Resume Writers – One Business That’s Up in a Bad Economy, And You Thought Wall Street Was Unregulated…

My buddy Peggy Andrews over at The Career Encouragement Blog dropped me a note late last week wondering how I felt about resume shops that charge one or two thousand large to rework someone's resume.  Great question. My response is pretty consistent with how I feel – I can't claim to be a resume expert, but I see a lot of resumes, and I'm not sure you have to pay 1-2K for executive level advice.

Does anyone else get that slightly creepy feeling when you look at the sites of some of the folks who claim to be experts at creating resumes for candidates?  I know there are some good ones out there, but every time I go to a cut and paste, lame web site and see someone claiming to be an expert, I get that sinking feeling in my stomach, for some of the folks who are probably grabbing at the services.

Apparently, my instincts are correct.  From the Wall Street Journal Careers Section:

"Hoping to find an Internet marketing spot fast, Christopher Cicero hired a professional résumé Resume writerswriter last winter. He paid her about $500 and completed her 20-page worksheet. She promised to polish his résumé soon.  The revamped document didn't arrive for nearly four months, however. And Mr. Cicero disliked the result. He believes the résumé failed to describe his accomplishments because the writer never interviewed him. "She didn't know who I was or what I was looking for," the Westchester, N.Y., resident complains. So he switched writers.

Anxious applicants increasingly use professionals to assemble impressive-looking résumés, forking over as much as $2,000. TheLadders.com expects its 100 writers will prepare more than 20,000 résumés this year — quadruple the number in 2006, the year its service began, reports Marc Cenedella, president of the Web site for high-paid candidates.

To say the quality varies widely is an understatement," says Louise Kursmark, a veteran résumé writer in Reading, Mass., and co-founder of a writer-training academy.

Careful shopping will help you dodge rip-offs by résumé writers. It's wise to review their work, making sure samples look customized, and not like cookie-cutter templates. Then, contact satisfied customers and verify claims of professional prowess. Five U.S. associations certify résumé writers, but "some are more rigorous than others," notes Ms. Kursmark in her 2008 directory of writers.

She earned the "master résumé writer" title from Career Management Alliance, for instance, by showing she had five years of paid résumé-writing experience, submitting a diverse portfolio of résumés and completing an exam. Every two years, she must be re-certified, which includes submitting a two-page essay and five résumé client presentations.

OK.  I know there are some good ones out there, and I guess my choice would be that they have some type of experience in the industry (recruiter, HR pro, power manager who has hired), rather than the only credential being a masters in English.

Another tipping point for me regarding identifying resume writers who can't help you?  Ask them for pro bono advice in terms of a career marketing strategy. If they tell you that they only do resumes, run like hell.  They either don't care or don't have the experience to help you customize the resume in a meaningful way.

God help the folks who do an internet search and secure these services randomly.  I need to carve out some time to pay it forward and volunteer somewhere based on the economy.

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Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.

10 Comments

  1. Kris,
    I have to say this doesn’t surprise me – I just amazed that some people will actually spend $2k to get a CV written!!
    These services have been around a long time, but it looks like the internet sharks have come out to play, and are making their cash, as well as raising false expectations with the job seekers.
    The problem is (here in the UK) anyway, is that there is no where that people can go to get help with a CV. They might be lucky and have a friend who will help them, but apart from that they are at the mercy of recruiters and the internet.
    The unemployment service in the UK is creaking to the point of bursting, and the quality of the staff leave a lot to be desired – they certainly could not help you put together a CV!!
    With 20 years plus in recruitment, I just wish I had charged every candidate $2k that I had either given career advice to or helped them write a cracking CV, because I would be a very rich person by now!
    This concept of paying for recruitment services is one that caused some interesting conversation recently, as I asked the question on my blog, ‘Would you pay someone to help you find a job? ‘ -http://tinyurl.com/chxjsw
    Would you as a job seeker, be prepared to extend the fee you would pay a ‘consultant’ if they not just helped you with your CV, but also helped you secure a new job (or certainly took you through all the steps needed)? Would you, say, pay someone $5k or $10k for a job?
    I know there are currently life coaches and ‘career coaches’ doing just this – but is it right?
    Personally I have no issue giving out the pro bono advice (as you put it) because I have always done that, and it has brought me reciprical business further down the line. But you then have to plan to be in the business for a while – it takes a long time to develop some of these relationships, doesn’t it.
    How many of these ‘great’ CV writers will be around past the recession?
    Anyway, we can bleet about it all we like, the fact is there are many people out there rubbing their hands with glee, with the thought of more job seekers hitting unemployment queues, each requiring a new CV!!

    Reply
  2. Kris, I agree 100% that people need to carefully screen potential resume writers – or any other service they engage, for that matter. My book that you feature (“Directory of Professional Resume Writers”) contains an in-depth discussion of what to look for, what to look OUT for, and what to expect from the process of working with a professional resume writer.
    I’m also the co-founder of Resume Writing Academy, a comprehensive training program for – you guessed it! – resume writers, and I can tell you that having HR, recruiting, or hiring experience does NOT ensure someone will be a good resume writer. Of course, it helps to have the knowledge and perspective that comes from the hiring side of the equation. But resume writing requires a marketing mindset, the ability to get to the heart of complex careers, the knowledge of how to present the individual’s most compelling information so it grabs the right attention, good strategic thinking skills, excellent listening and interpretive abilities, and – oh yeah – expert writing skills in the specific niche that is resume writing.
    Get referrals. Check samples. Be sure you can speak to your writer in person. $1K-$2K is not unreasonable for an expert executive resume, but any amount is too much if the end result doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

    Reply
  3. Kris, I agree 100% that people need to carefully screen potential resume writers – or any other service they engage, for that matter. My book that you feature (“Directory of Professional Resume Writers”) contains an in-depth discussion of what to look for, what to look OUT for, and what to expect from the process of working with a professional resume writer.
    I’m also the co-founder of Resume Writing Academy, a comprehensive training program for – you guessed it! – resume writers, and I can tell you that having HR, recruiting, or hiring experience does NOT ensure someone will be a good resume writer. Of course, it helps to have the knowledge and perspective that comes from the hiring side of the equation. But resume writing requires a marketing mindset, the ability to get to the heart of complex careers, the knowledge of how to present the individual’s most compelling information so it grabs the right attention, good strategic thinking skills, excellent listening and interpretive abilities, and – oh yeah – expert writing skills in the specific niche that is resume writing.
    Get referrals. Check samples. Be sure you can speak to your writer in person. $1K-$2K is not unreasonable for an expert executive resume, but any amount is too much if the end result doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

    Reply
  4. If a job seeker – entry-level to executive – is in Chicago and wants to meet with a University of Chicago recruiter, they can send their request to employment@uchicago.edu. The department meets with job seekers to talk about their career, resume and job search. If a job seeker is specifically interested in positions in the University of Chicago Alumni Relations and Development division, they can email me directly at angela7@uchicago.edu.

    Reply
  5. Tom Formby says:

    It’s amazing that people pay money to have a resume written for them. As a recruiter, I just let people know that I will help them with updating their resumes for free. It’s not service that I think is worthy of charging for and I get to meet a lot of interesting people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
    On another note, (Pet Peeve alert)it must be the resume writing experts and/or the resume wizard software that has people putting text in ALL CAPS and then inserting all kinds of lines, borders, text boxes, pictures, etc. into resumes. DON”T THEY KNOW WHAT ALL CAPS COMMUNICATES TO THE READER? These things drive the resume parsing function in most ATS solutions quite bonkers. It drives me bonkers when I have to try to upload a resume manually so I’ll just remove all the formatting and upload as text. So much for the $2K resume.
    Resumes should be (IMHO) simple, graceful and full of accomplishments.
    Best,
    Tom

    Reply
  6. Karenm says:

    Some are not aware, but in some states one should be regulated to charge an “employee” /candidate, or anyone looking for a job.. this includes resume writing, and especially outsourcing – most of these industries even require Bonding by the individuals providing the services (especially the employee outsourcing, the dirt bags who say they will find ya a job, and charge Tens of thousands)
    .. but, unfortunately it is not easily overseen. Kinda like the SEC and WalStreet
    Candidates do have resources if they have been cheated, complain to the State A.G offices; Better Business and of course the FTC.
    There is No Wonder that Employment Related Fraud was in the Top 20 in the FTC Issues Annual List of Top Consumer Complaints http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/02/fraud.shtm
    Also all candidates should see the following BBB alert http://www.bbb.org/Alerts/article.asp?ID=268

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  7. Ronni P says:

    I am so not trying to offend Louise’s post above but seriously? What a load of crap. 2K for a resume??? In today’s world – perhpas other than the clueless Executive – there is no reason to pay squat for a resume writer. For the last 18 years, I have worked both sides of the Recruiting world – in the headhunter high level tech space and now on the corporate side – and one thing has not changed….each resume gets about 10 seconds of my time. If it doesn’t smack me in the face and tell me that fast why this person is a perfect fit for the job I am working on – sorry baby, but its on to the next. With all the different job titles out there these days it is so much more important to customize your resume to the specific job to which you are applying. Some big fancy schmancy resume with all the boxes and quotes and garbage (I’m right there with ya Tom) are a waste of time. I really don’t care what you think your qualities are, or what other fluff you or someone else writes about you. I want to know what you did, where you did it and for how long – and depending on the job – what tools you used. Pretty much that’s it. Everything else I am going to ignore and if you get past that first screen I will figure out the rest when I talk with you.
    It’s a resume – not rocket science.
    Whew…I feel better now.
    Ronni

    Reply
  8. Great posting Kris and important information for job seekers to know in this economy. As an HR consultant who has seen thousands of resumes for hundreds of jobs over the past several years, I always advise job seekers to write their own resumes – go ahead and get geedback and support, but write your own resume. Why? If you cannot write your own resume for the job you want, then it’s not likely that you can really do the job. In other words, the simple exercise of disciplining yourself to write a tailored resume for a a position can really help you grow and learn new things about your chosen profession/industry. If you find yourself feeling nervous that the resume you are writing isn’t “good enough” for a particular position, that is good information to know about yourself that a professional resume writer likely won’t spend a lot of time with you on. Knowing initmately where your resume is weak can point you to things you need to add to your professional development plan. Don’t have a professional development plan? That’s a topic for another posting…

    Reply
  9. James says:

    I would like to give a voice to the newly graduated. Thousands or even hundreds of dollars will be too expensive for most recently graduated individuals. Free updates and advice should be expected. The website http://www.illhelpyou.net lists $100 as the cost for preparation of a two page resume or curriculum vitae. The help offered by most campus career centers does not sufficiently solicit the type of self reflection that is necessary to enable a new graduate to create a resume which demonstrates his or her abilities and goals. The result is a document which lacks self worth, ambition, and charisma. I agree that experienced writers who can also offer additional services such as electronic portfolio creation, business cards and cover letters are a great resource for new graduates.

    Reply
  10. Frank Viarra says:

    Yes, that’s crazy. This is the first I’ve heard of spending that kind of dough on a resume! I think that money is better spent earning .37 cents in your bank account. Executive level people should have the experience, appropriate writing skills and general common sense enough to prepare a resume for themselves. As a recruiter, I don’t know how much I would trust someone who couldn’t even buckle down enough to come up with their own resume. How are they going to perform in a new job if they can’t write down their own job history…

    Reply

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