If you’re just beginning your quest for an executive resume writer or thinking about hiring an executive resume writing services company, I’ve written this article to help guide you and make you an informed buyer.
The #1 question I hear on a daily basis is: “I need to hire an executive resume writer, but how do I know which writer to hire because there are so many to choose from?”
I always recommend speaking to multiple executive resume writers before making the investment in hiring one as it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard-pressing questions about the writer’s credentials and qualifications, analyze if your personalities match up, and decide who you want to share the intimate details of your career with.
Why Should You Hire an Executive Resume Writer or Executive Resume Writing Services Company?
Writing an executive resume requires a different strategy and skill as opposed to writing a standard professional resume. Executives by their definition are high-caliber professionals found in the C-suite (General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer, CEO, CFO, CIO, etc.) or operating in a Director, Senior Director, Vice President, Senior Vice President, Managing Director, etc. role. Most executives earn anywhere from $175K to well over $3M+. They are making the big business decisions, solve complex business issues, and hold large responsibility across organizations (managing large teams and multimillion-dollar P&L). The job market is incredibly competitive for them, and therefore, the typical executive will invest in the upwards of $1,000 to $3,000+ for a branded resume and LinkedIn profile.
We hire various experts everyday – from mechanics, to hairstylists, to personal trainers, to even nutritionists. WHY? Because they are experts at their craft. A trained executive resume writer is NO different than one of the aforementioned experts. Here’s an important statistic to keep in mind:
According to Forbes, a professionally written resume gives you a 40% greater advantage of being seen by a hiring manager. And, more than 60% of executives hire a trained resume writer today.
If you haven’t job searched in the last 5-10+ years, then you most definitely need to partner with a qualified executive resume writer. The job search process has changed dramatically, and an executive resume writer can accelerate your job search and reduce your job search stress.
Important Tips to Know When Purchasing Executive Resume Writing Services
Unlike some professions where you need a specific degree and license to practice the craft (such as law or medicine), the resume industry is not regulated. In the digital age, anyone can hang a shingle, put up a website, a LinkedIn profile, and call themselves a resume writer, career coach, or job search coach. Understand that it takes YEARS to master the craft of resume writing and the career industry. It’s more than just great writing or editing skills. 85% of resume writing is strategy: knowing the target of the client’s career, understanding their background in massive detail, and writing a document that strategically markets them.
There are thousands of resume writers and coaches out there. I believe strongly in educating the population because it’s an actual industry! I spent 3 years on the board for the National Resume Writers’ Association providing leadership to the resume writing industry. I’ve spoken at annual conferences on various resume writing topics (from business liability to online reputation management) and served as the President-Elect and Ethics Chair of the organization to help promote the ethics and image of the industry. I’ve studied the strategy of resume writing in and out before ever calling myself a resume expert.
The following tips are here to guide you transparently and provide insight into questions you should be asking when researching resume writing services. If you consult with me, know that I will also memorialize this information because I believe in the utmost candor to a prospective client.
Tip #1: Know the Credentials of the Executive Resume Writer You’re Working With
You may have stumbled across an executive resume writer by a simple Google search. Keep in mind that the resume and careers industry is NOT regulated, and thus, it’s up to you, the consumer, to do your due diligence. ALWAYS verify the credentials of an executive resume writer before working with them. Verifiable credentials include resume writing certifications (make sure the certifications are current and from an actual established organization), membership in professional associations, publications, advanced degrees, and an established or long-standing career background.
For executive resume writers, that long-standing career background is extremely important as you’ll want to work with an executive resume writer who’s actually had an executive career and is well-positioned to write on a sophisticated level to market your own executive career. Think about their educational level, training, and aptitude.
Most executive resume writers will have 10-20+ years of experience focusing on top-notch executive clients. They will often only focus on the executive audience and their caliber of writing will show this. Anything fraudulent or misrepresented about a writer’s credentials should raise a red flag immediately!
A resume writer who obtains training in the field and certifications and frequently attends resume writing and career conferences, summits, and other professional development seminars is committed to not just his/her career success, but yours as well. There are various organizations in the careers space that offer training and development. See if your writer is a member, and if his/she is involved in the organization. Here are links to the leading resume and career industry organizations:
The National Resume Writers’Association (mentioned above)
These organizations have databases for you to research writers and coaches as well as the ability to review the certifications they offer. Look to see the types of clients the writer partners with. If you are an executive, you’ll want to partner with a writer who works exclusively with executives as the style of writing is far different that a standard or young professional.
Tip #2: Be Wary of Deceptive Marketing or Advertising in the Resume Services World
Executive resume writers often refer to themselves as the “best” or “#1” in their marketing collateral, but you should always ask yourself: what’s that ranking based on and can it be verified or substantiated? Referring to yourself as the “#1 resume writer” or the best resume writing service should always come with factual support of outside articles, awards, and other third-party qualifying criteria.
I’ve been placed on multiple “top” and “best” executive resume writing services lists through the years and I’ve also received awards deeming me as such. Candidly, they are great marketing for my business and I use them fully to my advantage when they play by the rules. Important to note, I’ve never paid to be on a top 10 list or paid for an award. Placement on these lists and any awards I’ve received have been a result of my stature in the resume writing industry and commitment to the craft, not based on a following on social media.
An example of a “top 10” list I’m on is 10 Resume Experts We Love from Recruiter.com. This article was released in 2016. If you read the article, you’ll see I’m ranked in the #1 slot, but you will also notice it’s from a third-party publication, which is not using affiliate relationships to promote the list. I’ve also been named a Recommended Professional Resume Writer for IT executives (i.e. best IT executive resume writers of 2018) by Heller Search Group, and this came after former IT executive clients submitted my name to the list. Recently, I learned that was put on the 8 Best Executive Resume Writing Services of 2020-2022 by the Balance Careers, a well-known career advisory site. While there are affiliates in that article, I am not one of them.
Look to see whether the “top” or “best” resume writing service list is an informative article or simply an advertising endorsement for the entity publishing the list. An example of an advertising endorsement would be an executive resume writing services company putting out a “best” or “top” list placing themselves in the #1 slot and listing other writers. There are a number of companies doing this. Keep in mind that top-rated lists are permissible forms of advertising because, by law, you cannot enjoin free speech. But, what is required is truth in advertising so that consumers do not enter into a transaction with a blind eye. The Federal Trade Commission is clear on advertising disclosures. This article by Udemy provides great insight into what an FTC compliant advertising disclosure should look like, particularly if there are affiliate relationships involved.
Tip #3: Look Outside of the Resume Writer’s Website
Anyone can build a fancy website and claim to be an expert resume writer or top-rated executive resume service. As a consumer, it’s incumbent upon you to look beyond the website and see what’s really out there in the public eye about the resume writer.
Consider if the writer partners with top career blogs, leading publications, and has a widespread presence on social media (not just LinkedIn but also Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to share their innovative writings and ideas. Read through their bios on LinkedIn and notice the marketing style. Google the writer’s name, and see what information populates under a general search as well as the “news” tab. Consider what the writer is doing to establish a strong presence in the industry through larger involvement on a national or international level. Look to see what content they are truly putting out there to showcase their knowledge and value. Have they been recognized with awards in their industry for their knowledge? How do others view them? Are they trying to “game” the system and build large followings on LinkedIn or are they building real influence across multiple platforms?
Check links to publications and verify that the person is actually quoted in the publication or is a “writer” for the publication. Someone who is a writer or contributor to a publication will have their own column (for example, see my column in the HuffPost and Above the Law). You can also contact the publications to verify this information. I have seen instances where resume writers, career coaches, and LinkedIn job search experts have an “as seen in” on their website, but they have never been featured in that publication, or the links do not populate on a simple Google search.
Keep in mind that it takes YEARS to build influence and build a legitimate following online. If a person boasts on LinkedIn that they just started using the platform 18 months ago and went from 2,000 followers to 60,000 followers to 1 million followers in 2 years and claim to be top job search expert, red flags and sirens should go off to approach with caution. Find out where their training and writing acumen has come from.
Tip #4: Consider the Weight of Third-Party Reviews
As I mention throughout this article, it takes years to build your name from the ground up and established writers of executive resume writing services companies are no stranger to this rule. Online reviews are a popular method for companies to showcase client feedback. However, the FTC has cracked down on companies using fake reviews to bolster their ratings.
If the executive resume writing services company just started collecting reviews 10 months ago, incurring 100 reviews on a third-party site is not plausible, particularly for an executive audience. Most senior executives will not publicly disclose that they hired an executive resume writer or retained executive resume writing services, and they will not be surfing third-party sites to write reviews of executive resume service companies on a regular basis.
Look to the frequency of the reviews, and how they are written. For example, I have over 100 reviews combined on Google, Yelp, and LinkedIn, but my reviews began accumulating in March 2014. That’s almost 8 years ago already, and I’ve written over 1,500 resumes, so that’s about 10% of my client base — a very fair and reasonable number. Again, look at how far the reviews date back, and if they seem too good to be true, they usually are. Keep in mind that not all websites vet or verify reviews. Look at the names of the reviewers and see if you can locate them on LinkedIn. Do the details match up? If someone says the company helped them land a role as a VP of Finance but the LinkedIn profile shows the name of the reviewer as a young college student, it’s obvious that review is questionable and likely fake.
When looking at recommendations on LinkedIn, be sure to analyze the reviews written and what that other person’s connection is. Are they just a friend trying to bolster their friend’s business, are they an employee of the company (with a biased affiliation), or are they an actual client? Most importantly, make sure that the writer is not having employees write testimonials to market or advertise the company’s brand. The Federal Trade Commission requires disclosure of the relationship.
Tip #5: Find Out WHO is Writing Your Resume and Look for Resume Samples
It’s not uncommon in the resume space for an executive resume writing service to have a staff of writers. I personally do not because I have a high-touch service and work with a small population of executive clients (plus I’m a “type A” personality and refuse to trust anyone else with my writing projects). If the executive resume writing service partners you up with one of their staff writers, be sure that you will be able to speak 1:1 with that assigned writer and find out how many interactions you will get on the phone or via Zoom.
Don’t be afraid to ask the name of the writer or owner of the executive resume service, how long they have been writing for, and how long the company has been in existence. All of this matters. Don’t risk investing hundreds or thousands of dollars in a service that doesn’t stand behind their name with a face on the front.
Google your writer’s name, learn about your writer, and don’t be afraid to ask for resume samples and written testimonials outside of the writer’s website OR one of the third-party sites. Do a deep dive into the writer’s own career background as well. Ask the following pointed questions:
What did you do before you were a resume writer? What credentials and training do you have in the resume industry?
Is your executive resume service a 1:1 service or do you outsource (i.e. have subcontractors/ghostwriters)?
What industry experience of yours will be helpful when working with me?
What is your educational background and will that help me?
As the consumer, it’s important to do your homework, do your research, and go with the executive resume writer or executive resume writing service you feel most comfortable with. If you have questions about hiring a resume writer or need a referral for one, please reach out to me. I maintain a large network among well-known executive resume writers and we commonly refer clients back and forth to one another that we deem a better fit. There are also a lot of resources out there discussing how to vet through lists of executive resume writers and pitfalls to watch out for when conducting your search.
Here are some additional helpful articles I have written in the HuffPost:
Please do reach out if you have any questions about researching an executive resume writing service. If you believe you run into an ethical issue, do reach out to the resume writing associations I mentioned above and report the improper behavior.