A common misbelief about professional resume writers is that our job is an administrative or secretarial type of task that can be done in just a few minutes, should cost very little, and can be done by anyone with a basic command of the English language.
Truth is, a professional resume writer should be considered a personal brand advisor and someone who can strategize with you on how you present yourself to the world. And, as a result, you’ll get a professionally written resume that helps you land the career you want. The process should take hours, if not days, to strategize, develop, and create in collaboration with the client.
Here are five other resume writer misconceptions I can debunk if you are wondering, “Are resume writers worth it?”
1. Misconception: Having someone write your resume for you is in line with having someone take dictation, write a memo or letter, manage your calendar, or perform any other type of secretarial/administrative work.
The truth: I find that this misconception drives or plays at least some role in most of the others we’ll be discussing. Professional resume writers aren’t glorified secretaries. It would, actually, be much more accurate to view us as a type of marketing or branding professional, whose job it is to develop a brand for our clients that markets them to potential employers.
We are also researchers, authors, designers, marketers, project managers, sounding boards, hand-holders, teachers, coaches, mentors, cheerleaders, and counselors all rolled into one. In addition, because most of us are entrepreneurs, we’re also running our own businesses. In my case, I’m also a workplace chaplain, and I often employ the chaplain’s ministry of presence in my relationship with clients, especially those for whom a job loss has been particularly devastating.
2. Misconception: Resumes shouldn’t take long to write. In fact, you should be able to get them on a while-you-wait basis or, at least, within one or two days.
The truth: In our instant gratification-driven society, it’s understandable why one might believe this should be the case. Based on my personal experience, it takes a minimum of 3 to 5 hours’ writing time to develop a first draft, plus at least that long, in aggregate, to interview the client, research the client’s sample postings and pull the right keywords out of them, decide on the best layout/design for the new resume, and handle a million other things that go into developing that first draft.
Also, each client’s resume is a discrete project, and most resume writers are handling multiple projects at once, so there is also the matter of bandwidth, of fitting a given client into the project stream.
How long does a professional resume writer take to write a resume? Most of my colleagues quote clients anywhere from 5 to 14 business days to first drafts, after completion of the strategic interview. Once I get the first draft to the client, it normally takes another 2 to 3 weeks to get the documents to their final state, based on the number of revisions, the client’s ability to respond, and the level of guidance the client needs.
Resumes, and the job search process, are complex!
3. Misconception: "It just needs a few edits" or “I just need you to add a couple of jobs"
The truth: Hopefully, my answer to the last misconception already gave you some insight as to why this is almost never the case. When I get an inquiry that contains these words, the person is trying to justify why he or she believes a professionally written resume should cost very little (usually the desired figure is well under $150), or the person is trying to spend as little as possible on their career documents. On the rare occasions, I’ve agreed to do this on an editing basis, the total cost has wound up equaling, if not exceeding, the cost to just have the resume completely re-done, so I don’t recommend it and, in fact, no longer offer it.
In general, if it has been more than two years since you last had your resume completely redone…you need a new resume. Right now, HR technology is evolving at about the same rate as computer technology, which means that, if your resume’s design and layout are not being refreshed every two to three years, it may keep you from being considered for jobs.
In today’s online-driven, applicant tracking system (ATS)-dominated environment, if your resume does not have the right keywords in it, in the right layout and in the right spot in your resume, it will most likely be rejected as if you aren’t qualified for the position, no matter how qualified you actually are, and that is fact.
4. Misconception: Having someone else do your resume is somehow dishonest/isn’t an accurate reflection of your writing or communication skills.
The truth: We are talking about your resume, folks, not your master’s thesis. Of course, if you think your resume should be the same length as your master’s thesis, that’s another conversation for another time! It’s no more unethical to have someone else write your resume for you than it is, in a business context, to have someone else do your marketing, advertising, finances, benefits, or anything else for you.
Of course, you ultimately have to decide whether it makes sense to do your resume yourself or have a professional do it for you. Part of that decision, of course, is a cost/benefit analysis, and the other part lies in honestly evaluating whether your communication and writing skills are strong enough to do so. If you decide on the do-it-yourself route, Lisa Rangel has put together a stellar set of resources that you can access here.
The other thing to keep in mind, if you do write your resume yourself, is that the advice you’ll find on what you should and shouldn’t do can not only be overwhelming, it can also be contradictory. It’s helpful to understand that your resume actually has four audiences—screening computers, HR, hiring managers, and outside recruiters—and that much of the contradiction comes in because these audiences tend to get locked into their “bubbles” and think that their perspective is the only right one.
5. Misconception: Resume writing can be done by anyone with a basic command of the English language.
The truth: This belief is why resume mills exist, and the horror stories of people who have given them money for a poorly written product are legion. If you wish to write resumes, I strongly believe that you either need to put in the time and investment to hold and maintain a professional resume writing certification or that you need to have an HR, recruiting, management, or career coaching/counseling background. Period.
I’m very passionate about this, because this isn’t just some cottage industry or side gig for extra money. These clients represent more than the jobs they’re applying for—behind those jobs are careers and livelihoods that could encompass a child’s college education or a loved one’s treatments for a terminal illness, and all of that being able to continue rides, in great part, on the quality of the work you do. This is not a career to be entered into on a whim.
One benefit of choosing a resume writer who holds certification is that the association that grants the credentials requires that person to hold to a common set of standard practices, as well as a code of ethics. I am a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), and the code of ethics I am bound to is available here.
I hope that this series of articles has helped you better understand the field of resume writing. If you would like to work with me on your resume, LinkedIn, job search coaching, or interview coaching needs, call me at 720-588-9793 or set up a no-cost, no-obligation consult here.
Melissa Kelley CPRW
Melissa Kelley CPRW has more than 25 years' editing and writing experience, as well as a background in automotive purchasing and secondary education (English/social studies/French); she has specifically been writing resumes since 2006. Her motivation to write resumes began when a relative went nearly six months without a response to his resume, all due to a simple misspelling that Microsoft Word didn't flag as a spelling error. Within six weeks after Melissa provided a simple copyedit to his resume, her relative had a new job.