every penny. It isn't about a title. It is about enjoying everyday doing work you love with people you like and are like minded. You'll know what you are looking for when you interview.  I never say this, but I will say it here. Lori is a major key into the rest of my life doing what I always wanted to do. That is: Being happy doing what I do, everyday. Something I have been saying for years. Allowing be Sherlock.  Finding my people. They are out there and now I know what I am looking for in that respect.


Sherlock Ganz, Los Angeles, CA