Hiring a professional resume writer can be a daunting task, considering there are so many of us out there, and rest assured, all resume writers are not created equal. But once you've decided that your own resume isn't working and you want to invest in professional help, here are 10 questions to ask:
1. Do you write the resume yourself?
This may sound like a silly question but, in many of the larger resume services, the person you're communicating with isn't actually the person who writes your resume. Many of the larger agencies have a network of contracted writers spread across the country, and assignments are handed out based on availability, not expertise.
Why is that important? Because you are paying hard-earned money for a top-quality resume and you deserve to know who is writing it and what their qualifications are. You should be able to ask the person who is actually writing your resume whether they specialize in your field or have any particular experience in your area. You should also be able to question the writer about their decisions once it's done.
Here at Retail Resumes, I always write the resume. I never sub-contract to other writers and I am, in fact, the only employee in my business. If you are communicating with this service, you are communicating with me. That's not the same with all resume agencies.
2. Do you specialize in my field?
The vast majority of resume writers do not work exclusively in any one particular field. Many say they "specialize" in executive-level clients, but that's not really a specialty - that's just where the big bucks are. Occasionally you'll stumble across a writer who only works with clients in IT, engineering, or something similar, but most resume writers work with pretty much anyone. The reason for that, I suspect, is they don't want to limit themselves in any way.
Personally, I only work with retail management clients in store operations such as assistant store managers, store managers, area managers, district managers, and regional managers.
Why is that important? Because when you work in one industry you get to know it inside and out. You learn, if you didn't know already, what information is critical for recruiters in that field and THAT is one of the most important skills used in resume writing. If you spread yourself too thin, you can't possibly stay on top of every industry.
A good tip is to check the company's website and domain name. If it has nothing to do with retail, they probably don't specialize in retail resumes.
3. What experience do you have in my industry?
While a talented writer can produce a reasonably good resume for any field, you're not paying for a reasonably good resume - you're paying for an exceptional one. And that can only come from someone who specializes in a certain field and, likely, has previous employment experience in that industry. Why? Because they will know what questions to ask you and what is important to recruiters in that field.
In my case, I have 20+ years of combined experience as a manager in the retail industry, resume analyst for a national retail recruitment firm, and professional resume writer for the retail industry. That means I have worked on the side of the employer, third-party recruiter, and job-seeker - all within retail. That has given me in-depth knowledge that a generic resume writer can't match.
Resume writers have to obtain information from the client in order to write an effective resume. When a generic writer asks a store manager about their achievements, they may ask if they increased sales or profit. That's a great start but I, as a specialist in retail, don't stop there - I may also ask if you increased your units-per-transaction or mystery shop scores, or if you reduced your payroll percentage or inventory shrink. Generic resume writers can't dig that deep without above-average knowledge of the retail industry.
4. What is the process?
Some resume writers work from an office with local clients, while others work remotely with clients from all over the world. Some interview clients in person, some do it over the phone or Skype, while others use a written questionnaire. Some write the resume with the client in attendance, although most write it on their own and then send it to the client afterwards. If you have a preference, it's important to ask up front.
I work remotely and communicate with clients from all across the United States and Canada via email. I use email and a written questionnaire because I find it to be the most practical. When I started out I interviewed clients over the phone but quickly found that in most cases the client didn't have the information I was asking for readily available. I now use a very thorough questionnaire that has proven to be very effective.
5. What exactly will I receive?
Resume writers offer all sorts of different packages and products, some of which include cover letters, thank you letters, and LinkedIn profiles. Make sure you ask up front so you know what to expect and can shop around if needed.
Cover letters are a particularly interesting point. Most career coaches will advise you NOT to use generic cover letters; instead, tailor your cover letter to each individual recipient. However, most cover letters that are written by professional resume writers ARE generic, since they usually don't know who the recipient is, what the job is, or sometimes even what the targeted industry is. Of course that cover letter can be tailored as needed by the client, but most often they send it out as is. If the service you're considering offers a cover letter, ask them if it will be generic or targeted.
Rather than writing generic cover letters, I give my clients a free 65-page job search manual that includes the theory behind cover letters, what should and shouldn't be included, and several samples specific to the retail industry (in addition to information on LinkedIn profiles, job search strategies, recruiter lists, and much more). That way my clients can go forward and write their own cover letters for each situation they come across.
6. Do you use templates?
Many resume writers use some type of template. They do that so they can minimize the amount of time spent on each resume and maximize the number of resumes (and income) they produce in a day. The downside is that the client ends up with a much less effective resume (and one that looks like everyone else's).
Any time a template is used, the writer is fitting your unique qualifications into pre-determined categories, whether that's in your best interests or not. It's true that most resumes follow a certain flow and use similar sections, which is why templates were conceived in the first place, but everyone is unique and flexibility with the format is crucial. There are times when a summary is important, and times when it is not. There are times when education should be at the top, and times when it shouldn't (and times when it should be left off entirely). There are times when a lot of space needs to be dedicated to a particular job, and times when it shouldn't. Every situation needs to be looked at individually.
Templates do not allow for much flexibility and should be avoided at all costs. If you come across a resume writer who uses a template, I advise you to keep looking.
7. How long do you spend working on an average resume?
As mentioned above, some writers use templates because it shortens the time it takes to write a resume. There are some writers out there who spit out a new resume every hour, and they definitely use a template. Others complete two to four resumes every day - they may not use what is classically defined as a template, but they certainly follow fairly strict guidelines. In these cases, the writer's primary goal is not to create the highest quality product, it's to create a decent product within a certain time frame.
Personally, I spend five to six hours on an average resume. I have completed some in as little as three or four hours, while others have taken me 10 or more. I rarely ever write more than one resume in a day and, if I do, it's because the client is in a rush.
8. Do you have any client recommendations on LinkedIn, particularly clients in my field?
Any time we hire someone for a job, we would like as much "proof" up front that the job will be done correctly. The best proof that a resume writer can offer is recommendations from past clients, especially clients who worked in the same field and at the same level as you. If you are a store manager, reading a recommendation from a software analyst doesn't help you much - it may tell you that the writer produced a great IT resume for his client, but it doesn't tell you that the writer knows anything about retail.
LinkedIn recommendations are ideal because you can read what the person wrote and then click on their profile to see their background. In some cases, you will even find contact information so, if you're really unsure, you can contact them for more details.
My LinkedIn profile shows more than 300 recommendations from clients in the retail industry - including assistant store managers, store managers, district managers, and regional managers - as well as retail recruiters who have referred clients to me.
9. What is the cost?
Of course price will always be an important consideration and in resume writing you will see prices at both ends of the spectrum. Some writers charge $100 and you know those will likely be written by people with no expertise in your area, using a template, and available for you in a couple hours. Other writers charge $1000+ and advertise themselves as primarily working with "executives and professionals" (knowing they can afford those prices) but who still may not have any direct experience in retail.
My fees are in between and range from $400 to $500 depending on the background of the client.
10. Do you offer any type of guarantee?
Some resume firms guarantee that their resumes will generate interviews. Actually, they don't really guarantee that they will generate interviews - they guarantee that they will do something for you if you don't get interviews, which isn't the same thing. What will they do if you don't get interviews? They will rewrite your resume for free.
That may sound good but think about it - if the resume was written properly in the first place, why would it need to be rewritten? In fact, why should it be rewritten? If the resume was written by someone with considerable experience in resume writing, with expertise in your field, who put your best interests above all else, and dedicated all the time that was needed to make it as strong as possible - why should it be rewritten? If that was truly the case, the resume probably isn't the reason you're not getting interviews.
The truth is, a resume writer simply cannot guarantee that you will get interviews because it is just one part of your overall job search plan. It's a very important part, but it's just one part. If your experience is not in demand, it doesn't matter how good your resume is - you will have a tough time getting interviews. There are many reasons why you may not be getting contacted for interviews. The quality of your resume is just one.
There are hundreds (thousands?) of resume writers out there, and selecting the right one can be a challenge. My advice is to do your homework and ask every possible question that is important to you in advance so you know what to expect. If you have any other questions about my service, please contact me and I'll do my very best to help.