Professional Resume Writer or Resume Template?
What are the benefits of having a professional resume writer prepare a resume versus using an online template and writing your own? Plenty. It may seem like an easy task, but there are many pitfalls associated with a resume that doesn’t make it through the modern ATS systems to the recruiter or hiring manager’s desk. If you’re currently looking for a job, you may have already faced some of the challenges of getting that first interview with the companies where you apply.
Perhaps you’ve been in a job search for some time and your resume isn’t opening any doors. You may be first starting your job search. Either way, you are probably wondering:
- What does a professional writer have that I don’t have?
- Why shouldn’t I do it myself?
- Do professional resume writers really help?
Even if you’re a recruiter or an HR professional, you may not have the skills required to craft a really effective resume.
Vice President of US Operations at RiseSmart, Josh Barlow, , explains, “Most individuals cannot write about themselves effectively, so it makes it hard to write a compelling resume on your own. The quality of a resume that’s prepared by a professional writer far exceeds a resume that can be put together even by seasoned recruiter, let alone an individual.”
Resume tip #1 Job searching is mentally draining, time consuming, and can also be expensive. This is the time to invest in someone who is fully trained on all the elements of the process.
As a Certified Professional Resume Writer for RiseSmart, I receive many resumes from people who think their resume doesn’t need any work. What I find is that often, these resumes are well-formatted and lack spelling errors, but they don’t highlight those things that make their unique qualifications shine through.
The limits of resume templates
Templates can be great for formatting – which is exactly what they are meant to do – but they can’t help you write compelling content. If you use a template, your resume may look visually enticing, but the words will not grab attention or relay the proper story of your career.
“A professional resume writer can take all the disparate events of your career and weave them into a story of progression and execution,” Barlow says.
If you have superb content written by a professional writer, you can always change the formatting by using a template and have several different versions of your resume to try out. Whether or not you decide to change the format of your resume, the thing that will make you stand out from other job candidates is the content – the ways you talk about your experience and expertise.
Resume tip #2: It’s better to start with good content then to worry about the stylistic formatting of a template.
The myth of resume DIY
In a tough job market, you need to stand out. Too many individuals think they have what it takes to write a resume that makes them shine.
Here are three common misconceptions about writing your own resume:
- Thinking you write well enough to come up with something creative. Writing is subjective and the proof is the traction that the branding document garners. Resume writing is not just about creating a document that is filled with compelling content (no fluff), but also about balancing the element of Applicant Tracking Software (where a robot reads, parses, and scores a resume before a human even sees it) and ensuring it’s an engaging aesthetic (a boring layout won’t stand up to competition).
- Getting advice from a friend who is a recruiter, part of a 3rd party agency, or in HR. Recruiters and HR professionals are aware of the job search market because they view resumes all day, almost every day. Yet they don’t have the training and may not be aware of the most recent best practices and strategies for preparing a resume that a skilled writer has and can execute.
Some people think they can write a resume because they took the right résumé classes --even if it was just a seminar given by the Department of Labor, or an article they read on LinkedIn. Additionally, some agencies or other 3rd parties that give résumé advice may not be certified, including untrained staff at career centers. You need to be aware of who is certified and qualified to write your resume or give you advice about best practices before you put what they tell you into practice.
- Not wanting to put in the time to correspond with a writer. Professional resume writers collaborate with you and need your input to write an optimal branding document. They cannot craft a document if you don’t provide them with answers to all the relevant questions they ask. Seasoned professionals know that first impressions are critical and can pinpoint a good resume when they see one, but resume writing is about the ability to understand key accomplishments. The look of it is secondary to the information in it.
Resume tip #3: Job seekers often forget that employers review resumes very quickly (about 20 seconds!). It’s very difficult to write about yourself and concisely convey important information.
Making your accomplishments shine
What an untrained resume writer might think is just part of the job - the general functions of everyday work - can actually be a shining moment that should be showcased.
Barlow explains that, “Things individuals think are mundane or general about their role can actually be key accomplishments. Most people think their skills and experiences are run of the mill, but people who have been successful in achieving a goal had to do quite a few things to meet that goal. Most people don’t understand that about themselves.”
A certified resume writer will ask you to present more than just your job description on your resume. They will guide you to show the scope of your role and then help you quantify your results with stats, metrics, and meaningful content.
Resume tip #4 Professional resume writers have the magic to turn general words into resume -worthy sentences.
Illuminating without bragging
A professional writer understands that for all HR hiring managers or recruiters, time is a precious commodity. That’s why it’s critical to put the most valuable information front and center in a resume.
Resume writers can immediately grasp what you have done and what you want to do, and they know how to showcase your value and demonstrate what you can contribute to the organization. They know how to make your accomplishments appear impressive without making it seem like you’re boasting.
Perhaps you don’t like to brag about yourself. You might feel like inserting a laundry list of core responsibilities and non-valuable information into your resume template. When a hiring manager has hundreds of resumes to go through, that’s a sure way for yours to get tossed out.
People who do like to brag can benefit from a professional writer by having a second set of eyes ensure that the bragging is not overdone or overbearing. “Those types of individuals are wonderful to work with because it’s a slightly different type of writing that needs to be done – more shaving off the less interesting or less impactful achievements,” Barlow commented. “When you’re trying to impress a new employer, you have to work on the story—on how your accomplishments fit in overall. Not everything fits,” he noted.
Everything that isn’t included in your resume can be talking points for an interview, cover letter, or longer documents such as social media profiles.
Resume tip #5 A thorough intake interview with a resume writer will ensure the résumé is coming from the participant’s own voice
Applicant Tracking Software (ATS)
The advent and prolific use of ATS systems has made the criteria for creating a resume more than just writing well. According to Barlow, “The resume software will often twist things in text boxes and tables – the things that make the design look really good. ATS can ignore those sections because the software doesn’t know how to read it. So, it’s either omitted ... or spits out an error.” Writers understand the latest ATS trends and the “hot zone” on the resume so you don’t risk being filtered out.
It can get complex, however, because every ATS is different. Writers are constantly looking at the new systems and capabilities. Certification bodies (such as the Professional Association for Resume Writers and Career Coaches and the National Resume Writers’ Association) also keep up to date with technology.
Resume tip #6 Working with a writer who understands ATS software and how to format different sections is key to moving forward in the application process.
Is the resume dead?
“At the end of the day, a resume is still a very tangible document to send and distribute in the eyes of a hiring manager or recruiter. If you don’t have one, you lose an avenue to make an impression,” Barlow explains. The majority of companies still require resumes as something extra to reference during an interview.
The resume being dead is an assumption some people make because recruiters perform outbound digital recruiting and people searches online through engines like Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com.
Barlow reiterates that “If you’re not thinking critically about what you did or you’re not able to communicate how valuable your contributions are, your LinkedIn profile might look great but you only have a few seconds to make an impression.” That’s true for whatever form—online or otherwise—the resume takes.
In the digital world, timing is even more critical because people tend to scroll through a webpage quickly and can easily look for another profile that looks more interesting. Writers know how to structure words and phrases so that your heavy-hitting information is what comes across in those first few seconds.
Resume tip #7: Professional resume writers understand the digital landscape and its sourcing capabilities and can take your branding documents and modify them for digital profiles.
Common problems in resumes
Professional resume writers craft optimal branding documents and are also generalists with broad knowledge of best practices with regard to marketing, AP style, technical documents, creative writing, and more. They can identify the gaffes found in most resumes that have been prepared by untrained writers that non-professionals usually overlook.
Common resume errors include:
- Poor content, grammar, syntax structure, spelling, and punctuation
- Irrelevant information
- Inconsistent fonts or style
- Non-ATS compliant format
- Poor general flow of data
- Lack of useful keywords
- Lack of personality
- Failure to prove accomplishments
- Improper length
Why resume writers are a critical element in contemporary outplacement solutions
Collecting marketing materials for use in a resume takes a lot of time. That can certainly get in the way for someone who is trying to navigate all the tasks associated with a job search. And if you add into the mix resume writing training, the amount of time it all consumes can simply be overwhelming. Not to mention, the worse time to try to learn a new skill is when you are in a hurry or under stress.
Early on, RiseSmart discovered that resume writing expertise was a unique deliverable for the marketplace - the company integrated that into its service mix. Other firms run webinars and seminars to try to teach resume writing. As we know, there are many reasons why that will never work entirely well.
In the highly competitive job market, where there are so many candidates vying for each job, a professionally-prepared resume is a good way of ensuring you will stand out in the crowd. Getting a resume professionally written for you relieves the time and frustration of writing one yourself. If you’re in job search mode and you don’t have access to outplacement services that provide resume writing, companies like Monster offer the service at affordable prices.
Celia Stangarone, CPRW, CEIP is a RiseSmart Certified Resume Writer and Transition Coach. With a background as a Recruiter for an MBE/SBE employment agency and an HR Associate at a marketing research organization, she understands every perspective of the job search, sourcing, and hiring arenas. Celia takes a holistic approach to her writing and coaching by understanding people t hrough career progression and projection including cultural, behavioral, and digital observations to create engaging personal branding.