Is a CV writer worth using? By Chris Cutting
A recent post on LinkedIn asked this question and as a CV Adviser I thought it a very good and fair question. The answer is not a simple yes or no and needs exploring.
It’s a question that will probably arise increasingly as a result of Covid 19 related redundancies. The recruitment market is likely to become ‘job led’ as recruiters know it. This means there are more people than jobs available, making it very competitive for applicants. Therefore individuals will be looking for anything that gives them the ‘edge’ in job applications. This can mean using a professional CV writer.
Most job searchers are concerned with beating the competition to an interview and hopefully a job. Therefore they want to ensure their CV will help achieve this. As a result some will seek free advice/ opinion from recruiters and professional friends as well as look for online tips. Others will pay anything from £25 to £3,000 for a professional to produce a CV that gives compelling reasons for a hirer to invite the applicant to interview. It’s a tricky maze for job searchers to navigate.
To avoid disappointment and the feeling of money badly spent, an understanding of the scope and limitation of what each service offers is important. Therefore a brief analysis might help the job hunter make the appropriate choice when wanting help with writing their CV.
The CV writing market
There is a plethora of consultancies and individuals offering CV writing services. They come from a variety of backgrounds including HR, journalism, secretarial, company executives and recruiters. They offer varying fees from £25 to £3,000 a CV depending on your level of seniority or experience of writing a CV. Many will claim to produce a ‘job winning CV’ and this claim also needs exploring.
Critical to how suitable each resource is, depends on how good you are you are at CV writing. With experience as employer, recruiter and CV writer, CV Adviser knows some individuals are good CV writers. However this is a minority. Most applicants have CVs that can be made much more effective both in achieving an interview and performing well during interview.
Before going further, the claim of ‘job winning’ CVs needs examination. It’s a marketing slogan to entice you to spend your money. However, in my opinion, it is somewhat misleading. Surely job winning is a combination of your interview performance AND the CV!!
Job winning CV
You could have a ‘job winning’ CV and interview poorly, thereby losing the job. Also, how can a CV writer know your competition? Therefore how could they write a better CV than your competitors? There is no such thing as certainty in winning a job. The best anyone can do is to increase the likelihood of success of your application and interview performance.
The skilled, knowledgeable and experienced CV writer does this with you. They will know what works and what doesn’t. They will understand the intricacies, dynamics and anatomy of a CV and how this works to help you at interview. How much you tap into this experience depends on which service and budget you choose. Whatever you do, be wary of such claims of ‘job winning’ CVs. It can lead to bitter disappointment, especially at a time when circumstances are difficult.
A brief analysis
This is a brief analysis of the types of CV writing services on offer. It is by no means extensive. Hopefully it gives useful information with which to make a choice when considering a CV writer.
Using Google you can find tips, free templates, and snippets of wisdom. These are useful if you know what you are doing. The same is true of CV templates. They at least provide a structure and some clarity. Other than that, they have limited use. There are many templates/styles and are useful for different reasons. Unless you’re aware of the benefits and drawbacks of each, they can confuse and hamper your application. If you don’t know what you are doing, you may end up with a CV rather like a patchwork jacket. However, compared to an M&S or Saville Row jacket, won’t present you in the best light possible
Budget CV Writer / Free Review
You can submit your CV to a firm of CV writers who will charge £25 to £50. They will have a short conversation with you and then reformat your CV. What they will more than likely do is make your CV as ATS friendly (see an earlier blog), make the presentation attractive and introduce ‘power’ words. Though helpful, it won’t improve the quality of the content. Bear in mind the content is what you are going to be judged on in relation to a job’s requirements. This is true if the content isn’t well understood and presented. The free review is likely to be a critique telling you what could be improved and not necessarily how. This leaves you to figure out how to improve your CV. You may even get a few tips if in the process. This can get you part of the way to where you want to be.However it may not be as effective as you’d like your CV to be.
Mid to Expensive CV Writer
The most expensive end of the market tends to service board executives and managers. It will include the services already outlined above. In addition there are extensive interviews by an experienced hirer, a number of written CVs, reviews and ongoing support. Full interview coaching, improvement of online profile (see CV Hacks #2 & #3) and support in networking and job hunting. The middle part of the market will contain only some of these elements.
All services will seek to draw out your Unique Selling Points (USPs) and specific achievements. These include ones you may not be aware of, or not included, dismissing them as not of interest to employers.
To avoid disappointment, take time to understand what is on offer and if it meets your expectation. A quick example illustrates the point.
If you have an extensive work history and a reasonable CV, don’t expect a basic CV writer to work magic for £25. You could be setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s more likely you will have a document which; will flow better, is ATS friendly and easy to read but not qualitatively improved. It will help towards an interview but not as much as it could in standing out against the competition. The only caveat here is if you are one of the few who is good at CV writing, interviews well and just needs a basic service to make it ATS friendly.
In considering spending any amount on a CV service, affordability plays a part in your decision. Before dismissing any service on the basis of cost, consider this. Would you invest £25 – £3000 in a venture knowing you are likely to get back between £25,000 and £60,000? Naturally the answer is yes. This is exactly what you do by engaging a reputable and experienced CV writer.
The fee, as a percentage of your new salary, is relatively small. Therefore is this not worth the investment? The next decision is which CV writer will you choose? At the top end you will get a dedicated consultant guiding you through the process including in depth interview and introduction to effective job applications and search tools. At the bottom end, you get a reformatted CV with very little interaction between you and the CV writer. Try to have an idea of what help you want before engaging a CV writer.
Ask the CV Writer
Submit your CV and ask the following question………“How exactly will you improve my CV?”
- If you get waffle that you don’t understand, please walk away.
- If you get something like “we will introduce power words, make it ATS friendly, make it flow and improve the layout”. You are getting a basic service which is useful, but has limitations. Is this what you want? Will it achieve what you want?
- If you get something like “We will explore your experience, put you through extensive interview, involve you in writing the CV. We will explain how to present it in such a way that compels a recruiter to call you for interview.” Then you’re getting the top end service. You will have a CV that is likely to get you an interview but also help you during the interview. Is this what you want?
What do the responses mean?
The first response is self-explanatory.
The second response generally means you will get someone who can write a CV. It will look pleasing to the eye, easy to read and impresses with power words. It will also fulfil the ATS criteria. They won’t necessarily understand the importance of your USPs. They also may not have experience of interviewing extensively or understanding the dynamic of a CV within an interview.
The third response necessitates an experienced interviewer with history of successful hiring. They can read between the lines of your CV and delve further into your work history. This is to ascertain further value you have to offer that isn’t included in your CV. It may be something you take for granted, or you are unaware of the potential interest to an employer. Not only this, they will be able to identify what is relevant from your experience to each application you make, thereby prioritising it. At the mid to top end of the fee scale, it is this very valuable experience and knowledge gained from a rich and varied experience that you are paying for. It is the very least you can expect for the money you spend here and is what is likely to make the real difference in compelling a recruiter to invite you to interview.
The Extra Mile
A few CV writers will go the extra mile. They will offer a service similar to CV Adviser at the middle and top end services. You will be coached in HOW to approach CV writing, job applications, online presence, and interviews. You will be guided in writing your own CV. This means that you are not likely to need such services again for a long time. You will know how to construct an effective CV and take ownership of the CV. This is very different to being handed a document that someone else has constructed based on interview. Experience shows that this CV is usually the most successful for gaining interviews and helping you during the interview.
Are CV writers worth engaging? Yes! Even more so if they go the extra mile for you. However there is a caveat, to get the best results and to avoid disappointment, be clear what you want, what you’re getting and what your expectations are before engaging a CV writer.
As a final note, take time to shop around, don’t go to the first you see on Google! Call them up and have a conversation. Hopefully you will get to talk to the CV writer, ask the suggested question and listen carefully to the answers. You also want to find a rapport with and feel confident in your CV writer/coach they will help you achieve your goal. A CV that increases your likelihood of success of getting to interview ahead of the competition.