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Should You Pay For Resume Help? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

It Could Make A Difference...

Ben Sharpe vowed that he'd never pay for it, but finally he broke down and did. Now he's completely satisfied. Sharpe is one of the many people who have forked over money to have their resume written by an expert. His response rate has risen appreciably. Does this mean you should do the same?

Sharpe, a Director of Sales and Marketing with more than 20 years of experience, had spent several frustrating months trying to snag interviews before turning to a professional for help. That's when he called in Martin Buckland, Certified Professional Resume Writer.

'The process Martin took me through was enlightening and surprisingly rigorous,' says Sharpe. It included hours of pre-work, in which Sharpe was asked to describe the achievements he is most proud of in his professional life. He also had to think about his differentiating features as an employee, and the sorts of industries, positions and companies he wanted to market himself to.

It was after this stage that he and Buckland met for a two hour discussion. 'I basically helped Ben to fine-tune his accomplishments and extract his most relevant contributions, taking care to quantify his results where possible and use words that employers in his field are looking for,' says Buckland, Principal of Elite Resumes. A few days later he sent off a first draft to Sharpe, who was delighted. 'As I read over my resume I couldn't believe how impressive it looked and sounded. I kept asking 'Is this really me?'' says Sharpe.

Which brings up an interesting question: Is it possible for your professionally-written resume to be too good? After all, you don't want the interviewer to deflate when you eventually show up for a face-to-face.

That won't happen if the resume writer knows what they're doing and attempts to capture your persona, says Lisa Price, President of Permanent Search Group, a generalist executive recruiting firm based in Toronto. She actually encourages job seekers to invest in themselves and get the best resume possible.

'People have to remember that this is a marketing campaign, with your resume serving as your main promotional tool,' explains Price. She adds that a typical headhunter spends maybe two minutes on each resume they receive, and they may have to pour over hundreds each week.

'A well-written resume does give an edge,' she says. 'I like that a candidate would invest in themselves just like Coke would hire an ad agency.'

Finding a resume writer for hire is a breeze. They've been flourishing quietly for years. The Yellow Pages has several dozen listings in the GTA alone, under 'Resume Services'. They range from single person shops operating from home with a PC and printer, to larger multi-location firms like ResumeWorld.

The trick is to hook up with a true pro, not some fly-by-night operation. Some advice on not getting burned comes from Michael Mayne, creator of 'Look for qualifications, experience, areas of specialization, and references,' he says. And don't forget to shop around, ask to see some samples, and compare prices. Also, watch out for claims of 'guaranteed success' or for services that promise fast turnaround but require little effort on your part.

Fees to get a resume done can range widely, and are not necessarily an indicator of quality. You can have one prepared for under $100, up to well over the $1,000 mark, depending on who you go to and what level of employment you're seeking.

Mayne, who is also Managing Partner at Catalyst Careers, is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Counsellors (PARW/CC). His firm charges $295 for an entry level resume, $445 for mid-level careerists and $645 for the Executive Package. He offers a guaranteed re-write in 30 days if the client can't secure a single positive response.

Buckland deals mainly with higher end clientele, such as V.P.'s and CEO's. His prices reflect this, and he tries to distinguish himself accordingly; he is one of only a few Canadians to hold the Master Resume Writer credential.

According to Price, who has been recruiting for more than two decades, paying someone to help you with your resume is becoming accepted practice. She acknowledges that not everyone has extra money to spend when job hunting. 'I appreciate when people at least buy a resume book and learn how to market themselves,' says Price. 'On the other hand, the whole objective is to get real live interviews, and your investment can potentially pay off in terms of weeks or months shaved off the job hunt.'

Some final tips from the experts? Honesty is key, according to Buckland. 'As an ex-policeman I can tell when someone is embellishing versus lying outright,' he warns. If he feels he is being asked to write falsehoods, he'll suggest that the client stick to the facts and present them in their best light.

Mayne reminds people that a resume is but one component in a comprehensive job search. 'People need to be career activists when they hunt for work. Hiring a resume expert can definitely help, but you have to take charge of your entire campaign and push consistently for results.'

Price concludes by urging people to concentrate on the total effect of the final resume. 'I'm not all that concerned about electronic formatting,' she says. 'I would rather see a nicely laid out, concise resume, attached to e-mail in .doc format.'

As for Sharpe, the job seeker, he's pounding the pavement with more confidence. 'I definitely received value for my money,' he says. 'It's not just the end product, but also the process you go through and what you learn about yourself that lets you market yourself more effectively.'

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