Consider the resume: a nearly universal, non-negotiable professional document that often stands between you and your dream job. How can a document be so reviled — especially by those with little to no formatting or writing skills — and so essential? While LinkedIn has poached some territory from a printed curriculum vitae, the move to digital doesn't negate the need for a well-written explanation of your career. In fact, with more eyes on your professional profile than ever, you could argue it's never been more vital.
As the Great Resignation continues chugging along seemingly unabated, more Americans are dusting off their resume to try and snag one of the 11.5 million new jobs available per month, as reported by Fortune. Some may look at their old resume and find it wanting. Those who consider a refresh or a wholesale update an impossible task might try turning to a professional resume writer. This article answers any questions you might have about a resume writer and offers some essential tips should you decide to go it alone.
What Is a Professional Resume?
How would you explain a resume to an alien? You might start by saying that this bulleted list represents the cumulative years of your professional career. Because at its most basic element, that's what a resume is — a concise way of showing your growth over time. (Résumé comes from French and means, in essence, "a short summary.") Before doing anything, it's a good idea to take a moment and reflect on how this piece of paper is a representation of you. If you only spend a little time on it, or don't add any appealing formatting, unfortunately, the lack of concern will be apparent to your prospective employer. That dream job you've been looking for? Yeah, you can probably kiss it goodbye.
However, a well-written resume can give you an edge in a competitive job market and help you stand out amidst the other pile of resumes or digital faces. You want your resume to act as a standalone advertisement, selling potential employers on your strongest qualifications.
What Is Included in a Professional Resume?
A resume, along with a cover letter, is the travel document of the business world. It allows you to take off and land at a different location, pending approval from the customs officer — or in the case of this analogy, a hiring manager. Similar to a passport, though each one may look a bit different, an excellent professional resume will satisfy these crucial components:
Contact information. This one might be obvious, but you'll want to include your first and last name, phone number, and email address. If where you live is essential to your prospective employer, it's a good idea to add your mailing address too.
Summary. Also referred to as an introduction or opening. In one-to-five sentences, offer a concise summarization of your work history up until now. Oftentimes this is the first (or only) section a hiring manager will read, so do everything you can to make yourself stand out.
Experience. The meat-and-potatoes of a well-written resume, this section is where you'll list your relevant work experience. Remember that an outline typically works best with bullets describing your responsibilities for each role, the duration of your stay, and the companies you've worked for along the way.
Skills. This section has become ever more popular with the rise of electronic application forms. What's nice is even a cursory glance can notice commonalities between you and the role if you add the relevant skills they're looking for. Try adding a mix of hard and soft skills (e.g., technical and interpersonal) to show that you're a well-rounded candidate.
Education. This section will look different depending on the position. Most white-collar jobs are only interested in undergraduate and graduate degrees (make sure to include the institution's name, highest degree earned, and majors or minors.) If applying for a technical job, you can add the relevant certificates you've received in this section.
Above all, remember to be concise. Brevity is your friend here. For most young job seekers, a single-page resume will be appropriate, while candidates with extensive career experience can use two or more pages. No matter the length, you'll want to have a consistent format across sections and pages, taking into account both the resume and cover letter with things like font style and font size.
This is also a good time to remember the advice of your grade-school English teacher and the strength of writing things in active voice. The first example in bold below is written in passive voice, which doesn't show the ambition of a self-starter that most companies are chasing:
Instead of writing "I was tasked with helping sales set, allocate, and monitor the budget of each project on deadline," try "I managed financials for multiple deadline-driven projects." Sounds better, right?
And last but certainly not least, don't forget to proofread! A misspelled word or poor syntax like the above might reflect poorly on you and limit your potential opportunities to get a new job. Don't give a hiring manager any reason to move past your resume.
What Does a Professional Resume Writer Do?
Professional resume writers are hired to utilize their experience and skills to help clients restructure their current resumes or assist in creating the perfect resume for a job application. Typically, resume writers have experience with the hiring process of certain industries. With this industry knowledge, resume writers can give you a higher chance of catching the attention of potential hiring managers and landing an interview.
If you decide to hire a professional resume writer, they'll ask you about your previous experience and get an in-depth understanding of your skills, work history, and career goals. Based on the information you provide, along with your current resume, he or she will craft a document that is aligned with your target employers' requirements in addition to what you have to offer.
The Pros of Hiring a Professional Resume Writer
A 2018 report found that the average recruiter or hiring manager looks at a resume for seven seconds before deciding whether they want to interview the candidate. Seven seconds, that's it! In the length of time of a short TikTok, the distillation of your entire career is being parsed by a hiring manager that doesn't know you from Adam. No one can fully read your resume that fast. Instead, hiring managers are looking at the resume’s format along with some keywords.
Does your resume meet this standard so you can make it to the next stage of the application process? Are there new standards you do not know about? What do you need to do to stand out? Working with a professional resume writer can help you answer these questions.
A professional resume writer can offer:
Inside perspective on the hiring process. Someone who works as a professional resume writer will keep track of changing industry standards. They know what hiring managers want to see — not just in terms of skills, education, or work history, but what they expect out of formatting, typeface, and keywords. Professional resume writers also understand what hiring managers do not want to see because it is unprofessional, outdated, or overused.
Professional writing experience. People who become professional resume writers have careers as professional writers first. They turn their love of words and design into skills that benefit you. This means they can clean up your listed objective, ensure your skills sound enticing, and help you discuss your education and experience using industry keywords and unique phrasing.
A pathway to understanding your offerings. A good professional resume writer or writing service will interview you to understand how you want to be presented on your resume. This process helps the writer, but their questions can help you understand more about yourself too.
The writer will work on phrasing your professional experience and knowledge, which can help you in the interview process. You can learn how your industry might view your job duties, so you can reframe your accomplishments and personal goals to better match the company and position you want.
The Cons of Hiring a Professional Resume Writer
While working with a professional resume writer or a resume writing company can help you learn more about hiring managers’ expectations, there are some downsides to choosing this approach. The biggest one is that your personal “voice” could be lost in the process, and if you pay less for the service, you may not get the highest-quality product.
Cons of hiring a professional resume writer include:
High costs. If you hire a professional resume writer who works alone, you are likely to pay at least $100 per hour and sometimes up to $400. You can scope out these individuals through their websites and ask them for more samples from their portfolio before hiring them, but even if you are impressed, this is a lot of money, especially if you are searching for entry-level work. You can find writing services that have several resume writers on staff or services that contract out the work. These companies often advertise rates as low as $25 per hour, but you are at risk of getting an inferior resume. You might even end up with something unusable.
Generic style. Professional resume writers know industry standards, but that means they apply these to all the resumes they write, including yours. Unfortunately, this means your resume will potentially look and sound like dozens of others unless you spend the money to work with your resume writer to build a unique product.
You might end up with a resume that doesn’t match your writing style. Often, a professional resume writer or writing company will include a cover letter alongside the resume they produce for you. Again, this can be beneficial for formatting and keywords, but the cover letter is where your unique writing style and passion for the job come through. You may choose to write your own, but then the writing style will not match your resume unless you work to match the two.
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Is a Professional Resume Writer Worth It?
The answer to this question will be contingent on various factors, the most considerable being time. A young candidate, or someone between jobs, might have more time to explore trendy formatting options and write the best possible version. On the other hand, the job seeker employed full-time might not be available to review their resume and will need to outsource the writing to a professional resume writer to do it for them.
But in the interest of this guide, let's say you have ample time on your hands and the funds to pay someone to write it for you. What should you do?
If your resume needs a lot of work, you may have to speak with the resume writer at least once to tell them what you're looking to add, and speaking just once might be a conservative estimate. Others may use a form that requires adding your work history, skills, and professional achievements. If a wholesale rewrite is in order, expect a lot of back-and-forth collaboration via phone or email. Plus, if it doesn't come out the way you'd like, you'll have to offer feedback on the first draft. It may take a few rounds before you agree on a final version.
Hopefully, you can avoid the pitfalls of an inexperienced writer by doing ample research on the company or individual. You can also prevent the high rates of more prominent companies by asking friends and family for freelance writer referrals. Either way, once you have someone in mind, consider asking them for samples and confirm they have had formal training in resume writing, especially in your industry.
At the end of the day, if you're the kind of person who knows what they want and won't make any excuses to get it, you're probably better off writing your resume yourself.
DIY Resume Writing Options
Ultimately, most people end up writing resumes and accompanying cover letters on their own. There are several resume writing guides available online. Look at the date the page was published since standards among hiring managers and within fields change quickly.
If you want to have the most polished, professional resume possible, there are three main options:
Use their template and personalize it. Some professional resume writers provide a template you can use. This can give you an idea of what hiring managers expect to see at first glance. You can get a good example of formatting and your industry’s keywords without spending a lot of money on rewrites. You simply take the work of the resume writer and adjust it to fit your style or goals more closely.
Look at resumes online. Using social media like LinkedIn or other professional websites, you can easily find examples of resumes from people in your field. Look at how they are formatted, and how the objective and skills sections are phrased, then decide if you can use this style to include enough information about yourself.
While you can start with one resume as a basic template, you can get a better idea of the overall approach if you look at several examples. Make sure they are recent examples.
Write it entirely from scratch. If you know the basics of what hiring managers need from your resume, you can create one entirely from scratch.
Include the basics. Your name, contact information, mission statement or objective, relevant skills, work experience, and education are categories that a hiring manager expects to see, usually in that order.
Consider keywords. Sometimes, these function like keywords on websites, helping search engines or algorithms find the right information. With resumes, using keywords in context shows that you understand the industry you want to work in.
Highlight your accomplishments. Whether you’re using a skills-based, work-based, or combination resume format, focus on your accomplishments. Pick one or two solid examples of how you made a difference at your previous job, in your field, at your college, or in a volunteer position. Elaborate on these in your cover letter.
Double-check for accuracy. Make sure names, dates, and all other details are accurate before submitting it.
No matter how you choose to approach your resume, it is important to understand what your industry wants to see from your experience, skills, and personal goals. Making choices about this language informs how you present yourself. That can help you decide whether you want to hire a professional resume writer or create the document entirely on your own.
Both are valid options, but one approach may work better for you than the other. Whether you end up writing your resume or hiring someone to showcase your work experience, Joblist offers a large selection of jobs for you to submit your resume!