Wondering whether to hire a professional resume writer or service? Will a resume service finally help you make that career transition and land the job you want? Take a deep dive into whether this is the right decision for you in this listener inspired episode!

In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:

  • The pros and cons of investing in a resume writing service
  • Common DIY resume mistakes – and why they really do matter
  • Which is more important – networking or a great resume?

Today we’re answering the common listener question: “should I hire a professional resume service?” and the closely related “do you have a resume service recommendation?” While there are definitely some advantages that professionals can give you, there are important caveats to keep in mind when turning your CV into a nonclinical resume.

In this Episode:

[2:45] Transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry? Check out Industry Insider.
[4:18] Exploring the advantages you can expect from a resume service
[10:20] And the cautions…what resume services can’t do for you, unless they are specialized
[19:15] Why networking is so important – for your resume!

If you do want to hire a professional, I recommend checking out Dr. Heather Fork or Dr. Laura McKain – both of whom have excellent resume-focused programs and are trusted affiliates. Dr. Fork has very broad nonclinical career expertise, and Dr. McKain is more focused on pharmaceutical careers. Both are very skilled in creating effective nonclinical resumes for physicians.

Links and Resources:

Industry Insider – 12 hours of CME, learn exactly how to land a rewarding nonclinical career without a new degree, connections on the inside, prior experience, or a pay cut

Heather Fork’s CV to Rockstar Resume and LinkedIn for Physicians programs

Laura McKain’s DIY resume program




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The Speaking Rx 12 hours of CME, learn the business of professional public speaking to establish yourself as a thought leader you are, and get paid for your speaking expertise

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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 113 – Should You Hire a Professional Resume Writer or Service?

Hey everybody, welcome back to The Career Rx. I am going to be answering a listener’s question today. It’s a question I get asked quite a bit, but it’s so important I’ve realized I don’t have an episode dedicated specifically to this. So, on today’s episode, I’m gonna answer the question about whether or not you should hire a professional resume writer. And as I often do, I have inspiration from a listener note.

And this is from Katie, Katie writes. “Dear Marjorie, thank you so much for your relevant and informative podcast. I have been binging it over the holidays.” Thank you, Katie. That’s awesome. “I do have one question, which is, should I hire a professional resume service? And if so, who do you recommend? Thanks so much, Katie.”

So great question, Katie. I do hear this question really frequently. Before I dive into my answers, or my food for thought for whether or not you should pay for a professional resume writer or a professional resume service, I want to remind you that if you are a listener, and you’re looking to advance your career, or make a career transition, particularly to a non clinical career, or an a role that would be entirely new for you, I strongly encourage you to come check out my CME course called Industry Insider, if you haven’t already, check that out.

It is a great course that will help you understand exactly how to position yourself from the beginning and the exploration of looking at that non clinical job all the way through to entertaining offers.

So through the resume writing, through the interview process, through the network building, and through entertaining offers all the way from end to end. I’ve built this program based on transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry, but the principles are really sound and would apply to just about any non clinical career that you want to pursue.

So come check it out. It’s in the show notes, Industry Insider, earn your CME and of course, advance your career that way.

Okay, back to the question at hand, should you pay for a professional resume writing service. And of course, this is being asked in the context of someone who does want to either make a significant career transition to a totally different type of role as you might in the pharmaceutical or biotech medical device industry.

Or someone who is really seeking a promotion or an advancement into a leadership role, write something that’s quite concrete. And by that I’m thinking about, you know, maybe it’s the Dean of Education, and maybe it’s a program director, or maybe it’s a chair, you know, one of these various leadership roles for which just having shown up and been a clinical doctor is probably not going to cut it in terms of your resume, and your your professional messaging.

So a quick Google search shows me that, in order to hire a professional resume, writer or professional resume service, you can expect to pay somewhere between $300 to $1500. That’s the range I found on Google, it certainly could be more, I don’t know if it would probably be much less. But I think it’s possible that the sky’s the limit on this depending upon the type of company that you’re looking for.

So the fee does vary, but you can absolutely expect to pay money for somebody to, you know, to develop a professional resume for you. And so, when you think about that investment, you also want to think about what you are getting from it? So what are really the pros? And what are the cons? What can you expect them to do for you?

I’m going to start with the pros first, right, the reasons why you might want to hire somebody to develop that professional resume for you.

  1. First and foremost, most people are coming from a traditional academic or clinical CV. And the CV document is incredibly different from a resume. You’ve probably heard me say that in other episodes of this podcast, but it’s a totally different purpose, a totally different format, a very different document.

And so when you’re applying to a non clinical role, particularly one in industry, the traditional CV format is not very informative to the person who’ll be making a hiring decision.

But even more importantly than that, it’s unlikely to ever reach them for reasons that we’ll get into in a second. So one reason to hire somebody is because the document you have today is most likely not the right document for the job.

  1. A second reason to hire a professional or professional service is that they will know best practices, not only in terms of the you know, sort of what are people doing these days in the world of resumes.

As a quick example, as you might know, historically, it used to be that you’d put a career objective at the top of your resume, right like what you were seeking or what you were doing. But that’s really been replaced now with sort of a headline and summary statement.

So they’ll be up to date and a professional service will be up to date on what is sort of the practice, right the best practice today. So that’s really helpful.

  1. The other thing that is, really, I think probably the best bang for your buck with a professional is they will be up to date on what is needed in order to be compliant or to play best with applicant tracking systems otherwise known as ATS.

So almost all large companies utilize some version of an applicant tracking system, which is a software screener. And this is why we say we know when you submit a resume, and you don’t hear anything back or you get an automatic rejection.

This is because a computer has rejected you. And this is, I think well recognized in across all industries, that there are pros and cons to this, you know, I’ve seen online that estimates that about 90% or so of large companies use some type of application software like this, in order to streamline their processes, because they get so many applications, there would be no way for a human to really sift through all of this.

But also a study by Harvard Business Review, which I’ll put in the show notes, if you’re interested estimates that again, close to that 90% of recruiters felt like there were qualified candidates that were eliminated by the ATS, because they didn’t closely enough match criteria established by the job description or they were otherwise filtered out. So almost everybody is using these.

And almost everybody agrees that qualified candidates are excluded by these. So it’s an imperfect tool, but it’s very, very widely used. And since a professional resume service is going to know how to optimize your documents, to have the best chance of being recognized, scored highly and get through the ATS that is perhaps worth it in and of itself.

  1. And the other main reason I would say it’s useful to hire a professional is because nobody likes doing formatting, right. So you probably have all of the information somewhere on your CV or in your brain. And I’m gonna circle back to that here in a second. You know all about yourself. And you can probably put it down on paper.

But formatting it is not everyone’s favorite task, this can be difficult to do, it can be hard to know whether something is aesthetically pleasing. Do you have the right amount of space?

Is it scannable you know, all of the things that are the appeal to a human being that’s looking at your resume, that is something that you often you know the words to write down, but you may not have that formatting skill, or you may just frankly not want to spend your time doing that. So you make a nice, clean, professional looking resume.

And by the way, since we were talking about formatting, and we’re talking about the ATS, it’s also important to realize that the format is not purely aesthetics. Formatting in terms of whether something’s in a header or footer, which is often not recognized by ATS is important.

Similarly, there are certain fonts that are more compatible with ATS than others. And certain things like it can’t often read a table very easily. So you shouldn’t use tables, even if you have the borders invisible.

You know, if you’re setting up your resume within a table format, it might look very nice, but it may not be able to be read normally, by ATS software, same for special characters and for graphics. And for a lot of things that may make a resume look cool visually. If it can’t be understood by ATS, then it’s you know, unless you have another way.

And this is why we always talk about networking. Unless you have another way of getting this in the hands of the decision maker.

In order to get past that first screening hurdle. It’s got to be able to be read by ATS and get through there. So you’ll want to be sure that your format works well with the software and also that your headings do, you know, that you’re using standard ATS compatible headings like work experience and education and that you’re not really veering too far away from those things, hoping to be creative or because maybe your institutional CV format is different.

They have to be really consistent in order for ATS to understand what it’s looking at. And a professional resume writer and professional resume service is going to know a lot more about this than I do and a lot more than you do. So this can be a really good reason to spend that money.

Alright, so those are some of the reasons why I think it might be a good idea to hire a professional resume writer. But before you go off and do that I want to put it like I guess I’d call them cons if we’re doing pros and cons really it’s more just food for thought. It’s something for you to think about.

Not a reason to, you know, avoid hiring a professional but just for you to keep in mind what they can help you with and what they really are going to be less helpful. So here are some of the cons or the food for thought.

  1. First and foremost, you cannot like entirely outsource your resume, you’re going to need to sit down with this person most likely either you know, over the phone, or with some type of long survey intake form, and you’re going to have to provide them the information, you’re probably not just going to be able to chuck your CV over and say you’re making a resume out of this, especially if you’re hiring sort of a general resume service that does not specialize in physician resumes, or in physician career transitions, because they may not that you know, they’re not subject matter experts, right, they’re not going to be able to look at your CV, and know what exactly they should be pulling out and putting into the resume.

So there’s probably going to be a fair amount of time and effort on your part, to either be interviewed by them or to be providing the information that you want in the resume. And to be quite frank, that is one of the biggest challenges for most physicians.

And for nearly everyone that I’ve worked with, either in coaching or through my course, the very, very first sort of question is, what kind of skills do I have?

What can I possibly write on my resume that’s relevant to the job that I want, because it seems so different from the job that I have. And a professional resume writer is not gonna be able to do that for you, that’s something you’re going to need to come up with on your own.

And it’s, it’s, there’s absolutely a way to do it, I teach everybody how to do it, there’s a strong formula for how to do this, but you have to do it, nobody’s gonna be able to do this for you.

There are some people who may be able to help coach and do it with you, but you’re going to have to do it. So just want to keep in mind that if you hire a professional resume service, you’re gonna get out what you put in.

  1. And again, I guess this all certainly hinges on hiring somebody who’s, you know, really skilled and qualified, I suppose, if you just Google, I mean, there’s probably an enormous number of people that you could hire, and it might be very difficult to vet them.

But in any case, I’m assuming that you get someone who’s really, really skilled, but even so they are not going to be able to pull out of your own experiences, all of the things, it’s going to require your effort. It’s not like you hire them, and then you magically get a document, that’s, that’s not going to work that way. If it does work, that way, it’s probably going to be an ineffective document to be quite honest.

  1. Another potential con is really food for thought about hiring somebody to write your professional resume is that you’re going to have to personalize this document for every single job that you apply to, regardless.

And so I think it’s really important to understand that even if you get an amazing high quality, really compelling document back from a professional resume writing service, that the work is not done yet. And ideally, that should serve as a master document for you, that you can then personalize for each and every job that you apply to. I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this.

Everybody wants a magic bullet that can get you around the need to personalize. But it really just doesn’t work that way. If you want the best results and the best chance, you’re going to need to personalize the resume. And I don’t mean just by changing, you know, like the the two on the cover letter, right? Like who you’re sending it to. But I mean of the keywords really throughout and a certain amount of curation of like, I’m going to keep these sections, I’m going to get rid of this example. You know, your master document, ideally, should have, really the totality of everything that you can bring to the table.

And then when you think about what a specific job is looking for, you want to be sure that your resume is really a marketing document that emphasizes the skills that you have, from that master document, that that the job that you’re applying for is looking for.

And you don’t want it to be buried with a bunch of other stuff, which is why you would not actually want to send that master document. If there’s extraneous things in there that aren’t going to be as relevant because people scan and they’re going to look through your document really quickly, they’re going to want to have an immediate, and again, assuming that you get through the ATS, the human that is looking is going to want a really immediate and obvious connection between your skills and background and the job that you’re applying for.

So it cannot be buried with all of the other amazing and good things that you’ve done that might be more relevant to a different kind of role. So even if someone has written a really effective master document for you, you’re going to need to go through for every job that you apply to and change the keywords to mirror the language that is in the job description.

And perhaps to update the skills and again to really pull up to the top and in your summary area and in the bullets that are under your work experience and education and other things like that.

The things that they are specifically looking for in the job description so that you match that well and that the ATS agrees you match it and can put you on through to it human being who can scan it and see and those dots will be connected for them, they can understand that you would be a good candidate to progress.

They can see that you would be a good candidate to progress to an interview, which of course, is the goal of the resume, right is to get you an interview, just to get you in the door to have an interview.

Once you do that, you know, that’s a whole different skill than interviewing. Well, that is separate. And we talk about that in industry insider as well. But the first thing, of course, is you have to get in front of somebody.

And so many people, when they’re looking at new jobs, or career transitions, send out resumes, or sometimes their CV, just to dozens or even hundreds of places, they’re just uploading it as sort of in bulk. And they’re not getting responses or they’re getting almost immediate, I’m talking within minutes.

Rejections are within 24 hours rejections, these are automatic rejections. Never take these personally, these aren’t about you. This is about the fact that your document did not match up with what ATS thinks the hiring manager is looking for.

Or if it did get to a human HR screener, that again, they weren’t really able to tell, because people aren’t going to be looking at your resume and then sitting and pondering and spending some time to think out loud, you know, could this person do the job, I wonder if given the chance, would they be great, the person who’s doing the hiring does not want to have to do that thinking, you have to do that for them, and then put your best case in that document, to get yourself in the room for an interview.

That’s what your resume should do for you. And I’m not sure that a professional resume writing service is going to be able to do that for you for career transitions, unless that’s something they specialize in.

And ideally, it should be someone who specializes in physician career transitions. Remember that even in that case, though, you’re going to need to provide a lot of the information, be interviewed and have sort of iterations where you really make your case, right, you have to have to sell yourself and toot your own horn a little bit.

In order for somebody who does not know you to be able to write a really effective document that highlights all of the important things like the professional will know, what are some really good things to put on the resume.

And if you have any of these couple of things, we’ve got to find a way to highlight that, but they may not be able to tell if you have that experience, or on the you know, pendulum swinging the other way, if you just kind of let them go, they might write something that is an exaggeration, you know, or an embellishment of what your actual experience is because they don’t know, or, and so if they’re if they’re making assumptions based on your CV, or they’re trying to kind of put that into lay language, you know, it might end up distorting either by minimizing or overstating what your professional experience is.

So no matter what you know, whether you hire somebody or you do this yourself, the hard part is figuring out what the companies are looking for and understanding. And notice, I didn’t say figuring out whether you have that, but understanding what you have, because you do have a lot of those skills, they’re often transferable skills.

So they kind of look and sound a little bit different based on your work history. But they’re absolutely applicable. But again, you have to do that. That storytelling, if you will, you have to connect that dot and you have to help make it obvious to someone who’s really not going to want to have to think about it too hard, why your professional experience actually does prepare you to be a really strong candidate.

And of course, you’ll have some new learning to do and so forth, but it really prepares you to be a strong candidate, someone they should consider hiring, and then you just have to ace that interview.

Just in case, it isn’t obvious at this point Because up to 90% or more of the major companies, the places where you’re going to be applying or using some kind of an ATS. And because up to 90% of recruiters admit that ATS is excluding all kinds of quality candidates based on things like insufficient keyword matching or inability to read the document. I hope it’s really, really obvious that the most important part about your entire career search is going to be networking. It’s really, I mean, the resume is really important. Yes.

But networking is even more important. And why is that? Because it is so much better to be able to know that you can email your resume to an actual human being who’s going to see it. And maybe that human being is the person doing the hiring.

Maybe that human being just happens to know or have contact with someone who was, you know, doing the hiring or who is even just a colleague of a person who is in a position to make a decision about a job that you’re interested in.

You have a bajillion times greater chance of landing that interview and getting that job If you know somebody and I don’t mean know them really, really well, like they’re your neighbor or your friend, you know, lifelong, a lifelong person, you know, person that you’ve known for a long time. I just mean somebody in your network.

So I know all of you are saying, I don’t know anybody. So that doesn’t apply to me. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, it is something that you absolutely can build from scratch, even if you don’t know a single person today.

And it is so important that you do that. That’s also a huge point of emphasis within Industry Insider, because, you know, as you’ve heard the cliche, right, that it’s maybe not what you know, but who you know.

And it’s easy, it’s easy. I know, it feels intimidating, it’s effortful, but it is easy to build a network of people in the field that you want to transition to, so that you will know somebody, and again, I’m not talking about a bestie. But I am talking about someone that you know well enough that you can email your resume to them, and that they can either look at it, or they can forward it onto the right person.

That’s a million times better than hoping to get past the ATS and then hoping to get past the HR professional doing the screening before your resume is ever in front of the person who would potentially be your boss, who’s actually making the decision about whether or not to interview you, and ultimately to hire you.

So I guess in summary, when I’m thinking about whether or not you want to spend somewhere between, you know, according to Google $300 – $1500, or more for professional resume writer or professional resume writing service, I would say if you’re really looking for somebody to optimize your format, both in terms of being aesthetically pleasing, and also being compatible with ATS, yes, I think that’s a good use of money.

If you are looking for somebody to help you get the right content on that document, then I would say, maybe, and the maybe is, you know, can you find really the right service and that service has to be a service that’s very hands on with you that’s going to interview you spend time with you iterate with you and really understand your professional experience, and not just sort of throw out something that’s canned or a regurgitated version of your CV that will not be effective.

So if you need help with the content, my recommendation is that you do a lot of that work yourself, because you’re the one who knows yourself the best. And again, I teach a formula for how to do that per the job descriptions in Industry Insider.

But if you’re going to be hiring a service, and you need help with the content, please make sure that the person or the service that you hire, again, does have some subject matter expertise of the field that you want to go into, also understands physicians and physician career transitions, and is going to be really hands on with you to make sure that that content actually is effective, in terms of sort of telling your professional story, and how you would be a great candidate.

The thing I can very easily say that I would recommend against is finding just sort of a generic or garden variety resume service, where you know, you send them whatever document you have today, and they sort of, you know, polish up the format and send it back to you.

I think that would be a waste of time for just about all of my listeners, because I’m assuming that the document that you have today is not an industry friendly resume, but instead is a CV, or you know, sort of your first stab at something in terms of trying to turn your CV into a resume, but you’re still not really quite sure or quite confident that you have the right content in there, I would definitely not recommend hiring a sort of hands off cookie cutter, generic resume service, even though those can be quite expensive.

And they may be outstanding at putting together you know, even executive or C suite level resumes. But they need to understand they need to have the building blocks.

And I think that what physicians are doing when they’re transitioning careers is just so specialized, if you will, that I don’t think those building blocks are apparent and obvious to you know, an executive resume writer, unless this is their specialty. So that’s the one thing that I can very clearly recommend against. I would not spend your money that way.

So as with many questions around careers, resumes and all of that good stuff. There’s really not a short answer. There’s not a one size fits all answer. But there’s more. Pros and cons are considerations for this or for that. I hope that this episode has helped you to think about what your needs really are. And if it’s formatting, then by all means, yes, go ahead and hire that resume service. If it is understanding what your transferable skills are, because you’re not even sure and you don’t even know what kind of skills the jobs that you’re looking for even want. That is not the time to hire a resume service.

That’s the time to work with a career transition coach to take a course like mine to do some kind of other work that will prepare you to be able to put together a really great resume. And then once you’ve done that part, if you’re all done there, then I think sure, again, if you, you have all the information, the building blocks all sorted, but you don’t have it on paper, then you could probably hire a professional resume writer who can, again be hands on with you and understand those building blocks that content, they’re not able to make it for you.

So that’s really the most important part. And that part, for better or worse, is something that only you can do. But the good news is, you absolutely can do it just need a little bit of guidance.

I hope this episode has helped you and just like Haiti, if you’re a listener and you have a question that hasn’t been covered in my prior episodes, please do feel free to send me a note you can reach me on my website marjoriestieglermd.com and send me a note, let me know what is what is on your mind.

What kind of questions do you have? I’m always looking for that inspiration. I’m happy to address it in a future episode. That’s it for today. Bye for now.

Before you go, please leave me a review on Apple Podcasts, share and subscribe to this podcast. Your support makes all the difference and it truly helps this information reach someone who may really need it. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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