Are you a mid-career professional looking for a new job, trying to make a career change, or looking for a board position? You likely already know the best way to approach a search is by leveraging your professional network. Even so, at some point, you’re going to be asked to submit a resume.
If you haven’t done this in a while, we’re here to tell you the landscape has changed. 75% of resumes are never seen by a real person. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are being used by more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies. ATS scans resumes looking for keywords and traits. It’s the first hurdle you’re going to have to leap.
Once you get past that hurdle, you still have to get your resume to the finish line. How do you make your resume stand out in a pile of applicants? Here’s one thing not to do: Go with a cheap resume writing service online. You might get a generic resume that beats ATS – maybe – but won’t get you any further.
When you’re looking to engage a professional resume writer, you’re putting your job search in their hands. You must be confident that they know what they’re doing and have the skills to create the resume you need. Here are some of the questions you should ask when choosing a resume writer.
Do They Have Experience?
You want to probe for experience on several levels.
- Resume writing experience
You want to work with someone that’s experienced and gets results. They should be able to provide you with specific examples of how their work led to successful results. If you want to make sure they’re being upfront, ask for a referral you can call.
- Industry experience
They should have experience in the industry you’re targeting. This helps frame your resume and make sure you include the information needed to catch the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager.
- Position experience
They should also have experience working with people at your professional level. A resume for a CEO is going to vary greatly from someone looking for their first management position. Ask for examples.
You also want someone with experience with your type of search. If you’re changing careers, you should work with someone skilled in crafting transition resumes. “If you are applying for board positions, the writer will need to understand how to best position you for those kinds of roles,” said Andjela Milenkovic, Career Advisor at Ivy Exec. “Preferably, the writer should have some board-level experience themselves.”
How Do They Deal with Confidential Information?
During the creation process, you’re going to be sharing a lot of personal and professional information. Some of it may be proprietary information. While the information won’t be included in the final resume, it may be necessary to help the writer tell your story.
It’s especially important in some fields, such as confidential information for consulting resumes or attorney resumes.
How Do They Beat ATS?
Companies can have thousands of resumes sitting in a database that nobody has ever looked at. One missing keyword can be all it takes to eliminate you from consideration. Professional resume writers should have a list of keywords that apply to positions and companies. They should be able to take a job listing and discern the right words and phrases to get your resume past ATS.
ATS is only part one, however. Next, you’ve got to pass the six-second test. That’s the average amount of time a recruiter or hiring manager will spend before deciding whether to dig deeper or move on.
How Will They Tell Your Story?
Your resume is more than just a list of places you’ve worked and where you went to school. It takes a skilled writer to communicate your unique value to make your resume stand out.
“For the more seasoned professionals, branding is also important,” said Milenkovic. “It’s not going to be just about providing industry-specific content, but also telling a story.”
That means telling your story in a succinct, yet powerful way. That means demonstrating quantifiable results that translate to the position for which you’re applying. Here are a few examples.
- For a sales position: Exceeded sales goals for 18 consecutive months
- For a sales management position: Managed a team of 20 sellers and exceeded budget by 18% in 2020
- For a CEO position: Increased profit margin by 12% and stakeholder equity by 37%
One word of advice: If you’re making a claim, make sure you can back it up. You may be asked to offer proof of your accomplishments.
Will They Customize Your Resume for Different Organizations and Opportunities?
When companies are hiring, they’re often looking for specific skills and attributes. Are you a turn-around specialist? Do you have experience taking startups to IPOs? Crafting the right branding message is just as important for you as it is for companies trying to sell to customers.
“Different types of organizations will care about different things,” said Milenkovic. “Your writer should be aware of those differences and know how to craft your message.”
Will They Also Help with LinkedIn?
Most recruiters use LinkedIn when they’re searching or checking out candidates. One survey, for example, reported that more than 35 million people were hired by someone they connected with on the site. Your LinkedIn profile is an important piece of the puzzle.
Whether someone discovers you on LinkedIn or not, they’re likely going to check out your social profile to see what it shows. You need to make sure your profile tells a consistent story as your resume. If you’re not willing to share publicly something you’d put on your resume, a hiring manager might wonder if it’s an accurate assessment.
Ask Lots of Questions
If you’re going to spend the money to have someone write your resume, you need to work with a professional resume writer that’s experienced and gets results. Before making a commitment, ask lots of questions. Ultimately, you’ll need to feel comfortable that it’s the right fit.
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