Tips for Hiring a Professional Resume Editor

by Sharon Elber

Professional Resume Editor

Making sure that your resume is noticed by potential employers is obviously critical to landing that job interview and getting the chance to strut your stuff in person. And, not everyone has the skillset to really shine on paper. This is particularly true these days since the expectations for a great resume include not only having the right words, but also the right look.

Here are a few signs it’s time to hire a pro:

  • Writing just isn’t your strong suit or the language is not your native tongue.
  • You have been applying for jobs that you are well qualified for but are not landing any interviews.
  • Your resume is 5 pages long and you cannot decide what to cut.
  • You have a non-traditional career path or are in the midst of a career change.
  • You have substantial gaps in your work history and are unsure of how to frame your experiences in the best light.
  • You have been using the same resume to apply to every job and have no idea how to customize it for each position.
  • Your time is more valuable than the cost of hiring a professional who can produce better results in less time.

1) What Is the Difference Between Resume Writing and Resume Editing?

Resume writing starts with a blank page and often a brief interview or lengthy questionnaire to establish the broad strokes of your work history. The end result is usually a very generic document that does little to establish your fit to a specific job. It might seem like it will save you time and money to hire a resume writer, but in most cases, the finished document is not going to be compelling to a hiring manager.

On the other hand, resume editing starts with either a draft of your resume or an extensive list of your education, specific skills, and details from your work history. The more detail you can provide, the better. The editor will then select the most relevant details and organize them in a way that emphasizes your fit for the job.

2) Should I Use a Resume Service or Hire a Freelancer?

Both a service or a freelancer can yield good results (or bad). One advantage of going with a service is that you can often save some money on the job. However, you have less control over who you will be working with. And, you may find the end result is a bit more generic than ideal.

On the other hand, working with a freelance resume editor can be the beginning of a long term relationship that serves you for the duration of your job search. They tend to be more personally invested in your success and will be able to quickly adapt your resume for each job you apply for with a strong sense of your career trajectory.

3) What Should I Look for in a Top-Notch Resume Editor?

Following are some factors you should consider when deciding who to retain:

Text Editing Pro

Consider for a moment that every word on your resume is taking up valuable space on the page. Each word needs to add value to the overall story your resume is telling prospective employers about your fit for the specific job you are applying for.

A great resume editor doesn’t just know what to add, they know what to subtract. They are looking to avoid redundancy and privilege the skills, experiences, and qualifications that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. They are experts with language who are able to convey a clear narrative about why you are the best candidate for the position with each and every word on the page.

Expertise with Different Resume Formats

There is no one-size-fits-all structure for resumes that works for every candidate. Some situations call for a functional design which highlights relevant skills, while others call for a reverse chronological format which emphasizes work history. In other cases, a hybrid design will best showcase your fit for the job.

A good resume editor is familiar with a variety of formats and knows which style will best showcase your qualifications for the job.

Graphic Design Skillset

Design is a skillset that not all textual editors possess. It requires an eye for balance, subtlety, and aesthetic. Design can easily be overdone, communicating style over substance to potential employers. A great resume editor knows that the purpose of design elements on a resume is to highlight your most important qualifications to the specific position the resume is intended for.

Understanding of Keywords

These days, many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sort through the first round of applications and decide which resumes will make it to a review by an actual human. They do this work using keyword searches within the text. A great resume editor knows how to optimize your resume for each job you apply for. Ask them to explain their keyword strategy to make sure this vital aspect of your resume development is covered.

Excellent Communication

Resume building is a back and forth process. Your editor should ask plenty of questions along the way as well as be able to provide reasoning for the choices they have made. Unless your draft needs only minor changes, expect the process to take some time, and look for an editor that is willing to do as many passes as it takes to sharpen this critical document.

Cover Letter

A good resume editor knows that the perfect resume goes to the hiring manager with a cover letter that is written to reinforce the narrative that you are the best fit for the position. Your editor should approach both documents as a set, helping you to customize each for the exact position you are applying for.

Sector Specific Expertise

The expectations for resumes vary from one field to another. A great resume for an advanced engineering job will look radically different than for a position in sales. Ideally, your resume editor has experience working with clients in your field, or one that is closely related.

Relevant Samples

An experienced resume editor will have plenty of samples to offer to demonstrate the quality of their work. Ask for samples of resumes in a similar job sector as the one you are applying for, where possible. Look over the samples for evidence of the skills mentioned above.

In addition, copy sections of the text and drop them in Google – If you find that these resumes have been lifted from resumes readily available online, chances are good they have been lifted and are not representative of the editor’s work. This is a major red flag.

Certified Professional Resume Writer

There are several organizations that now offer certifications through a training and testing program designed to provide an industry standard. You can look for these credentials as an indicator that the editor has taken the time to invest in making resume writing a special area of expertise. However, these credentials are easy to claim and difficult to verify. Although a positive sign, this should not be the only factor you consider when hiring a resume writer or editor.

4) How Much Should I Expect to Pay?

The pricing can be quite variable. However, the old adage that you get what you pay for applies in this case. To get a good sense of the range, a one-off service that provides a single draft of your resume will likely cost between $100-$300, with $200 being the industry average. This is for a mid-level career resume and does not usually include the fees associated with adapting your resume to specific jobs or working your cover letter to match the job story your resume should be telling.

If you decide to go with a freelance editor with an ongoing relationship, you may agree on an initial fee for the first resume and cover letter, and then an hourly rate for each additional job that you want to hire the freelancer to consult on. Typically, hourly rates fall between $30-$80 an hour depending on their expertise and the level of design work needed.

5) Expect to Be Involved

A final word of advice is that only you can really tell your story. Your application materials to any job need to convey your “fit” for that position. This goes beyond formal qualifications or a detailed work history. Your resume editor can help make your story shine, but won’t be able to invent an authentic picture of who you are as a professional. Be prepared for some back and forth as you work together on this important project.

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