If your job hunt is stalled and you are getting few or no responses to your résumé, you may want to hire a professional résumé writer to write a new résumé for you. However, this doesn’t come cheap. They charge anywhere from $100 to $2,000, according to Charlotte Weeks, president of the National Résumé Writers Association (NRWA), So it is a good idea to ask yourself several questions first to make sure you get your money’s worth.
What are my low-cost or no-cost alternatives?
There are alternatives to hiring a professional résumé writer. These cost less. You have to do more of the writing yourself but under professional guidance. Both graduating students and post-docs may wish to consult staff members at their university placement offices. These individuals usually won’t write your résumé for you but will help you rewrite your existing résumé to make it better. At an increasing number of universities, placement office staff members will work with alumni to help them improve their résumés as well. Their services are free to students and often free to alumni.
The main drawback of using placement office staff members to help you improve your résumé is that they often have little knowledge of the chemical sciences or industries employing chemists. This knowledge is important in understanding what industries are interested in your skills and experience and then targeting your résumé appropriately. This knowledge also is crucial in important in helping you use appropriate keywords in your résumé so it appears in the results of searching résumé databases.
This specialized knowledge is what ACS career consultants can provide. They won’t write your résumé for you. After all, no one knows your skills and experience better than you do. Hence, it’s best for you to write the first draft of your résumé. This information guides the ACS career consultant in two important ways. First, with their knowledge of the chemical sciences and industries employing chemical professionals, they can help you draw connections between your skills and experience and industries’ employment needs. This helps make your skills and experience more relevant to the readers of your résumé. Second, the career consultant may be able to suggest additional industries to target and help you write résumés customized for these industries.
ACS career consultants’ do not charge fees to ACS members, including student members, for résumé writing advice or other career advice.
Hiring a résumé writing service
If after considering these alternatives, you still want to hire someone to write your résumé for you, remember the adage “buyer beware.” Being an informed buyer begins with determining résumé writers’ professional credentials. In the wake of the “Great Recession,” many people with few professional credentials and little résumé writing experience have established résumé writing services.
The National Résumé Writer’s Association (www.thenrwa.com) has a certification program for its members. They also have a database of members which you can search to try to find appropriate writers to work on your résumé. You can also use an Internet search engine to find résumé writers.
You need to ask each résumé writer several questions to assure yourself that the individual has the knowledge and experience to write a successful résumé for you. (A successful résumé is one that wins you employment interviews.) These questions include:
Are you familiar with industries hiring chemical professionals?
This is an important question to ask before hiring a résumé writer. While a writer may be excellent when it comes to writing résumés for say marketing professionals, they may have little understanding of the important skills of laboratory scientists or the industries that employ them.
Can I see some sample résumés you’ve written?
Besides asking them about their experience in your professional field, it is a good idea to ask for example résumés written for people with a background and experience similar to your own. Evaluate these résumés and ask someone knowledgeable in writing résumés to do so.
What is your experience and training?
This is important because some résumé writers have little experience only starting their résumé writing businesses in the last couple of years since the Great Recession began.
Have you helped many people get the kind of jobs I’m looking for?
A successful track record in writing résumés that have helped people get jobs similar to the one you want is perhaps the best indicator of how helpful a particular résumé writer will be to you in your job hunt.
Talking to people who have used their services can be helpful in choosing a résumé writer to work with you.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.