5 tips for hiring a great resume writer

JULIE CHASE | AUGUST 15, 2019

After reviewing thousands and writing hundreds of resumes, I’ve come to this profound conclusion: it’s freakin hard to create a good resume. While I don’t believe the resume is the most important piece to a job search, it is often the asset that makes the first impression. So it’s critical to have one that captures and highlights your key responsibilities, accomplishments, strengths and skills.

When I talk to senior leaders, I’m always excited to see their resume (total nerd, I know). To me it’s the same anticipation I feel before opening a gift—always hopeful it’s going to be amazing. Unfortunately, most of them miss the mark. And even more unfortunate, most of them have paid for a subpar product.

There are literally thousands of resume writers, so choosing a great one is challenging. I’ve compiled 5 tips to help you hire the best writer for you.

Tip 1: Ask friends and colleagues

We’ll start with the obvious one. Send an email asking if anyone has worked with a professional writer that they’d recommend. Ask about the process, the amount of time they spent together, how long it took and the writer’s understanding of their profession. Ask to see the final product and how your friend feels about it. Is it something they’re proud of? Have they received positive feedback?

Tip 2: Expand the search beyond your area

In the corporate world, I hired designers and writers for a wide range of projects—most of whom I had never met (even those who were only 15 miles away). The best writer for you may be across the country. Many writers, and coaches for that matter, work with clients remotely AND effectively. Personally, I find it much easier to focus and take copious notes about a client’s experience over the phone.

Tip 3: Ask clarifying questions

Just like anything else, you need to have a good list of questions and criteria to evaluate a good writer. Here is a list of essential questions to ask (and what to look for):

What kind of clients do you typically work with?

  • Some work with mostly creative types, others with recent college grads. You can also ask what % of clients are from the corporate world and also at what level (e.g., senior managers, directors, etc.). Ideally, you’ll find someone who works with a lot of people at your level and bonus if they’ve worked with a lot of people in the same profession.

Have you worked in the corporate world and/or with hiring managers?

  • It’s hugely beneficial to work with someone who understands the nuances of the corporate world and can hone in on what’s most important to the hiring manager. Some of the resumes I review are well-written, but sound like they’re from a college essay. Others can’t discern points like top line v. bottom line revenue and batch mismatched benefits like customer growth and increased productivity.

What’s your process?

  • You want to find someone who’s going to spend 1:1 time with you to learn about you and your experiences. Typically, you want someone to spend 60 – 90 minutes with you upfront and at least 30 minutes to review the first draft together.
    Watch out if they require an extensive intake form where you’re doing most of the writing. That is a hard pass for me—it’s harder to get invested in you when they spend most of their time reading about you.

How many reviews are included?

  • You want to make sure there are plenty of rounds of reviews (at least 3). Ideally, you’ll get their commitment to work with you until you feel proud of the final product.

How would your clients describe working with you?

  • This is always telling. Good writers easily share their clients’ feedback on their relationship, style, etc.
    You can also ask for testimonials (if they don’t have on their website), but whether testimonials or references, they’re going to share the most positive ones. The only flag would be if they don’t have any.

Tip 4: Ask for samples

Writers should have a wide range of resumes to showcase their work. They either get permission from their clients or anonymize them. Here’s what to look for:

Look at the format

  • Are they using old templates—the ones you remember from college counselors? You want something that’s more modern looking and includes a Profile/Summary section at the top—similar to the About section of LinkedIn.
  • They may say their templates are optimized for applicant tracking systems (ATS), but there are modern ones that are still effective. Also, I advise all of our clients not to apply online until they get a referral, which mitigates the ATS obstacle.

Read each section and each bullet

  • Do they make sense? Are they repetitive? Do they provide enough context to understand the project or responsibility? Do they include a balance of stats and overall benefits (e.g., “increased revenue by 12%” and “streamlined workflows and improved efficiency”). Are you impressed by the person you’re reading about?

Check the length

  • Resumes should never be more than 2 pages. I’ve worked with C-Level executives to senior managers and have never gone over 2 pages. Editing is the hardest part—and that’s why you’ve hired a professional to surface the most compelling content

Tip 5: Prepare to make a significant investment

There are two types of investments you should be prepared to make for an exceptional resume and experience.

  • Time and effort: you’ll get out as much as you put in. Spending time to find a great writer is key, but it’s also critical to thoroughly prep for the intake session. You need to spend time thinking about your core work and projects in each role. Be ready to share your biggest accomplishments, areas of expertise and strengths. Review past performance reviews and talk to colleagues about projects to jog your memory.
  • Financial: you need to be prepared to invest in a good resume. As with most things in life, there is a correlation between the dollar amount and the quality. While there isn’t a standard price, you should be prepared to invest around $1,000 for a stellar resume. When you think of it as a key contributing piece to your next career move, you’ll see it as a worthwhile investment.

Finally, trust your gut! If you feel like you can’t connect with the writer, then move on until you find the best person for you!

Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know when you’ve found a writer. I’d also love to see your resume!