College Financing and Career Guide 2007
Spruce up a resume with professional help

Solve the following problem: Two job seekers use different resume-writing services for comparable projects. One pays $500 while the other pays $100. Who's gotten the better deal?

Sprucing up a resume
  1. Why use a professional?
  2. Find a certified professional.
  3. How to cut costs.
  4. The hybrid approach.
Trick question.

Both may have received fair value. According to my admittedly unscientific survey of about a dozen resume services, there's no one market rate or even a narrow range. Prices fall all over the place. That said, here are some general guidelines.

First, here's the bad news. For an experienced resume writer with credentials from a leading trade association and a strong track record, you'll be hard-pressed to come in under $350 and prices may exceed $700. Oh, by the way, many of the best resume writers only work with executives, whom they usually charge over $1,000.

Now, the good news: You can find solid resume writers for less. Or, if you're willing to settle for a more resume-by-numbers process, there are creditable services charging less than $100.

Ultimately, you should go with the service that suits you best, provided it doesn't break your piggy bank. You need to feel comfortable with the person whose work could well be the difference between a first great job and a rejection. Some people prefer the laid-back approach, others the drill sergeant.

Why use a professional?

There's a lot to be said for sure hands and a highly customized approach.

The most seasoned writers have been churning out resumes for more than a decade. A few have been recruiters. They know what companies are looking for and can help you focus your goals, not to mention find pearls in your background where you've seen only oyster shells. The best pros may spend hours with you before they tickle a computer key.

Take resume writer Jacqui Barrett. The owner of Overland Park, Kan.-based Career Trend asks new customers to fill out a sheet of work-related questions and interviews them about their answers for 30 minutes to an hour. She calls herself a job seeker's "collaborative partner." "After the work sheet and interview is done, then I know about someone," she says.


Barrett charges a minimum $495 per resume for college students and other early-stage job seekers. Cover letters and coaching cost extra.

Finding a certified professional

She's been writing resumes for nine years and belongs to an elite group, now about a dozen strong worldwide, of certified Master Resume Writers. To earn certification, resume writers must have at least five years' experience and submit at least five samples of their work to current masters; recertification every two years requires submission of five work samples.

"What I do is more customized," says Barrett. "It takes more intelligent energy to pare information down to the most critical content." Barrett also says, "Without precision focus, even for a candidate early in a career, a resume won't fit the needs of any hiring manager."

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