It’s the document we all love to hate: the resume.
Updating your resume can be a great ego boost--or a period of mind-numbing self-reflection. But it’s always time-consuming. I typically ignore my resume until a new job opportunity arises. Then I spend hours ripping apart my house in search of the disk that holds the most recent version.
Why not let someone else do it?
The interactive resume-writing business is rather new. But a few hours of searching turned up three e-resume firms that appeared promising. So I hired each of them to update my personal calling card.
E-resumes aren’t cheap--the ones I chose ran from $125 to $450. And they were big time-eaters: I spent three hours filling out one biographical form on a resume that wasn’t finished for two weeks. The e-resumes also required a lot of proofreading to finesse sloppy writing and poor punctuation and grammar.
In the end, I thought it was worth the money and time saved to hire these firms, because one produced a well-rounded resume that I would have been hard-pressed to come up with on my own.
This 2-year-old firm is in a partnership with the career site Headhunter.net.
To start, I filled out a brief interactive questionnaire with contact and payment information, job experience and education. E-resume prices on the site range from $99 to $200; I picked the professional resume, for $150. (Like other cyber resume sites, the firm will draft cover and thank-you letters for an additional fee.)
This site and others asked me to send my current resume electronically, but I didn’t because I still couldn’t find that ever-elusive disk.
Two days later, someone from E-resume.net called and said she would send me a questionnaire by e-mail. This electronic form took 80 minutes to fill out.
They asked me to describe a typical day as a writer, my writing style, my favorite stories, my biggest challenge (pleasing editors) and my biggest accomplishments (pleasing editors).
Although my hands ached from typing, I was impressed by the time “my team” of five writers took to understand my field of expertise. They did so by formulating questions for the second questionnaire based on answers I gave in a preliminary questionnaire I filled out on their Web site.
Five days after I submitted the second questionnaire, I received the first draft of my resume. Unfortunately, the writing was a mess. By the time I fixed the bad grammar and punctuation I may as well have written it myself. But I was impressed by the compelling way the resume was organized. The writers also did a great job of pinpointing my areas of expertise.
After I sent my suggested changes, I received their second draft by e-mail in a few hours. This time I made only a few changes. My final resume was sent the next day, two weeks after I submitted my original query.
To get an outside opinion, I showed this e-resume--along with the others--to hiring and development experts at The Times. They liked E-resume.net’s three-sentence summation, although it could just as easily go in a cover letter to make room for several career highlights that were left out.
These experts said this resume was the best of the batch, in part because it sums up my experience by giving specific examples of stories I’ve written and other accomplishments. It did overreach in one place, my readers said, where it said I was “reputed as the top researcher for the paper.” There’s a fine line between being self-promotional and letting your accomplishments speak for themselves, the experts said.
This site is operated by Kim Isaacs, owner of Advanced Career Systems--a career counseling service--and Monster.com’s resume-writing expert.
Of the three services, Resumepower.com was the most communicative, usually answering my questions the same day. Its representatives spent the most time on the phone with me, asking for clarifications of my career and goals and providing advice.
To start, I filled out a brief interactive form on the company’s Web site asking for contact information, professional goals, most recent job title, number of positions I’ve held, desired salary and education.
I asked for a professional resume and waited for Isaacs’ bid. (Her resume prices range from $300 to $550.) The next day I received an eye-popping $450 bid by e-mail.
I accepted the bid and was required to sign a three-page work order dictating how much money I would be charged for each phase and how many revisions I was allowed (two). It stated that Isaacs’ work is copyrighted (I can send it to prospective employers but not resell it) and that she wasn’t liable if my resume contained misleading information.
After I signed and e-mailed the order, I received a whopping 13-page e-mail questionnaire attachment. It took me three hours to fill it out.
This form was frustrating because it wasn’t tailored to my field. Isaacs called me the afternoon I e-mailed her the questionnaire and we chatted for 40 minutes about what she should focus on.
Five days later I received a two-page first draft. I spent about 40 minutes making modest style changes and reworking several points.
The second resume was better, and I received the final copy two weeks after I submitted my original query. To receive a final copy I had to sign an authorization form saying I won’t hold the firm responsible for errors.
The final draft was plagued with formatting problems. The attachment ran over from its intended two pages to three. I e-mailed Isaacs, who said resumes look different when they’re opened by different PCs. I had to spend about 30 minutes formatting it in Windows so I could print it out on two pages.
This resume is very detailed, too much so for some who read it.
I wouldn’t send this resume to potential employers because I think its length could scare them away.
This year-old e-resume service takes its standing seriously: I never talked to a live human being, even through e-mail. And all the e-mail I received from the service read like a form letter.
I give Resume.com high marks for fast service. My resume was completed in nine days. But because of the lack of communication, I felt like I didn’t get the personalized service necessary.
To start, I filled out an interactive questionnaire that asked about the position I was seeking, the skills that qualify me for this job, what people say they like about me, my work experience, my achievements and my education.
It took me about 30 minutes to type in my answers.
The firm’s e-resume prices run from $95 to $225. I chose the classic resume for $125 (now $145). The site uses a “certified network of nearly 100 writers.” The first draft arrived three days later, and it was pretty clean. My edit took only 10 minutes.
I received the second draft the next morning and made two other changes. The final draft came five days later. I got a kick out of the declarative sentence in bold at the beginning: “An award-winning journalist with considerable experience and talent in the coverage of various subjects.”
The Times’ hiring experts said this sentence was an attention-getter but needed more examples about what the experience and talent were. They also said there were too many adjectives and not enough specific examples.
The accomplishments listed under the jobs I’ve held are vague, such as: “Received numerous in-house awards.” But because Resume.com never asked for examples of awards I’ve won, these weren’t included on the resume.
The Resume.com document had something the others lacked: keywords--such as journalist, newspaper reporter, beat reporter--used by human resource managers to filter out resumes electronically.
E-resume.net and Resumepower.com sent me several copies of my resume on heavy paper with envelopes and a disk with the document saved on it. Resume.com’s Web site says the service will ask whether users prefer to receive their finished resume on disk, via e-mail or as a hard copy. The service never asked which I preferred and just sent the final document by e-mail.
I still had to grapple with self-promotional statements and formatting hassles on these e-resumes. But it was nice to see how others would try to employ the elusive qualities that make a resume sing.
Times staff writer Jennifer Oldham writes about real estate.
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The good: Took the idiosyncrasies of my field into consideration in the questionnaire
The bad: Poor grammar, punctuation and sentence construction required lots of rewriting
Bottom line: The best of the bunch, largely because it provides specific examples of my work and awards in an accessible format
The good: Thoroughly highlighted my accomplishments; staff communicated well
The bad: The two-page resume is too long and repetitive
Bottom line: More money bought quantity instead of a concise, eye-catching resume
The good: Fast service with no lengthy questionnaires to strain hand and wrist muscles
The bad: Complete absence of communication by e-mail or telephone to clarify skills
Bottom line: A weak document that doesn’t go into detail about my experience