Shopping for a Web-based Resume Service; How to Avoid a Return

By Kim Little

With nearly 400 professional resume services listed on the web today, and all of them making lofty claims such as “Best Resumes, “Cheapest Resumes,” and “Guaranteed Interviews or Your Money Back,” it can be confusing, to say the least. Making the decision to hire a professional resume writer was easy, but now finding the most qualified service charged with stating your case and selling you in the door will prove a bigger challenge!

Once you identify your expectations from a resume service, you’ll have to invest some time researching the myriad of companies out there. There are several factors you should investigate before selecting the person who is going to compose one of the most important documents of your life, a decision that’s not to be taken lightly in light of today’s competitive market and uncertain economy. Lest you be tempted to hire the first service that comes up in your search for “resume writer,” realize that you have lots of choices and because of that, need to do your homework. Hint – For even choices, perform numerous keyword searches including “resume writing,” “resume writer,” “professional resumes,” “resume samples,” “executive resumes,” “professional resume services,” etc. In the meantime, here are a few essential qualifiers that should play a key role in your decision.

Price Wars – As with any product or service, it’s tempting to choose the least expensive one. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to believe that the highest priced service is the best; after all, they must be good in order to command thousand dollar fees, right? Wrong. While the price of the resume and limitations of your budget are important considerations, you don’t always get what you pay for. Even the “cheapest” services may end up costing you more in the long run when you realize you’ve just thrown away money to someone who used the same Word template you could have utilized on your own without including important information. The higher-priced services may conversely, lead you to believe that you absolutely NEED an expensive resume and frequently land their clients based on a strong sales pitch for the resume and additional services, not on their writing talent. Price should equal value, i.e., the ultimate return on your investment. If you are quoted a reasonable fee (somewhere between the $99.00 guys and the $1,000 heavy hitters), you have a good chance of paying for a well-crafted document that can easily generate more interviews, boost your confidence and frequently position you as a candidate worthy of a position that commands a higher salary. For example, let’s say the cost of your resume is $300.00, which, initially, may seem like a significant investment. However, once that resume starts opening doors to more quality interviews than you’ve received in the past and results a better job, or even a new job after an extended period of employment, this investment has paid for itself. Conclusion – Price should obviously be measured, yet not be the driving factor of your selection.

Representative Work – If one were to order a piece of jewelry, art or furniture, a savvy consumer will want to review the talent first, right? Nobody wants to spend money on an item without seeing samples of items or products that the “artist” has produced. This is by far, one of the most telling tales of a resume service’s quality. Without viewing their resumes, how can you be sure that their resumes are really ARE “the best” or the “most successful?” In my research, I’ve seen more websites than not who claim to offer outstanding resumes without any proof at all. I’ve even gone as far as contacting these companies to request a sample and have been told that since “each client is different, a sample won’t help.” I don’t buy that – a good writer is a good writer, period and there should be nothing to hide. If you do see samples, make sure they are legible and not small graphics of what it will “look like,” as you have to be able to read it! In addition to just looking impressive, the content must be doubly compelling, as it’s the content that drives the employer to pick up the phone, not just a pretty design. Most intelligent professionals, upon taking the time to review both presentation and content, are able to decide what whether or not a resume is compelling. Not seeing a sample is almost a sure sign that this service merely “types” resumes rather than actually composing marketing documents designed to impress the employer. Conclusion – If you aren’t impressed with the samples or don’t see any at all, it may be best to keep on looking!

Certifications – There are a number of different writing, training and coaching certifications available from which to pursue and from a variety of professional organizations that focus on writing or coaching practices. This does not mean that certification guarantees a quality product, nor does it mean that whoever certified the individual is the best judge of writing/coaching, particularly when the judging is based on a number of subjective opinions as to what a “good” coach or writer really should do. However, many of the professionals I know who are in the business of certifying individuals are frequently right on the money. Though certifications are certainly helpful in your decision making process, you cannot automatically discount a service that does not boast any. Most certifications require payment in order to take a test or complete a course and there are many qualified, talented professionals who do not feel the need for investing money just to prove what they already know – that they’re skilled in what they do and have proven their mettle over the years, gaining more knowledge and hands-on experience than any certification could demonstrate. You may prefer to work with an experienced writer rather than someone who just recently obtained his or her certification, yet little experience their belt or find someone who has both. Conclusion – While certification is helpful and shows a commitment to one’s craft, there are plenty of other good writers who are producing astounding work without the formality. Again, samples and other credentials (below) speak volumes.

Publications – Being published for recognized expertise is a genuine accomplishment for any writer and better yet, it’s easy to verify. A good writer will usually try to get their works published, either in some sort of resume or career book or on a respected website that displays career articles. A good writer is proud of their work and likes to see it in print. A good writer can back up claims of publications merely by sending you copies of articles or directing you to links where they are featured. Even if someone’s work is not featured in any public publication, either on the web or in a book/magazine, articles on their site will give you a good understanding of their writing style and knowledge of the industry (or lack thereof). Conclusion – If someone touts their publications, ask for proof or copies. Easy enough.

Memberships – Similar to certifications, memberships in career organizations exhibit a commitment to one’s craft. They also allow the writer to remain up to date on hiring, employment and writing trends while providing vast networking opportunities through the members that include a diverse group of professionals including recruiters, career coaches, resume writers, job search strategists and human resource managers. These organizations are entirely focused on the career industry and most hold yearly conventions, semi-annual courses and teleclasses. They offer industry-related book clubs, e-lists, newsletters and articles that continue to help the member gain knowledge in almost any career-related topic, whether it is unemployment statistics, cover letter writing, recruiter trends or unique client situations. Conclusion – Paid memberships normally prompt active participation from members and provide the writer with great, up-to-date resources.

Years of experience – Though this is sometimes difficult to confirm, information can be verified merely by talking the person in charge of the service and/or checking to see when a website or business was formally established through public records. Don’t rely merely on what a website claims; pick up the phone talk to the owner. Ask pointed questions as to when they started in the business, what their background consists of and how many resumes they’ve written. Question them on resume trends, job search statistics and their success rate. In short, get a feel for who will be managing your writing project. If he/she falters, or seems to steer the conversation away from themselves and back onto you, i.e., trying to sell their services without even listening to your questions or what you need, chances are they aren’t as experienced as they say. Most true professionals in any industry are generally proud of their work and more than happy to talk about what they know, how they’ve contributed and better yet, how they can help you. Conclusion – Any answers bathed in hesitation, evasiveness, hard selling or rudeness should clue you in to either performing more research or better yet, moving on.

Recognized Expertise – In addition to the presentation of impressive samples, being recognized by one’s industry peers is a big accomplishment. When a writer is featured or endorsed as a resume expert, they are likely to have already proven themselves; it’s also simple to check. If you’re doubtful, ask for proof and follow up on what you’re given. For example, if a website claims that the writer is featured as an expert on another site, visit that site to make sure or do a search for the writer’s name, which will frequently lead to you all kinds of links provided they are well-connected! Acknowledgment also takes the form of having their work published in a book that includes resume samples. There are many leading books out there dedicated to resumes and cover letters alone, usually comprised of samples from professional writers. It’s not easy to have your work selected because there is usually a flood of competition from other writers (and multiple submissions from each!) so having one’s work published numerous times is a great testimonial to one’s knowledge and ability. Follow up for you is easy, because most of these books can be found in major bookstores. Be wary, though, of writers whose only claim to fame are “quotes” in various periodicals or television shows. Most quotes are usually one-liners, not full-blown interviews and do not a writer/expert make! They are also more difficult to verify. Conclusion – Publications are generally a good thing; you just need to verify them if something sounds fishy!

History of Company /Picture/Name of owner – I’ve seen too many websites that have absolutely no information about the history of company or even the name of the owner. Even while researching the “About Us” link, I found that information has been very vague and rarely contained any real information about the company or the writer(s). Frequently, these “About Us” pages were just reiterations of what they claim they’ll do for their clients, with nothing whatsoever about backgrounds, expertise, knowledge, certifications, memberships and/or years of experience. Most reputable companies (no matter what the industry) are more than happy to sell themselves, so be sure to check out this important link. Conclusion – If a site doesn’t contain a comprehensive overview of credentials and qualifications, there is mostly likely a reason!

Quality of Site – A good resume service should be hosting a highly professionally designed site as they are in the business of making strong first impressions! A quality site is one that offers the visitors valuable information, not just sales pitches. Sure, all companies need to market themselves but the site should also address the visitor’s needs. Most respected services include numerous links related to “FAQs,” career expertise in the form of articles, resume samples, clear pricing and service explanations, an “About Us” page, testimonials and stated credentials. The site should be visually pleasing, easy to navigate, contain its own URL (much more credible than www.freehomepage/townshipmain/resumesbyjan.htm), contain well-written content and of course, spark your interest. Homemade sites are easier to spot – they are just one-page jobs claiming cheap pricing and not much else. Conclusion – First impressions in this instance are usually spot on; if you aren’t impressed, don’t bother.

Personalized Service & Relationships Probably the most important aspect to factor in along with the above is your comfort level with your writer that is developed either through phone consults or email correspondence. You need to feel confident, not pressured. You need to be sure that your writer is going to work with you no matter what and that the writer will be open to suggestions. Yes, they are the expert, but it’s also your resume. If someone dictates what you need without considering your concerns, you will never feel comfortable using your resume. You need to make sure that they are approachable and reachable. You need to make sure that you gain a sense of personalized attention, not just empty promises. Even if a writer is busy (and most good services are busy for a reason), you should have a feeling of assurance that your needs will be just as important as other clients. Conclusion – Ask questions and trust your gut…you know the type of people with which you like to interact, so if you feel uneasy about getting the attention you need, you probably won’t.

While following these recommendations cannot guarantee a successful partnership, they can certainly help you narrow down your selection and relieve your mind of a wasted investment. In the end, it will most likely be the combination of expertise, pricing, service level and personalization that will cement your choice and you’ll ultimately be grateful that you took the time to do your homework.

By Kim Little, Certified Job and Career Transition Coach and Director of, a leading career management site devoted to advancing careers for over 15 years through the development of high-impact resumes and winning job search strategies.

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