Can you write your own resume? Of course you can. Just load a template into your word processor and type away, hoping for the best.
Do you know what a professional resume should look like? Should you write your own resume? If you think a resume is just one more piece of paperwork, if you know exactly what hiring managers are looking for and if you have an almost superhuman ability to evaluate yourself objectively, going it alone makes perfect sense.
For everyone else, a professionally written resume is more than a sensible choice. In fact, it is one of the best career investments you can make.
To begin with the obvious, a resume is not just another piece of paper. The simple truth is that a resume is a profoundly important document with life-changing potential. In the eyes of an employer, the resume is the applicant. Once that resume hits a prospective employer’s desk, the applicant has no chance to explain or to elaborate. The resume speaks for itself.
A professional resume writer knows this. The professional’s edge lies in understanding how to make these limitations work for the applicant and how to craft a resume that stands out from the pack of competitors.
First, a professional knows what hiring managers are looking for and how to present a candidate’s skills and experience in the best possible light and in a way that catches an employer’s attention. A given resume may get only a few seconds of attention and it needs to get its message across quickly. The message is simple: This candidate merits further consideration. Delivering that message is the challenge.
The professional resume writer has the advantage of a specialized understanding of the inner workings of the hiring process. What makes a resume effective varies from industry to industry and changes over time even within a given industry. Jobs at different levels may require very different resumes. Each situation is unique and a resume must be a custom fit for the specific opportunity. A professional tailors the resume to fit its audience.
In many human resource departments today, resumes are reviewed by machine before a human being ever sees them, with each submission analyzed for keywords in a manner similar to the way internet searches are performed. Applicants rarely have a sense of how this works, but professional resume writers know how to use this process to the candidate’s advantage.
Even when part of the process is automated, style and layout still count. Professionals know that every resume will have to pass muster with an actual hiring manager. They understand the design principles that make a resume stand out in an employer’s eyes and that keep your resume in the running.
Tone is also critical, and achieving the right tone entails some sophistication on the part of the writer. A resume is a marketing tool, but nothing is more difficult for most people than effectively marketing themselves. A resume must strike the right balance between modesty and arrogance in order to be effective. Professionals know where this balance lies and how to use it to the applicant’s advantage.
Questions of tone and appearance are only the beginning. Presumably, each candidate has many different skills and many different accomplishments. While most applicants tend to list everything that comes to mind, professionals understand that certain skills and accomplishments are more valuable than others, and that these relative values differ from job to job. A resume must be tailored to the specific criteria of the employer and must do its job in the very short time that a hiring manager allots to each resume. A professional resume writer understands this. An effective resume makes an immediate positive impact and does not require close reading by the employer. Resumes that need to be read in depth are likely to end up in the pile of also-rans.
It is a given, then, that a great resume should effectively highlight an applicant’s strengths. This can be challenging enough for many people, but an even more difficult task is dealing with weaknesses. An applicant may have had frequent job changes, gaps in employment or a history of different jobs that do not seem to yield a clear career focus. Hiring managers will certainly notice these issues, but a professional resume writer has strategies that can prevent those negatives from becoming the focus of the evaluation.
In sum, writing a resume is a lot like creating a marketing campaign in which the product is the applicant. Even a company with its own marketing department will look to specialized professionals to give its products the best chance in the marketplace. A professional resume writer fills that specialized role for the job seeker, making the strongest possible case for choosing one application from among its many competitors.