Are Professional Resume Writing Services Any Good? I Paid for One – Here Are My Thoughts

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By Mike

Note: I did not receive this service for free in exchange for a review, but paid for it myself. I’m writing this because I enjoy it, and I think it would be useful for everyone to get an idea of how the service is like before deciding to buy it. 🙂

Should you pay someone to professionally write your resume for you?

I asked myself this as a graduate, and I constantly ask myself this throughout my career, especially when looking for a new job. When 300 Hours’ free resume review provided me with some paid resume writing options from TopResume, I decided to take the plunge, and document my experience in this article in case you were also thinking of doing the same.

Price tiers: what I went for, and what I recommend

TopResume offers four price tiers of service. If you decide to go for it, I recommend either one of the top two options: Executive Priority, or Career Concierge. I think the extras are worth it (I explain in more detail below) – if you are going to do this, do it right.

I chose the Executive Priority package (second most expensive) for my rewrite. My reasons for choosing this package over the lower-priced ones are:

  • ​LinkedIn Makeover – LinkedIn is really important to being hired these days, and I think having someone to properly look at and rewrite my profile is invaluable.
  • Better writers – Executive Priority and above gets writers in the top 10%. Again, I prefer that the better writers are allocated to me. Of course this could be 100% bullshit, but I don’t think so – it’s in their interest to keep their higher-paying customers happy.
  • Cover letter – I didn’t think that I would appreciate this, but in the end it was great getting something that helps word your introductory emails, even if you don’t actually attach a separate cover letter. And because I’m looking at switching to a new role type, it was useful to get specific wording  that conveys that in a fast and effective manner.

What happens after you buy

Once you make your order, the process is quite straightforward.

Immediately after you make your purchase, you’ll be presented with a questionnaire to fill out. I didn’t need to upload my resume again as they already had it from the free resume review I got from them. The questionnaire is fairly short and I recommend getting to it right away, otherwise it’ll be yet another to-do that you’ll never get to (at least in my case it will be). You need to complete the questionnaire before they can assign a writer to you.

Next, you’ll get an email with next steps and timelines. I was told that the first draft would be received 5-7 days after completion of the questionnaire, but mine took about 10 days, so I’d not rely too strongly on their timeline estimates.

​Next, I’ll go through what they sent through, and my experience of the revision process.

The Resume

The resume I received has completely been rearranged and rewritten from my version. I really liked having a more marketing-based mind go through my resume and make changes and suggestions. Of course, you don’t have to accept everything they suggest, but on the whole I found the changes quite sensible and agreeable.

Here are the main changes made to my resume during the rewrite, as well as bits I particularly liked. Of course, individual experiences may vary!

  • Keyword-based profile summary: Not everyone may have this, but I had a summary section right at the start of my resume, explaining who I was and what my experience was about. The rewrite enhanced this, not just by rewriting the section but also including bullet points of my key skills. This made the section a lot faster to digest and also came across as more impressive, as the eye automatically is drawn to the bulleted list of key skills.
  • Experience comes first: I’m not sure why now, but I had my education right at the front (probably because I was super-proud of my CFA qualification). The rewrite moved the education bit to the back, clearly formatted in a different manner.
  • Serif formatting: I chose sans serif originally due to clear readability, but perhaps serif conveys a stronger, more senior feel
  • Less focused on structure: I’m a maths major. I was obsessed with getting everything to line up neatly on my resume, so tab spacing and bullets were everywhere. The rewrite used a more organic arrangement that still retained the information but freed up more space.
  • Streamlined for snappiness: I’ve never known what to not include in my resume, so I’ve tried to pile on all the projects and deals I’ve been involved in. The rewrite cut out some of the less important stuff and focused on what they called ‘key accomplishments’, which is a phrase I like because it simultaneously conveys ‘there’s more besides what’s on here’, and ‘this stuff is awesome, it’s a key accomplishment!’.
  • Condensed earlier work experiences: My resume grew organically as my work experienced increased, so I never really thought to significantly rework my earlier, graduate-level work experiences. The rewrite downsized this to an ‘Other Experiences’ section, making room for extra bragging about my more recent achievements.
  • Cut out a complete section: I had a ‘Key Skills and Achievements’ section, which in retrospect is probably duplicated throughout the rest of the resume. This is now cut, with the information dispersed throughout the rest of the resume.
  • A tagline for each company I worked in: The rewrite also added in a snazzy tagline for each of the different companies I’ve worked in, explaining what the company is and why the company is impressive. I’ll try to give you some examples based on my limited marketing skills: a large bank might get a line like ‘One of the most influential financial institutions in the market, with its investment banking division responsible for over $XXBN worth of deals annually’. A small hedge fund, on the other hand, might get ‘A world-leading long-short fund, Company X charted YY% growth for the past Z years consecutively, and is a five-time winner of Award ABC’.

You can see that the focus has been very much on increasing the attractiveness of the resume – making everything more readable, more eye-catching, and the content more impressive. That was just what a boring finance guy like me needed – a marketing person to look through everything and see what would sell. Of course, your writer’s knowledge of your industry would be limited, and that’s where your feedback is important.

The Cover Letter

I was never really expecting much from the cover letter – I’ve not really included one in my job applications since my grad days. The cover letter I received is a compact, one-page cover letter consisting of three paragraphs:

  • The first paragraph focusing on the objectives – introducing myself with an effective summary, what role I’m interested in
  • The second paragraph is the longer one, showing off my achievement and skills, with a few headlines thrown in
  • The final paragraph attempts to elicit action items – set up a meeting, view the attachments, and so on

I don’t think the cover letter is good enough to just drop in [Job Title] and [Company Name] and so on and simply send out. But then, I don’t think such a letter exists.

What I do think the written cover letter is good for, though, is to act as a starting template for whenever I need to use any kind of introductory text, which is need for almost any job application –  be it through email or through a more standard electronic form. I think the letter I received is a pretty good base to start with, where I can update, change and swap out as needed.

The LinkedIn Makeover

I was curious to see how they’d execute the LinkedIn makeover – I’d rather not hand over control of my LinkedIn account, and turns out that’s not how they do it anyway.

What they do is to send you a 10-page personalized “idiot’s guide” to LinkedIn, showing you exactly how to populate and tune your LinkedIn profile. The guide is personalized to you where the fields are pre-filled in with information from your experience.

The mileage you get from this, I suspect, will vary. If you’re constantly updating your LinkedIn profile and know all the latest features to really publicize yourself just that little bit more, the LinkedIn makeover is probably not going to tell you anything new apart from provide you from new copy to use on your profile.

While I found some of the tips rather obvious, others were useful – recommendations on how to present more dated work experience and education. But on the whole, the tips are probably not worth the price, at least to me. The most valuable part of the LinkedIn makeover for me was the copy provided for the Summary and Work Experience sections, which is always the part I’m too lazy (and self-conscious) to write and brag about.

The Revision Process

The guidelines they email to you say that you get two revision rounds once the first draft is sent, but on their FAQ they state that “you will go back and forth with your writer on drafts until both of you are happy with the final result”, which implies unlimited revisions. So which is which? My guess is that they most likely will revise as much as you need, but also want to weed out abuse from endlessly revising clients.

Apart from minor adjustments, my overall feel was that the first draft good, but still not specific enough. I fed this back to my writer, encouraging her to ask me for more detail if she needed it. I answered her follow-up questions and was resent a second draft. After the second draft, I decided not to revise any further.

I found the revisions useful, but only to a certain extent. The first draft probably gets to the 75% mark, and a revision to 80-85%, but no further.  But I don’t think it’s TopResume’s fault. A resume is, in essence, a very personal document. I don’t think a third party can truly deliver a resume 100% to your satisfaction. After one revision, I think the best person to finalize the work and add the last touch-ups is myself. No writer can know the intricacies of my industry, use the right technical terms, and tune it exactly to the role I’m targeting.

My personal recommendations

It’s difficult to recommend something with a price tag, as everyone will value this differently. Personally, I think it’s a good investment every 5-10 years or so. Times change, and the customs and technology around how a resume is viewed and evaluated changes as well. It’s useful to have someone look over your resume and to have a more marketing-focused angle layered upon it.

As to whether it’s worth a few hundred dollars, that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, you may be able to get discounted pricing if you first get a free resume review through 300 Hours. I was offered a discount via email a few days after I got my resume review (you can read my experience with that here).

However, you shouldn’t be doing this just to avoid working on your resume yourself. You will need to be involved in the process to have good results – you will not be satisfied if you’re expecting your resume to float away, magically have a makeover and come back all shiny and perfect.

So my overall conclusions are:

  • I think a resume rewrite is worth it, and particularly recommend the Executive Priority or Career Concierge packages
  • Even if you’re unsure, at the very least get the free resume review – it will definitely help
  • Don’t expect the experience to absolve you of any resume-related work, you’ll need to feedback and edit to get a great resume
  • The rewrite can take longer than estimated – don’t start this rewrite under time pressure or rush it

Tips for getting best results

1. Be reactive and give clear feedback

I honestly found the service valuable. However, in the process of writing this article, I looked up for other reviews on TopResume. While I did find great reviews about them that agreed with me, there were also many who were critical about them – saying that the rewrites they got back were generic or unusable.

But closely reading their frustrations showed that the most frequent complaint was that ‘the resume I got was not what I wanted‘.

That’s a common thing when it comes to any creative services. Managing a creative process (like ‘write something for me’, ‘design something for me’, ‘draw something for me’) requires a lot of good feedback from the client.

At the end of the day, TopResume does not know you personally, so there is a limit to what they can write for you if they don’t have enough information. ​This is your resume, so the more involved you are, the better the result. Some tips on giving good feedback:

  • Remember to give good and clear feedback, both focusing on what you like and what needs rewriting.
  • Use email and/or Word comments, and be as detailed as your time allows you.
  • Patient with following up.
  • Treat your writer as a colleague in a collaborative process.
  • Reply as soon as you can to emails if you have any concerns – before your writer starts making changes based on wrong assumptions

My ideal experience would be for my writer to chat to me for an hour or so about my work experience, diligently take notes, go away and come back with a perfect resume – but even then I’m pretty sure proper feedback along the way is necessary. TopResume does offer a service that does something similar so on retrospect maybe I should have gone for that – its Career Concierge package includes a phone consultation with your writer.

2. Continue to build on your resume after the rewrite

It’s really best to view your rewritten resume as a ‘nearly-there’ base to work from. You should always review your resume and cover letter before applying for any role, tweaking it as necessary, and updating it as you accumulate more work experience.

3. Remember that it’s just one of a few steps to getting hired

There’s a tendency to put too much effort into just your resume, and ignore that job-hunting also requires a lot of good networking and interview skills. Be sure to always focus on maintaining good professional relationships and practice interviewing – you’ll need to rely on them as much as having a good resume.

4. Discounts…?

I’m not quite sure how it works, but you may be able to get discounted pricing if you first get a free resume review through 300 Hours. I was offered a discount a few days after I got my resume review (you can read my experience with that here) – and I took them up on it. If you’d like to try looking out for a discount, try going for a free resume review first, and watch your inbox for a few days  after you’ve gotten your resume review.

I hope this review helped inform you if you’re considering using TopResume’s writing service. I’ve tried to be as detailed as I can without revealing personal details, but if you have any specific questions I’d be happy to answer – just drop them in the comments below and I’ll reply to it.

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