Résumé Prose From the Pros?
by Joe Conklin
One sure thing I know about being in the same place for five years is how easily a résumé gets out of date.
At that five-year point in my last job I finally decided the time had come to revise mine. After several hours of mental sweat and seemingly endless rewrites, I was happy with the result. My relief proved short lived after I asked a trusted colleague for comments. To him, the finished product was not as clear, focused and hard hitting as it was to me.
At about this time, I spotted an ad for a résumé writing service. The idea was intriguing. The potential convenience was inviting.
My initial contacts with the service suggested a well-run, reputable outfit. After investing a few hundred dollars and completing several worksheets, I had a new résumé in my hands in less than a month.
The colleague who had seen the previous version was amazed at the change. We both agreed the layout, phrasing and format added up to a much better advertisement of my strengths and skills. In short, it looked like much more of a winner.
With one positive experience behind me, I wondered how this type of service might work for other quality professionals. I contacted Linda, a person who runs a career coaching firm that includes professional résumé writing, with some questions someone considering such a service might have.
Q and A
Q: From your point of view, have the rules for effective résumé writing changed?
A: I’ve seen the rules relax some. The length of the résumé is not as important as creating compelling reasons for an employer to hire you. These days the résumé has to be not so much an abbreviated biography as a powerful marketing document.
Q: What are the advantages of having a résumé professionally written?
A: The average job seeker might practice résumé writing every few years. A professional résumé writer works with these documents all the time. It’s the difference that comes from sustained concentration in the cultivation and performance of any skill. A good writer stays on top of what employers are looking for and can help you assess your skills and strengths more objectively. He or she can help you identify important points that might otherwise be missed because you’re too close to your own situation.
Q: What should a quality professional consider before hiring a résumé writer?
A: First, interview several writers and pick one you feel comfortable with. A good résumé is the result of a great deal of thought about where you’ve been and where you want to go. Do you prefer a lot of back and forth conversation with the writer to help sort out the important from the not so important? Career guidance and advice can be quite helpful, but expect to pay more for them than you’d pay for just résumé writing. A quality professional might want to ask about the writer’s breadth of knowledge and experience in the quality field. Try to see samples of a writer’s work before choosing him or her.
Q: Can a professional writer provide other useful services for the job hunter?
A: There are several: writing cover letters or interview follow-up letters, updating the original résumé as your career evolves and targeting your résumé via e-mail distribution to key employers and recruiters. Some writers are also certified career coaches. Good career coaches help job hunters deal with the other pieces of the search puzzle besides the résumé. I encourage all job seekers to investigate whether a coach is right for them.
Q: How should a customer work with a writer to produce the best possible résumé?
A: The writer has to know all the important parts of your career history to produce the résumé that’s right for you. For instance, if you have been fired, laid off or had to switch jobs frequently at some point in the past, you may have picked up some valuable lessons. Why not let your résumé emphasize how you have learned and applied those lessons? A good employer understands the company needs people who can learn from mistakes. Saints are nice but not available very often.
Your Strategic Partner
The writer is your strategic partner. Answer any questions about who you are, your special strengths, your most important accomplishments, what you want to accomplish in the future and, most crucially, how you define success in your career. It will make your résumé as strong as it can be.
Q: How long does the writing process take?
A: In my experience, you should allow the writer about two weeks to produce a topnotch résumé after you have answered all of his or her questions.
Q: Does the fee include revising, updating or customizing to a particular job opening?
A: It varies with the writing service. The usual practice is to offer a variety of packages at different prices depending on the number of services the customer needs. I try to provide clients with all the tools they need for a successful job search.
I thanked Linda for her observations. I am glad this service is available for quality professionals who can use it. Linda’s thoughts will help me the next time I am one of them.
JOSEPH D. CONKLIN is a statistician with the U.S. Department of Energy, helping assess the quality of its natural gas survey operations. Conklin earned a master’s degree in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. An ASQ member, he holds the following ASQ certifications: quality engineer, reliability engineer, quality auditor, quality manager and software quality engineer.