Why a professional CV writer may be more valuable than you think

Everyone needs a CV at some time in their life. And if you’ve not been trained in how to write one, you could be at a serious disadvantage.

So anyone working under the misapprehension that getting help with it is a bad idea could be doubly disadvantaged.

CV writing processOK – of course some providers deliver bad service. That’s why customers have to choose the right one. It’s the same as any industry. Some builders are bad but we don’t sit at home with holes in the roof bemoaning the lack of quality builders.

There are several particular criticisms that I’ve seen recently that claim to describe the whole industry and I’d like to respond to each of them. Challenge your belief about some of these and you might find yourself improving your performance in what I would call ‘personal branding’.

1. The assertion that CV writers produce generic results

Why would that be? You are far more likely to get a ‘generic’ result by using a template. Or by writing your own CV based on the generic drivel that passes for CV ‘tips’ all over the internet.

We are capable of getting to know our clients. We are capable of asking the right questions. We are capable of tailoring a CV to a job advert. But are we willing to put the time in to get this right? Well, that’s for you to decide by asking the right questions to your potential CV writer.

Do yourself a favour and find out what the process is, how long they will spend with you and how long it will take. Obviously there will be a maximum that you will want to pay, but if you buy on price and speed of turnaround you will generally get the lowest quality result.

If you’ve decided that you want a detailed CV that showcases your unique abilities and sets you apart from others then surely you accept that you won’t get this for £30?

If you are capable of doing better on your own then by all means go ahead, but there is a reason that you are considering professional help …

2. The assertion that no-one can possibly write your CV as well as you

Now let’s not be too self-absorbed here. Of course you will have greater knowledge of the specifics of your career than anyone else. But it’s not all about you.

There are two sides to CV wring. The ‘supply side’ – that’s you. And the ‘demand side’ – that’s the employer and their needs. How good are you at matching these up? Because a level of objectivity in determining what is relevant and what isn’t and then in what order of importance is extremely valuable. A CV writer should be exceptional at this. Find out what experience and expertise this is based on.

Plus a CV is not just a list of facts. The stuff you have written is probably a very accurate description of what you did. But the ability to pick out the most powerful information from the range of things that could be written there and in what level of detail is a very useful skill. There is no reason to believe you are the expert here.

It’s the CV writer’s job to get to know what makes you special. And to write it in a style that reflects you. There is no reason to believe that they will never be able to get it. It’s their job.

In any case, the practice of having to articulate your value to the CV writer will help you more than you think.

3. You will be dependent on them / won’t be able to adapt it

My CVs are provided in Microsoft Word format (or any other format requested) so they are fully editable. The process of having me write your CV will inevitably involve you learning some of the skills of CV writing. I don’t make the stuff up, do I?

And my clients are in no doubt that their CV needs to be adapted for every job for which they apply. Better to start from a great baseline though.

4. They don’t know your industry

Well the recruiter is not hiring an industry. Hopefully they are hiring you! What makes you stand out from the next candidate should not take insider knowledge to identify.

Those who obsess about the industry are probably producing something very ‘generic’ by following what they consider to be the ‘rules’ (see point 1).

In any case the selection panel may well include HR and recruitment professionals as well as those within what you consider your industry.

Personally I have had as much success writing CVs for clients in industries in which I’ve not worked as those in which I have.

As for the idea that you should get feedback from the ‘decision maker’ i.e. the employer rather than the outside ‘expert’ … Hopefully the expert has been a decision maker. In my case I was both an in-house and agency recruiter and I also stay up to date by helping out on interview panels occasionally. Recently I did this for a charity for whom I’m a Trustee.

5. The claim that it’s a waste of money

That depends upon how much you want a new job. And how much that is worth to you. My clients who received instant pay rises of multiple (even tens of) thousands believe they received good value. See my testimonials.

Maybe you want a particular job at a particular company so much that you just need to get this thing right first time. Then it’s going to be the best investment you have ever made!

If you want a specific view on price then I would say this: Under £200 should not even be considered. How much time does it take to write a proper CV? How much time can the writer realistically spend for the money earned? The consultation alone should be a significant investment of time.

6. Snide remarks about not ‘outsourcing’ something – implying remoteness

Well, I’m not remote. I do in depth consultations with my clients. And I’m available to answer questions, test out ideas or adapt to changing needs.

These comments tend to come from people who want you to pay them to ‘coach’ or ‘train’ you to do the CV yourself. So they are biased. As am I. So make up your own mind.

The idea that you shouldn’t pay for one service but it’s OK to pay for another one to try to achieve the same result is just a bit silly.

I even read an article from one trainer deriding CV writers for retaining information for themselves (obviously he hasn’t been at one of my consultations). Instead he will share this information with you. He won’t do it for free though!

7. The fairness issue

Actually, there is some merit in this one. By providing services only to those who can afford to pay me or by coaching some job applicants but not others, there is not a level playing field. But there never was a level playing field to begin with.

I recognise the moral issue though and that’s why I’m always willing to consider ways of funding services for those who need them. If any charity or public body wants to support me in this instead of funding the large generalist companies who recruit low skilled people to deliver big contracts then I’m all for it.

8. The various conspiracy theories about how ‘they’ are all ‘just out to take your money’

Do you get paid for what you do? Do you expect this? Then why shouldn’t we? Guess what, CV writers have bills (and families) too.

Maybe we should all grow up and accept that expertise is worth paying for.

Of course you shouldn’t waste money hiring an amateur but do choose wisely and hire the best.

9. They can’t guarantee you an interview

Of course no one can guarantee this. But unless you are awful at your job then interviews are very likely to follow. Having the best possible CV for you is not going to do any harm is it?

You realise that some people are getting chosen, don’t you? And you realise that employers decisions are not made at random?

10. Things that don’t matter when choosing a writer

  • Industry knowledge. This is covered above.
  • ‘Certification’. I’m glad there is no CV writing certification as there is in the USA. I don’t like the way this produces a ‘one best way’ approach to a personal service. I also don’t like the way it reduces the process to a logic only ‘If x, then y’ process. For example, ‘if you are in this industry, your CV needs to include this’. My approach is much more sophisticated than this.
    I do also happen to be a fully qualified marketer, former recruiter and business manager.
  • Samples. Anyone who gives out samples is contradicting themselves. I would never do this. And the few samples I have seen on public display are not particularly good.
  • Turnaround …. There is no way you are getting a proper job if it’s done in less than a few days.

So, in general, much of the criticism of CV writing services is a load of rubbish. Pick the right one by having a conversation with them about what they will do for you and how.

It really does all come down to conversation.

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Graeme Jordan

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CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.