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Resume Writers: A Waste of Wages

It’s tempting to hire a professional to write your resume for you. But doing so could ruin your chances of landing an interview.

When Janine started looking for a new job, she decided to hire a professional resume writer because she wanted a more modern look and needed someone to put it together as quickly as possible. After doing a search online, she found a writer who built beautiful resumes; together, they settled on a format that included stylized text boxes and a few untraditional section headings to highlight her skills. Pleased with the final product, Janine sent in her applications with high expectations.

But she never heard back from anyone. Unbeknownst to her, the applicant tracking systems that processed her applications cut out all the boxes and skipped over entire sections of her resume. Janine had paid for an amazing design that only she saw.

Resume writers often don’t have insight into what your industry and specific niche seek in a resume.

In today’s hyperconnected world, where you can outsource everything from cooking to cleaning, hiring someone to write your resume seems like a no-brainer. Especially when you consider that the number of writers of resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles has ballooned—the National Resume Writers’ Association, which represents individuals and companies that perform such services, has seen its membership triple in the past 20 years.

But while hiring a resume writer can be valuable for those who’ve been out of the workforce for a while or those who want to do some very targeted improvements, experts say it’s worth it to write your own. Here’s why.

Your resume won’t be personal.

Professional resume writers often use templates to quickly rework your resume, and hiring managers have caught on to the trend. “I’ve seen the same format at least a dozen times,” says Hamaria Crockett, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance who reviews resumes and LinkedIn profiles for clients. Not only does it come across as unoriginal, but it tells the hiring manager that you may not have the skills or the work ethic to do your own resume—much less the job you’re applying for.

You still have to put in the research.

Resume writers often don’t have insight into what your industry and specific niche seek in a resume. Instead, they rely on you to provide them with your history, experience, and qualifications. Then they take that information and try to present it as they see fit. “They’re not doing any additional research,” Crockett says. But every sector has its own unique wrinkles, terms, and definitions that are commonplace, and a resume writer isn’t going to know that unless you spend hours with them explaining it. Often, this amounts to spending a lot of time—time you could have spent writing your own resume—going back and forth about what you do and don’t like about the one they’ve created.

It can come across as unethical.

Marty Nemko, a career coach and the author of Careers for Dummies, says hiring a writer to develop your resume is as unethical as hiring someone to develop your college application essays. That’s because hiring managers are using the resume to get a glimpse of your reasoning and thoroughness, along with an understanding of your work history. Tapping a professional resume writer deprives the manager of this initial screen, which could waste your time interviewing for a job you’re unqualified for, or even backfire if you land a job that isn’t a good fit for you.

You’re likely only getting one version.

If you’re not adapting your resume—changing keywords and reorganizing your past work—for each position you apply for, then applicant tracking systems are probably rejecting you before your resume gets into a hiring manager’s hands. Even when you pay for a resume writer, they’re generally only going to give you one version. So you’ll have to tweak the resume for every application, which then of course raises the question: Why did you pay someone just to have to then write it again?

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