Ask LH: Should I Use A Resume Service?

Dear Lifehacker, I am currently job hunting and looking to improve my resume. I'm a modest person and find it difficult to big note myself, particularly when it comes to writing my CV. Consequently I've looked into CV/resume writing services, which seem to range from cheap and dodgy to expensive and dodgy (some of the sites refer to save your CV to a floppy!) Do you know of any reputable services to help me get my CV into shape so I can get out of my current role? Thanks, Tough Sell

Resume picture from Shutterstock

Dear TS,

We're not big fans of resume-writing services at Lifehacker HQ, and we're not about to recommend any individual provider. In part that's because, as you've already noted, many of them seem overpriced and unhelpful. But there's a more fundamental problem: a resume-writing service is going to cost you a fortune, because you need to rework your resume (and your application letter) for every single job you apply for. This has been a consistent theme whenever we've written about resumes: you need to adjust them to match the job in question, not just send out the same information to everybody. It's a fresh task every time, and not one you should outsource.

Having trouble talking yourself up isn't uncommon. Make the task easier by focusing on measurable accomplishments. If you can say that you increased server performance by 50 per cent, decreased the time taken to deploy new systems from a day to 30 minutes, or improved sales by $50,000 a week, that's not boasting: that's a statement of the facts. Accomplishments matter more than your basic responsibilities.

Writing a resume isn't easy, but using a service only increases the odds you'll get a cookie-cutter layout that matches everyone else. Invest the time to work on your resume; no-one is more aware of your skills and achievements than you are.

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    My gut-reaction is to advise against resume writing services, and that's despite having seen some extremely professional looking paid for resumes.

    The good paid for resumes that i've seen really are quite impressive. The resume writers have charged substantially, ($3-400) but they did spend time with the applicant concerned in a one on one consultation and then developed a very well written resume with a number of well thought out and well written job duties and other details. To be honest, i've been impressed by resume writing services. It is an expensive service, yes, but easily justifiable if it does what it is intended to do which is to help the applicant secure a position faster, and put them in a stronger position when negotiating salary. It's hard to fault the paid-for resumes that i've seen in this regard.

    But, to me the resume writing services lack authenticity.

    A resume doesn't need to be the best resume ever. It needs to be good, very good, absolutely, but it does not need to be a masterpiece. Maybe having a masterpiece is better, maybe it isn't. A Porsche is generally considered superior to a Honda Civic but then they do look a little ostentatious don't they. Not everyone appreciates that. Some prefer simplicity over attention seeking grand-standing.

    I can see that some will argue that having the best possible resume is the best possible solution, but personally I'm a little hesitant in agreeing with that. I think most employers will want YOU to be writing the resume, not your best friend, partner, aunt or next door neighbor. Your resume is a reflection of you and your abilities and your achievements. Outsourcing that personal responsibility out may concern some employers, and it may even turn some employers off. On the other hand, some employers might love the detail that a paid for resume provides.

    Writing a resume isn't that difficult. It is simply relaying information concerning your work history and your qualifications. If you have a good work history and qualifications, and make that clear and presentable in your resume, then there's no good reason for an employer to not be able to identify that.

    Keep your resume simple and up to date. Provide all relevant information. Use a career summary for employment beyond 10 years ago or so - provide basic details of all positions without going into all your job duties etc. Use spell checker. Make it presentable. Nice fonts (change them up a little).

    Fancy artwork on the front cover can give a good impression, as can a splash of colour, but it's not going to win you the position, and it's not an art contest so don't go over board.

    Yes, there will be a lot of competition, and we've all been sold that we must "stand out from the crowd", but attempting to do that is extremely precarious and can quite easily make you appear a tad egotistical.

    Just. Keep. It. Simple.

    Oh, and google will present you with approximately 10,000 how to write resume guides. Skim-read 10 of them, give your self 30 minutes and hey presto you'll have a resume.

      This comment should be its own article. Thanks for that Dave; the information you've provided here is fantastic.

        You're welcome. I've replied to previous resume and interview based subjects with simariliy fantastic responses. They ought to be their own articles too. Perhaps we could have some kind of compilation?

      My partner is fantastic at what he does, but he doesn't know how to promote himself or write a resume in a way that will get him an interview. Hearing him talk about his work and his individual part in it, I know he can describe it the right way, it just doesn't get onto paper. I try to be a translator for him.

      Some people are better at different forms of communication and my partner is definitely better at verbal communication whereas I am better at written.

        I don't wish to appear patronizing, but writing a resume really isn't all that difficult. Yes, communication abilities differs for all of us but it would seem to me that your partner is over thinking and over complicating things.

        Start the resume with:-

        Your name and contact details (but no need for your very personal details, you ought to consider security issues).

        Then, move onto listing your qualifications.

        Then, move onto your work history, starting with your most recent position.

        For each position list the following:-

        Company name, Dates of employment, Job Title, Key duties, Reason for leaving. Listing achievements can be nice, but might be unnecessary.

        And that's pretty much it.

        Sure you could write a paragraph or two outlining your objections if you want to bore the reader or pad out your word count a little.

        Even listing reference details is optional and arguably best avoided - certainly in detail.

        Which part is too complicated?

          I think I'm in a similar position to Erica's partner. It's not that it's too complicated, I just find it difficult to talk myself up. To take a couple of points from my current resume:

          Creation and maintenance of internal documentation system: I set up a wiki, hooked it into AD, and set up some templates and access control lists. After that I just had to explain the process to people and add some articles.
          Hardware and software refresh and deployment across the entire business: Getting hardware quotes, building some standard images, and then spending a few days walking around with a trolley and swapping out computers.

          While technically accurate, describing them like that feels dishonest. I only do it because writing a resume my preferred way is far less likely to get me to the interview stage.

            Hi Stove,

            Let me comment, as best I can, as it appears that you're requesting assistance. I'm not attempting to pontificate for the hell of it, although I'm not opposed to do that on occasion.

            What you've written in italics appears to me to be very professional, very concise, very explanatory and perfectly good, relevant and adequate information, I don't see anything wrong with the text in italics.

            I think your non-italics comments are you simply informing us of your interpretation of what's in italics - and I think you're suggesting that you feel that stating your duties in the formal (italics) manner is misleading in some way. Well, if what is in italics is true and accurate, then you are not misleading anyone.

            Will this help:- (and it may not)

            Management and operation of large scale vehicle and safe delivery of passengers and goods. I drive a bus innit.

            A resume is a documentation that presents yourself to a potential employer. You want to present yourself in a polite, courteous and professional manner. You want to make it easy and pleasant for the employer to read through the information that you've provided and to identify what they need to identify in order to be confident in taking your application to the next level (an interview).

            What you've stated in italics and non-italics seem to be equally true, but one shows you to be a disciplined, professional individual that takes yourself and your application and the clients position seriously, and the other doesn't.

            It's no different to wearing a suit and tie (or cravat) on your wedding day. Sure, you could turn up in boardies and a wife-beater but it probably won't give the best impression to your in-laws. But we live and learn.

            I generally prefer giving recruitment advice more than marriage counselling by the way, but am generally versatile and aim to please.

              Thanks for the reply Dave. I wasn't so much requesting help (though my resume definitely could use some work, I'm mostly happy with it) as I was trying to explain why some people find it difficult. Although I can force myself to do it, the style of thinking and writing required for a good resume doesn't come naturally to me.

              Either way your reply was very helpful and had some good tips, so thanks!

                You're welcome Stove.

                Yes I think you make a good point in that when writing job duties you (one) does need to write in a more formal manner in which they otherwise would, and I guess that comes more naturally to some than others.

                I guess my advice in regards to writing job duties, for whomever wants it, is to first identify the most significant and important job duties, and these will typically (but not always) be those duties that you perform (or plan for) on a daily basis, that percentage wise make up a significant amount of your daily duties. Try to limit yourself to a reasonable amount of duties, and that will vary depending on job type, but my general advice would be around half a dozen to a dozen bullet pointed job duties. Even if you do practically run the whole show.

                Keep each individual job duty description in a (very) concise and generally formal format. As in the examples you gave in italics. Further details can be discussed at an interview level so it is completely unnecessary to go into significant detail in most cases. If it accurately summaries an important and significant aspect of your position in a concise and clear manner, then it is good. If it's not accurate it needs to be re-written. If it's not concise, you need to consider trimming it. If it's not important, consider dropping it all together. You have to remember that what you think is a vitally important aspect of your employment history may be of no interest to the potential employer at all. Tell them that you like coffee but there's no need to mention how many sugars you take, or that beautiful percolated brand you found whilst holidaying on the Riviera.

                Last edited 12/02/13 5:29 pm

      Err.. actually I'm wondering what qualifications you have that back up all this pontificating?

        I can't downvote this comment enough.

          I don't know about you but I don't give credence to every single thing I read on the web. Sounds like good advice, but is @davedrastic speaking as a business owner? A manager? An HR rep? Or is this just personal opinion from someone not in a position to judge?

            I'm not on Australian Idol if that's what you're asking.

            Last edited 12/02/13 4:34 pm


        My guess is that your comment is towards myself? I wouldn't need to guess if you went to the trouble of mentioning who it is that you're referring to.

        Well wonder away, my qualifications are none of your business.

        Last edited 12/02/13 4:19 pm

          Yes it is for you. Sure, they're nobody's business, but in that case you have no credibility. Disappointing reply after seeing your reply above. Don't know why you switched the tone.

            I find it a little rude to be bullied into providing irrelevant information. I don't need to prove myself to you. You're welcome to judge my comments for their content. No need for me to justify the relevancy of my experience to your or any one else.

            So if you find the tone unwelcome, don't go insisting on information that you know to be irrelevant and none of your business.

            Good day.

              If you talk louder, maybe more people will listen to your idiotic pontificating. Clearly you're just insecure about your lack of qualifications. If you weren't, you wouldn't be so touchy about it. Sorry to kick the soapbox from under you!

                Kick the soapbox?

                Throwing mud for the sake of it, sure.

                  If you call someone doubting your pretense of authority on a subject "throwing mud", sure.



                  I was actually thinking of your insults and requests for unnecessary information. But you know what, I don't you'll ever quite catch my meaning so my advice is that you no longer read my comments. Bye.

    Cookie-cutter? I would say quite the opposite.

    Any resume writing service worth its money would absolutely NOT give you a cookie cutter output. You are paying them to write/improve your resume - not to pump raw data into a template and spit out a result.

    I've done it twice and it has been well worth the money (the second time was when I changed career focus.)

    Keeping it up to date with your accomplishments makes maintenance much easier. Learnt this the hard way after not updating it for years and then having a monumental task on my hands, which was horrible.

    I have also been updating my resume. I have always had trouble writing about myself and at one stage ground to a complete halt. Then I thought (or perhaps remembered from somewhere)

    'Why not write about someone else that happens to be exactly like me?'

    This was remarkably useful. Writing something like 'Fred has always had a real talent for designing beautiful and usable User Interfaces. . . '. Then changing it to 'I have always had a real talent for designing beautiful and usable User Interfaces. . .'. Works so well.

    And if you think about it that is exactly what a resume writing service should be doing with your own information! Maybe you don't need one.

      Yeah, I think your tactic of talking about Fred is de-stressing the process for you. It's making the process more objective and taking the emotion out - and that's why it's working.

      I would say that those that are having difficulty, such as you were, or erica's partner is, are taking the process too seriously. They're perhaps attempting to create the most perfect resume ever, and treating the process like a quest for the Holy Grail.

      Writing a resume isn't difficult. Sure, we can make it difficult and complicated if we want to do that. But it's completely unnecessary. All a resume is is a relaying of information that should be available to you at hand.

      You should know the name of your previous and current employers, you should know when you started and finished working for them - and if you don't, you should be able to find out. You should know what your job title was, and what your main job duties were. You should know why you left.

      You should know your name, you should know your contact details.

      If a resume were a test everyone ought to pass with flying colours, and those that don't are frankly either being lazy or are somehow muddying the process.

      Remember a resume will be read for probably 10 seconds, and definitely no more than 5 minutes.

      Think about when you go to a new city and you pick up a tourist information leaflet. It's a leaflet isn't it. It's not a book. It has probably 200 words on it, and it's basically just mentioning key aspects because it will be looked at for only a few seconds. The tourist facility want you to find out more when you arrive and pay them $8 for a hot dog. That analogy may not be completely useful, perhaps particularly for any vegetarians here, but I'm tired so it'll have to do.

      Last edited 12/02/13 4:54 pm

    @stove and @erica .. I used a resume service for my resume.

    They were called redstarresume

    They took considerable time to talk with me and have one on one conversations. I could even reach the owner of the service via phone. I found the entire experience extremely positive and they helped me form and extremely professional (non cookie cutter as they have said above) and presentable resume.

    I wouldnt hesitate reccomending them

    Good luck

    Hi Guys, I have also had some really disappointing times with my resume and it was once suggested to me to go get a professional to write for me. I looked around and found a professional resume service. I called them and spoke to a lady who was so friendly and gave me heaps of advice. She also told me how important it was to have a great cover letter with my resume. They were so cheap. I was so happy with what they did for me and it only took a day to receive it. I applied for an apprenticeship and trainee-ship the day after I got my resume. I had two interviews and am now an apprentice carpenter. I would tell anyone who is struggling with getting a job because they have a pretty crappy resume, go to Resume services Australia.

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