Putting a Spin on Work Experience
7. What You Need to Know About Business
14. Asking Questions -- An Essential and Overlooked Step
When you're approaching employers by mail, a resume provides the evidence to back up the claims you make in your cover letter. The resume and the cover letter work as a team -- the letter tells the employer what you can do for them, and the resume backs it up with specific evidence.
You probably know that a good resume isn't merely a list of duties and job titles. But what you may not know is that it also isn't just a list of accomplishments with "action verbs" You have to translate your skills and abilities into language that taps into hiring managers' needs and desires. To do this well requires an insight into management and business that most resume writers just don't have.
Your resume has to work at two levels. First at the quick scan that most employers will give your resume -- often just 10 seconds. And then -- when they give it a closer reading -- your resume has to give them the credible details they'll need to be persuaded that you might have something to offer.
Content and organization are keyNearly everyone has a nice looking resume these days. With computers and laser printers it doesn't take much skill to produce a good looking resume. It's the content and organization of your resume that's going to make the difference when employers are deciding who they're interested in meeting with. That's where the value is in a resume service and that's what you should be paying for -- the content and organization of your resume, and the sales strategy behind them.
"I think today I'll be a resume writer"Anyone with a computer and a printer can call themselves a resume writer. And that's about all the experience and knowledge that some "professional resume writers" have. There's a real skill to writing effective resumes, and it doesn't come from being a good typist, or from having worked in a human resources department. It requires marketing and sales skills. It's become popular for resume services to try to sound like marketing experts, but few of them can walk that talk.
Who certified the certifiers?Another fairly recent development has been the rise of resume writing certification from the Professional Association of Resume Writers and other groups. I believe this was something started by a guy in Florida with a keen entrepreneurial mind, and I imagine he's earned some good money with his idea. I'm sure many PARW members are excellent resume writers, but I've seen no evidence to suggest that as a group they are particularly skilled or any better than non-members.
"Must be good -- it's $200!"I've also seen no correlation between price and quality. The best resume writing service I've ever seen only charged $50-$90. The second best started at $200. I know some people look for a resume service thinking "I want the best and I'm willing to pay for it." But there's no reason to think that "the best" will be particularly expensive. And some abysmal resumes have been sold for hundreds of dollars. Don't think that just because a resume is a bit on the expensive side that there's a better chance it will be effective.
"I saved nine cents!"Ask a group of professional resume writers what the first -- and often the only -- question they're asked by prospective clients, and I think they'd all reply "How much do you charge?" The lowest price is rarely a bargain in the long run. There can be a high long-term cost of looking for work with the cheapest resume you can buy. The cheapest services usually turn out to be little more than typists -- although that's rarely how they describe themselves. I'd rather spend $20 than $100 too, but you're paying for expertise and it's unlikely you're going to get much of that for $20.
"Thank you for your help, I'm now chairman of Microsoft!" --B.G.You can't always take testimonials very seriously. Even ignoring that many of them are concocted, the fact is that every service should have many satisfied customers because just about everyone will get a job. It might take them a bit longer than it could have, and they may not end up with what they wanted, but almost everyone gets something, eventually. Even the ones with poor resumes (an effective resume is very helpful, but it's only ever just one piece of an effective worksearch strategy). Just take a look at the resumes that people you know used when they received a job offer and you'll see some pretty weak work among them.
Skilled resume writing services give a good return for your moneyI have no doubts about the value that a good resume writing service can provide. Many people criticize services for "cookie cutter" resumes that all look and sound alike. They often insist that we should always write our own resumes because we know more about ourselves than anyone else ever will. If that were a persuasive argument, there would be no advertising agencies or freelance copywriters. Businesses have long recognized the value in working with an outside service in preparing their sales materials.
Individuals in a "self-marketing" campaign can receive similar value from a service with expertise in direct response techniques and with an understanding of market-driven business strategy. It's finding one with those skills that's a challenge.
You can never be certainEven with these guidelines, if you're not knowledgeable about resume writing, you're unlikely to be able to distinguish an excellent resume from a mediocre one.
I'm afraid there's no simple test you can apply, and no set of questions you can ask that will give you a definite answer (there are plenty of services that can "talk the talk"). Talk to the writer, get a feel for their expertise, and go with the one that seems to offer the best value. In the end, you'll always be taking a leap of faith.
The good news is that whatever you get will almost certainly be good enough to find work with. A resume is only ever one piece of the worksearch campaign. An effective one will certainly help, but if you needed to have an excellent resume to get hired we'd have an unemployment rate somewhere around 90 percent.