DIY Resume Tips

A well-written resume from a professional resume writer can easily cost $350 or more. That’s about the going rate here at Catch Your Big Break, and I can hardly find a colleague I trust who will write a resume for less than $200. On the high end, I’ll gladly point you to a good friend of mine who is a certified professional resume writer … but only if you want to spend $750 – $1000 on your resume. Many senior managers, directors, and executives do. When something absolutely has to get done right, price is no longer an obstacle.

Then there’s the rest of us. I regularly get calls from soon-to-be graduates and young professionals who want to put their best foot forward when applying for jobs, and understand that having a good resume is an important part of that. They don’t mind spending a bit of money, and they know the limits of their own expertise in this area. “Can you help me?” they ask. “I have a budget of about $100, and I really need help with my resume. Will you write it for me?” Um, no.

The economics just don’t make sense. For employees with a 9-5 job, a boss, and a steady paycheck, making $50/hour is a pretty good deal. For independent business owners who don’t get paid for checking email, taking coffee breaks, or handling routine customer service issues, every minute doing truly productive work needs to be billed at a higher rate. If I spend 3 hours writing a resume and get paid $100 for the job, my effective annual salary is about $30K. Think about the other people you know who make that annual salary. Is that who you want to write your resume? Not if you’re smart.

Don’t misunderstand me. People who make those wages have very valuable roles in society. I have tremendous respect for the people themselves and the work they do. Resume writing is simply a skill that commands a higher reimbursement for those who do it well.

So if you are on a limited budget, the best option may be to do it yourself.  If you chose the DIY approach, here are a few tips, from someone who knows what the heck he’s doing:

1.  Use a solid resume template.  A simple Google search for “free resume templates” will yield plenty of results, but I recommend you check out first.  You don’t have to give them your email address, create a user profile, or do any of the annoying stuff that many other sites require.  I don’t get any kickbacks for pitching their stuff, and I won’t take it personally if you shop elsewhere.  Just don’t over-complicate the process.

2.  Create a draft, then borrow a couple of good proofreaders.  Take time to pull together all the information that needs to go in a resume.  You have to be clear about dates and locations of previous employment, education, etc.  It seems simple, but I’ve seen countless people get stuck on this when describing work they did 5+ years ago.  Once you’ve written several bullet-points for each job you’ve held, recruit some proof-readers.  As much as I take occasional shots at the crowd of friends, family members, and so-called experts who give most of us career advice (like in this video), I do recommend using their talents in a few areas.  Do you have a family member who is always correcting other people’s grammar?  For once, invite them to correct yours.

3.  Hire a career coach using the money you saved, and focus on identifying your competitive position in the market.  Bring in your resume, ask the coach to spend 10-15 minutes commenting on the format of your resume, the basic content, and any other aspects he/she wants to discuss.  Then spend the rest of the hour talking about how your previous education and experiences set you apart from the competition.  Think together about why an employer might hire you over other candidates.  Ask your coach to comment on any related types of jobs that you ought to consider.  It may cost you a bit of your hard-earned cash, but maybe less than you think, and it’s definitely worth the money, provided you pick a skilled coach.

Writing a resume isn’t as simple as 1-2-3.  It takes a someone with specialized skill-set to do it right, and can often come together much quicker in the hands of a talented resume writer.  For those of you who don’t have the sort of cash required to hire an expert, this 3-step process is definitely better than hiring a cut-rate resume writer who may do more harm than good.