Categorized | Advice

Resume Resurrection

Posted on 03 January 2011

Type “resume” into any search engine, and the results are overwhelming: books, tips, samples, and software packages. And there are also “resume writers” listed. These are usually recruiters or career counselors, specially trained in the language and format of resumes. Choosing a good resume writer from the list requires your best judgment.

There is no universally accepted credential for resume writers, so two familiar distinctions tend to stand out. The Professional Association of Resume Writers grants Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) status; the Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) tag is a similar boast. But it is entirely possible to evaluate resume writing expertise on experience, not credentials.

The Nitty Gritty

Fees seem to vary, but expect to pay $200-$300 for the entire process of writing, reviewing, and revising the resume. Don’t pay more for a resume writer who promises a job afterwards–such guarantees are suspect. Besides, with so much other help available, do you really need a resume writer at all?


We have access to so much information, it’s easy to become confused, discouraged, or distracted from the task at hand.

Absolutely, says Elaine Carmack, a professional resume writer and director of Dynamic Career Solutions in Virginia. “I find that more than ever before,” she says, “candidates need advice and consulting on their resumes. I suspect this is due in part to simple information overload. We have access to so much information, it’s easy to become confused, discouraged, or distracted from the task at hand.”

Information overload aside, many people still need help with the basics. “You would be surprised at the number of people who don’t even have the most rudimentary information,” Carmack continues, “in terms of how to conduct job searches or what is involved in resume writing. Sometimes, I feel like a glorified high school guidance counselor, as I walk them through the process and advise them on appropriate protocols.”

The Target Audience

Steve, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, wishes he had consulted a resume writer. “After attending the Naval Academy, I was assigned to the USS Mt. Whitney. When my service was up a couple of years ago, I sent my resume out to graduate schools–only to find out my format was backwards, and I’d spelled the name of my ship ‘Mt. Whiney’ and not Mt. Whitney. It slipped through the spell check.”

David Helfand, career counselor and author of Career Change, sympathizes. “People still need help with format and content. Most people don’t know how to write their own resume–or at least an effective one.” So, why isn’t Internet helping enough?

“A jobseeker could get the same information I can give from the Net,” says Carmack, “but does he have the time? The interest? The motivation? No, no, and no.” But if a resume can be sent to Web sites without font or formatting, do you really need to pay a live person to do the busy work?

Carmack answers: “For a well-written resume, it’s still a necessity. Even though resumes are often copied as a ‘.txt’ file, the actual formatting itself is just icing on the cake. An experienced HR director can tell at a glance whether the candidate is worth pursuing by the way they express themselves–structure, vocabulary, and ability to write in a pleasing style.”

Resume books, much like Internet resources, also hold limitations. “[They] are helpful, provided the individual takes the time to read and digest the material. But you can’t get answers to those pesky little personal questions that pertain exclusively to your own situation, nor can you get instantaneous feedback.”

Helping Yourself

Yet books can support your own resume-writing efforts. “A combination of one-on-one help and books can be great,” says Helfand. “I have my career changers look at Yana Parker’s Damn Good Resumes–with 200 examples of ideas on vocabulary, format, and related information–then write a draft and run it by me. And it still usually takes at least three drafts.”

When we all wrote our first resumes, we probably had a college counselor or other expert walking us through it. That first job meant the world to you, and you should treat your resume with the same importance five, ten, or twenty years later. You may not choose to use a resume writer, but one-on-one help with an experienced professional may give you guidance and insight. It may also help you feel completely confident about how to present yourself on paper.

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