Maryfran Johnson

How to find the best resume writing service for you

Jun 18, 20226 mins

If you’ve been putting off updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, now’s the time to take it in hand. Getting professional help is the first step for busy executives.

resume template job application recruit stack of paper by peopleimages getty
Credit: PeopleImages / Getty Images

Whenever I start (gently) haranguing my CIO friends about the lackluster state of their LinkedIn profiles or steer the conversation toward the touchy topic of “personal branding,” the litany of excuses roll out like thunder.

“I’m not looking for another job, I love the one I have!” “I don’t have time to pay attention to that stuff.” “I’m really not into self-promotion.”

This quaint excess of modesty about your career accomplishments might seem like an endearing trait—a refreshing lack of vanity in a world awash in social media noise. But as career strategies go, it’s working against you.

Whether intentionally created or not, you already have a personal brand wrapped around your professional reputation. It’s what others think of you, say about you, and expect of you. This should be especially relevant to CIOs who want their IT organizations to be tech talent magnets, since increasing your own career visibility will amp up that magnetism. 

Michelle Dumas, CEO, Distinctive Career Services

Michelle Dumas, CEO, Distinctive Career Services

“The truth is that personal branding can help you to be more effective and visible in your current employment, or wherever you are in your career right now,” says Michelle Dumas, CEO of Distinctive Career Services. “Your resume, your bio and your LinkedIn profile — those three components comprise your branded career portfolio and work together to promote a cohesive brand image.”

The most visible of those three is, of course, your LinkedIn profile. With a global membership of 800 million (with 180 million U.S.-based), this Microsoft-owned social network dominates the business landscape.

“No matter what stage of your career you’re in, having a comprehensive LinkedIn profile gives you a big leg up,” says Brenda Bernstein, founder of The Essay Expert and author of two DIY books on executive resumes and LinkedIn. “Doing a half-baked job” on LinkedIn might actually be worse than having no profile at all, she adds.

In the updated 2022 edition of best-selling “How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile,” Bernstein lays out 18 classic mistakes and provides detailed fixes, writing tips, and how-to examples that any industrious do-it-yourselfer can follow. She also blogs about the latest updates and newest features showing up on the platform.

Assuming that most IT leaders don’t have the time (or the writing skills) to tackle a career portfolio project, I turned to these two branding experts for guidance on how to successfully outsource this work and what to expect in the process.

Here are their answers to the most frequently asked questions about working with resume writers.

How do I find a good resume writer?

Word-of-mouth referrals are still the best approach, Bernstein and Dumas agreed. But if asking around for recommendations feels too awkward, check out the searchable database on the National Resume Writers Association website. The 700-member NRWA is the only national nonprofit organization for professionals in this space, and contains copious amounts of info about selecting and working with certified resume pros. The top resume writers are well-versed in the latest trends in sophisticated resume design and will produce powerfully written copy. (Don’t hesitate to ask for samples of their work.)

What is the process like on the client end?

Your current resume will be collected as a starting point, but the real heavy lifting comes with the extensive questionnaire clients fill out before being interviewed by the writer. The questionnaire is designed to excavate a wealth of specifics about your business accomplishments and impact.

“When we’re working with clients, there are three areas of clarity that we are seeking,” Dumas explains. “The first is their current career focus and where they want to go next in their career. The second is their unique skills and qualifications related to that focus. What differentiates them? Third will be the needs and expectations of the position or the industry they’re targeting.”

All of these elements help resume writers understand the authentic personality and passions of the client, Dumas adds, “so we can infuse the branded career portfolio with them.”

What sort of questions will I be asked?

Brenda Bernstein, founder, The Essay Expert

Brenda Bernstein, founder, The Essay Expert

“The main thing we’re after is ‘CAR’ stories: Challenges, Actions, Results. We want to draw out those details,” Bernstein says. “These days, we also ask about impacts they may have made during the pandemic.”

Beyond the specifics of your job performance or positive business results, resume writers are prospecting for stories that demonstrate your value proposition as they’re developing the overall resume theme. “One of my first clients wrote something in her questionnaire about how she steps up ‘when the game is on the line.’ That phrase stood out to me right away,” Bernstein recalls. “So her tagline became ‘Leading Teams to Performance When the Game is on the Line.’”

How much time will this take?

Plan on spending 2 to 6 weeks to do a deep dive into yourself and your ability to define and articulate your value. “You have to do a great deal of self-reflection through this process,” cautions Dumas, who turns down rush projects. “I don’t want our worksheet back in 8 hours. I want them to do the research and find the numbers to back up their stories.” Using those stories in the resume copy engages readers’ emotions and entices them to keep on reading, she adds.

How much do resume writing services cost?

For a coordinated set of career portfolio documents—an executive or board resume, full-page bio and upgraded LinkedIn profile—the cost can range from $3,000 to $5,000 for top-of-the-line work. Other lower-cost creative options also emerged during the pandemic, Bernstein notes. For example, she offers a $695 one-hour strategy session via Zoom for senior executives whose resumes are already in good shape but need a few updates. “I’ve really enjoyed those—they have a personal, collaborative feel—and a lot of senior-level people are appreciating that option.”   

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