by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
In my career as a resume writer, the vast majority of resumes I have seen have been relatively weak. I see considerable value in the idea of hiring a professional resume writer. A well-chosen resume-writing professional can truly make a significant difference in a job search.
One of the first signs that you may need a professional resume writer is that your resume simply does not seem to be working for you. If you are not getting called for interviews after sending out or posting your resume, it's possible that your resume could be improved. Of course, other factors also could be involved, such as whether you are following up after sending out your resume -- but your resume itself is a good place to start troubleshooting.
Another fairly sure sign that you may need a professional is that people have told you your resume needs work -- perhaps friends, co-workers, professors, recruiters, or others. Sometimes these folks are trying to tell you your resume needs a lot of work, but they are too kind to tell you that.
Remember in either of these situations -- critical comments or poor results -- you don't have to start right off the bat with getting your resume professionally revamped. Most resume-writing services offer low-cost or even no-cost critiques. By having a professional resume writer review and critique your resume, you can find out whether your resume needs just minor repairs -- or major surgery.
If you are facing a change in your situation -- from college student to entry-level worker, from employed to unemployed, from one position to a switch to a different job or career, or from one city to another -- you may want to consider hiring a professional resume writer to help you effectively position yourself for the change you seek.
Similarly, the wise individual remains prepared for unexpected job changes. Ideally, your resume should be updated and ready to go at all times, even if you're not actively seeking a new position. If you were in a networking situation, and someone asked for a copy for your resume, would you have one ready? If not, consider hiring a professional resume writer to help you get your resume in shape.
You may have issues or problems in your job history that you don't know how to handle in your resume. For example, perhaps you have employment gaps in your background, or you have spent short periods of time in a number of jobs and worry about giving the impression of being a "job-hopper," or your job history is very diverse and doesn't point in any one direction, or you are returning to the workforce after parenting, running your own business, serving in the military, or other absence. Professional resume writers know strategies for dealing with all of these situations -- and more -- on a resume.
I mentioned that most of the resumes I see are relatively weak. A major contributing factor to this weakness is that they look plain and boring. They just don't stand out and attract attention. Now, you may have heard that appearance doesn't matter because employers want text-based resumes that can be easily entered into keyword-searchable databases -- and that's true to some extent. But at some point, the human eye of the hiring manager will still see your resume, so its appearance should stand out. A professional resume writer can apply layout and design techniques that enable your document to really grab attention.
A consistent weakness I see in job-seeker resumes is a lack of focus. Job-seekers tend to forget that employers review resumes extremely quickly -- often in just a few seconds. An employer taking such a quick glance should be able to immediately grasp what you want to do and have a sense of the value you can contribute to the organization. If your resume cannot convey that information extremely rapidly, consider hiring a professional to sharpen its focus.
Perhaps your resume was fine when you were at a lower job level. But now that you've climbed the ladder of advancement, your resume may lack the sophisticated look and message that indicates you are worthy of the salary and title you seek. A resume writer can help you bring it up to the appropriate level.
Resume writers are also familiar with all the formats needed for today's job search -- formats such as text, PDF, and Web-ready resumes. A professional resume writer can convert your resume to the appropriate formats, as well as advise you on which format is needed in which situation. Resume writers are also well-versed in the keywords job-seekers in every profession should use on their resumes so that their documents pop up in searches after being placed in the employer's keyword-searchable database.
Many job-seekers have told us that just don't have an objective grasp of what their most marketable skills are and how to highlight their best selling points on a resume. Or they have difficulty brainstorming their own accomplishments. A professional resume writer can help you identify these important points. While some resume writers use questionnaires, others conduct interviews by phone or in person to help clients brainstorm this information.
Some job-seekers hire a professional resume writer because they do not have the time to create a truly effective resume. While a resume writer can save you tremendous time, it's important to remember that you as the job-seeker do need to invest at least some time in the project. Whether the resume writer gathers your information by questionnaire or interview, time is needed to collect that data. Once that's accomplished, it's the resume writer who will be putting in time creating a dazzling product for you.
Final Thoughts on Hiring a Professional Resume Writer
Remember above all that there is no shame in hiring a professional resume writer. You hire doctors, lawyers, financial advisers, and tax consultants when you lack the expertise in those areas, so why should resume-writing be different? Many employers and even more recruiters actually encourage the idea of professionally written resumes because hiring managers want to obtain your information in a reader-friendly form that clearly tells how you can benefit the organization.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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