Resume Writing Services: Attractive Nuisance or Clever Candidates?

Resume writing services will tailor a job seekers resume to make them look like the perfect candidate by optimizing it for keyword searching in an applicant tracking system. This may sound like a great investment to the candidate, but how do they affect time-to-hire or interview-to-placement ratios? These services may be able to trick the machine, but a good recruiter is not going to be fooled.

Clever Candidates

Preparing a resume is nerve racking. There are about a million websites that aim to teach job seekers how to get their resume noticed, but these still apply to old recruiting and hiring methods. Candidates face new challenges when it comes to getting their resume noticed, especially since they aren't entirely "read" anymore. With the advent of applicant tracking systems, recruiters and hiring managers have the tools to filter through thousands of resumes with just a few clicks. They can run a boolean string to extract what they want, even filter down to find the applicants that live within a certain distance from the job location. Turning to a service that will optimize your resume to pass through the machine sounds like a great idea, but do these services mis-represent the applicant? Do they show them as being more qualified or experienced than they actually are? These services boast the ability to craft a customized resume specific to the job you are applying for. They will take the actual job description and write your resume around it in a way that makes you look like the perfect candidate. Sounds like a great deal for job seekers, but does paying for a service like this actually hurt them in the long run?

Attractive Nuisance

Okay, so no one is dying due to resume writing services, but they do pose a danger to recruiters and hiring managers. Although the time it takes to find a good resume is significantly decreased with systems like CATS, qualifying the candidate in-person, versus on-paper, still takes a lot of time and energy. Do these services present candidates in an untruthful light? How many times have you seen the "perfect resume", only to meet the candidate and find out that they couldn't be further from what you need? A resume writing service may be able to trick the machine, but a good recruiter is not going to be fooled, only aggravated that they wasted their time. If it is true that these services are a burden to recruiters, it only makes it worse when you go to pull up your metrics for the month and everything is skewed. The number of qualified candidates is wrong, interview-to-placement ratios are too high, and time-to-hire just went up because of the time wasted on aesthetically pleasing but realistically unqualified applicants.

What has been your experience with resume writing services? Can you tell when you a see a resume that was paid for? Is this a good service for job seekers or are they better off sticking with their own version?

Views: 506

Comment by Dawn Rasmussen on September 7, 2011 at 11:34am

Full disclosure: I am a resume writer. 


That being said... I would like to counter some of your points, Louis, and say that ETHICAL resume writers take a great deal of time to drill down through the applicant's background to pull out achievement 'nuggets' that best demonstrate their value to employers.  Anyone who is in this sector of the careers industry would agree with me that when people come to professional writers, it is usually because they are at the point that they cannot 'see the forest for the trees,' and need independent help parsing out exactly what in their background would be valuable or of interest to employers, especially as technology is changing the format in which this information is submitted.


However, if the applicant misrepresents themselves to the writer, then please don't blame the person who wrote their document.  We as professional writers make every effort to extract true information... and on many countless occasions, I, like many of my reputable colleagues, have re-asked the question, "Is that true? Can you verify that?" in order to clarify a claim a client has made.  And yes, I have caught several people lying. More than I'd like to see, actually, but I set them straight. But I can't be researcher and 'applicant cop' - I will write a resume as reliably and honestly as I can based on the information submitted by the job seeker. But I don't have time (nor are they paying me) to validate every claim they make, in addition to doing fact-checking. That's the employer's job to see if the person is being honest when the process gets to the background check phase.


I completely sympathize with how many HR folks get gooey resumes that look great on the outside but when you sink your teeth in, there isn't any substance because the applicant was a lying fool. That's frustrating, and actually, quite frankly, LYING.


But please understand that resume writers are not judge and jury on what is truth or what isn't in information the client supplies to us.  Like I said, ethical writers ALWAYS tell their clients that they must be truthful at all times and never 'overinflate' anything - including their proficiency level, skills, accomplishments, or even job titles. (I've seen that and corrected a number of folks on job title 'upgrades' that they gave themselves.)

Comment by Louis Bina on September 7, 2011 at 5:15pm

Excellent comment Dawn, thank you. I completely understand your points about helping a candidate draw focus to real skills and experiences. I know that I have had a difficult time with that. You never know what is going to stick and what could be misconstrued. I have also had experience with services that claim to be able to get you in an interview or placed faster because they know how to dupe the system.

It is a service, and when done ethically as you mentioned, really does help job seekers have a better understanding of what an employer is looking for - not tricking a company into thinking someone is more qualified than they actually are. I am glad you shared this.

Comment by Amos on September 9, 2011 at 11:44am

Louis. Couple of point with your headline I would change to: Resume writing is an attractive nuance that clever (and smart) job seekers should utilize.


Never write your own resume, can you really be objective?


The majority of people are not up to date with industry standards of how resumes are written today.. ATS systems like CATSONE (disclosure: we used catsone many years ago and really like the platform) need to remind aggressive job seekers to have versions of their resume in: MS Word (.docx), Rich Text Format (.rtf) Plain Text (.txt): PDF (.pdf)


Most niche or specialty recruiters know when keywords dont align to accountability. And if one is not sure, they pick up the phone to better qualify.


If you have a professional resume with a strong value statement, transferable skills, significant accomplishments, education and innate talents add up - you will get a call. ( and lets not forget grammar and syntax)


Note that some employers view your "professionally written resume " as a sign of how you might operate within their business: Are you the type of candidate who just puts something on paper and hands it in  - OR do you do your due diligence and work with a specialist get the best personal marketing document you can?


You will only waste your time in a meeting with a candidate if you dont network > ask for a reference or get a lead.

Comment by Louis Bina on September 9, 2011 at 11:59am
Your points are well taken Amos. I don't think I made it clear enough in my article that I was referring to companies that sell resumes under the guise of being able to "trick the system". Yes, everyone should have assistance in writing their resume, and recruiters have to do that all the time because they know their client and their candidate best.
Comment by Dean Da Costa on September 12, 2011 at 1:05am
I do not agree with everything you said. Candidates need to optimize their resumes to ensure that all the words that might be used to search for someone with their skills are there, or they risk not being looked at. To many recruiters will only search on the easy terms, not realizing here maybe more than one name for a skill. Ther eis a differnce between frabrication, and optimization. Fabrication is falsefying, optimization is enuring all ther terms that might be used to search for what your ovaction is, is on your resume someplace.  I myself have been a victim of this database, nonreseaach approach. I applie dofr a job. ne I was very qualified for, adn nver got called, coem to find out my resume was never even looked at, why, because the recruiter used search terms that was not in my resume. They were looking for a recruiter, but since they called them talent managers, all the recruiter did was search for the term "Talent Manager". SInce I never held that title I did not have it on my resume. I friend of mine at the company told me about this, and so I put at the bottom of my resume "Alternative job titles I am qualified for: "Talent Manager"". I got a call, got interviewed and got hired. So yes a resume should be optimized, but there should be no fabrication. I think there is a difference between optimized and fabrication.
Comment by Louis Bina on September 26, 2011 at 10:20pm
So, I initially posted this blog to strike a conversation and hear from both sides. However it worked out, I'll tell you one thing: Now that I'm back on the hunt myself, you'd best believe I'll be using every tactic I learned while working as an applicant tracking system vendor!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 26, 2011 at 11:51pm
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