Should You Write Your Own Resume or Hire a Professional Resume Writer?

01/12/2018 09:05 am ET

Why can’t I get a job? Is my resumé the problem? How do I stand out from the crowd? These questions keep job seekers awake at night. And the answers may cause nightmares.

Ere.net, an online gathering place for recruiters, was onto something back in 2013 when they conducted a survey that gave insightful answers to these questions. The answers were not that surprising after all: On average, each corporate job opening gets 250 applications. Out of these candidates, only four to six get invited for an interview. Only one nabs the job. Combine that stiff competition with the fact that recruiters spend only 6 seconds on a resumé, and you get the point: To get noticed, you have to go to extremes.

One of those extremes is hiring a professional resumé writing service. According to some recruiters, that’s becoming common practice. That first impression is critical to success. Making a mistake is risky. So if you lack writing skills or don’t know how a proper resumé, cover letter, CV, or LinkedIn profile should look, you may be considering a professional writer.

Is it legal to hire a resumé writing service? Sure. Is it advisable? Maybe. Maybe not.

In general, potential employers care about getting accurate information in proper format. Since a professional resumé writer is working according to your instructions, you’re responsible for contents and accuracy.

But is it always a plus to hire a professional writer? Would the hiring executive really prefer to see a resumé written by you personally? If the job you’re applying for calls for primarily writing projects and tasks, absolutely. The resumé reflects your personal writing skills—or at least it should.

Here’s what Laura Stack, CEO of Leadership USA, a national training firm currently in the process of hiring regional salespeople, has to say about resumés: “I don’t care who pulled together the initial resumé. But at some point, I certainly do need to know that the applicants are good writers because they will have heavy contact with buyers. Clarity and image are extremely important. If they can’t write, they won’t represent us well.”

So the decision to prepare your resumé yourself or to hire an outside firm is a complex question that requires serious consideration.

What Makes Resume Writing Services a Good Idea?

Writing the perfect resumé is not easy. It takes skill and research to come up with a suitable format that conveys your unique voice. Not all job seekers have the skill. Hiring a professional writer is simply easier.

And that’s okay. Why should you be passed over for a job in robotics, warehousing, or x-ray imagining just because you can’t pull together a great resumé? If you have the relevant skills for the job, that’s what matters most. Competing for the hiring manager’s attention in those 6 seconds is brutal. That’s where the professional resumé writer pays off.

As CEO of my own business services firm for 35 years, I’ve seen more than my share of weak resumés. In fact, most have been tossed by screeners based on quality before they ever make it to my desk.

During my days as a consultant at IBM leading workshops on writing resumés and professional biographies, I warned clients of the most common mistakes job applicants make in resumés:

  • Poor grammar, syntax structure, spelling, and punctuation
  • Poor formatting
  • Irrelevant information
  • Lack of proper keywords that flow into the tracking system
  • Keywords stuffing, which makes the resumé sound dry and artificial
  • Failure to demonstrate results
  • Lack of personality

For someone who’s not used to writing resumés every day, it’s easy to fall into any of the above traps. A professional writer, aware of the resumé writing standards and expectations that hiring managers have, will avoid those pitfalls. They will likely craft a resumé that’s clean, readable, and attention-grabbing.

Relevance is another important strength of professionally written resumés. The best writing services will assign writers who have specific industry insights. They take your instructions and make the information as attractive as possible for the hiring managers in the specific industry niche.

When Is a Resume Written by Professional Writers a Bad Idea?

Employers want strong writers. Writing in some form––texting, emails, proposals, reports, social media copy––is how work gets done these days. Your resumé is the first step of evaluation.

Even if you use a professionally written resumé, after the interview, you will eventually have to write other documents—a thank-you note, a cover letter to forward references after the interview, or an email to answer questions or arrange a second meeting. The difference in writing skill displayed in the resumé versus in these follow-up documents will be readily apparent. If your actual writing skills prove inadequate for the job, the hiring process will quickly come to a halt.

Another problem related to professionally written resumés: personality. Or the lack thereof, to be more precise. Recruiters live for creatively written resumés, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. They like to see something that reveals the candidate’s personality. Only you can do that. You can’t tell a professional writer “Hey, would you throw in a good one-liner to convey my personality and make me memorable?”

Professional writers deal with facts. If you tell them to create a humorous resumé for you, they will do it in a way they think is funny or lighthearted. But if the interview experience reveals a different “you,” the interviewer will wonder what else is false about the facts.

That’s a serious challenge that only you can overcome: You buy the professionally written resumé as a foundation and then edit it to reflect your personality.

So Is the Resumé a DYI Job?

Hiring managers sometimes expect perfection from job seekers. Their standards regarding resumés may be unreasonable for those competing for a job involving very light writing tasks. So the decision to get help is all yours. If you decide you need a professionally written resumé, by all means, do some editing to make it “yours.”

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