Writing a strong CV is important, but it is also hard. You might have heard that some people hire a CV writer, or maybe you have seen ads for CV writing services promising a free professional review of your CV. It is tempting—especially if you are desperate for a new job or your search has dragged on for a while.
Is it a good idea to have your CV written by a professional? The short answer is yes, it can definitely be beneficial to your job search.
Before you spend your money, however, there are a few things you should know—including what exactly a CV writer or reviewer does, how to decide if you should hire one, and, if you decide to go for it, how to do your homework and pick the right one for you.
What a CV Writer and/or Reviewer Does
First, you need to make sure you understand what a CV writer or reviewer can—and cannot—do for you. If you do not have the right expectations going into the process, you are likely to be disappointed.
What is the Difference Between CV Writing and CV Reviewing?
As you look to hire a professional to help with your CV, you will come across the terms “CV writing” and “CV reviewing” and it is important to understand the range of things these terms can mean. They are almost—but not quite—interchangeable.
Most services and individuals offering “CV writing” will not actually create an entirely new CV for you from nothing. Instead, CV writing means rewriting, something that we can build from, to understand their experiences and key accomplishments.
Most CV writers will want to see your existing CV, and they will usually need you to fill out a questionnaire or worksheet or have a long conversation with them about your experience and goals—most commonly, you will need to do a combination of these things.
The intention is to avoid the perception that you will be getting a CV written from scratch. However, in its lightest (and cheapest) form, CV reviewing can mean a professional looking over your CV and providing some actionable advice for you to make updates yourself. This is often what you are getting if you sign up for a free CV review. Tread lightly here since the advice may not be personalized to you: I, once submitted my CV to the same free CV review service as my daughter, and we got nearly identical feedback despite our extremely different goals and industries.
You might also choose to work with a coach who reviews the CV you have written, shares advice on how to improve it, and then gives you feedback on the changes you make. This kind of service will probably do the most to help you learn how to write better CVs yourself in the future.
What Can a CV Writer Do for my CV?
Your CV is a story about why you are the right person for a given job. Experienced CV writers are adept at asking the right questions to pull out the most relevant information about you and packaging it in a way that tells an engaging and persuasive story.
There are also some common errors that (good) CV writers will not make or will catch, including bullet points that list responsibilities rather than achievements and a lack of consistency throughout the CV (usually because people are just adding recent jobs onto old CVs without making sure everything tells a coherent story and is formatted the same way).
You can definitely do all these things for yourself, but if you are overwhelmed, stuck, or don’t have the time or energy to immerse yourself in the nuances of CV best practices, a professional might be the right choice.
Do I Still Need to Be Involved in the CV Writing Process?
Hiring a CV writer does not mean that you will magically receive a perfect CV without any thought or work on your part. “If you want to do it right, it should be a partnership. This means the writer is learning about you and your professional history, listening to what you want from your CV and your next job, and getting input from you throughout the drafting and revising process. This also means you are putting the effort in to share all the relevant information needed to make your CV the best it can be.
A CV writer should gear their work toward the types of jobs you plan to apply to, so a professionally written base CV should already showcase most of your most relevant experience. But every job is a little different and you should expect to make tweaks. Perhaps a certain company is looking for someone with knowledge of uncommon software that you happen to have experience with, but it’s not on your base CV because most companies don’t use it. Adding the name of that software to your professionally written CV could be what lands you the interview.
Will a CV Writer Design My CV?
CV writers often will format your CV, but if you are looking for someone to make a heavily designed CV, it is not a given. And that is probably a good thing. Applicant tracking systems (ATSs)—the programs that many companies use to process and organize CVs—cannot always parse fancy formatting. So a good CV writer will make sure your CV has clean, simple formatting an ATS can read.
If you are looking for a heavily designed CV, you should be up front about that expectation and prepared for the possibility that you’ll need to pay more or even hire someone separately.
How to Decide If You Should Hire Professional Help for Your CV?
Almost anyone can benefit from a CV writer but working with one can be especially productive in some scenarios. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you decide whether to write your own CV, hire a professional, or even seek out an entirely different kind of career coaching.
Do You Know What Your Job Search Goals Are?
Effective CVs are “a combination of your goals and your history. If you do not have the goals piece, that makes the CV a lot less effective.
At its core, “your CV is a marketing tool” that is selling you as the right person for the job. If you were marketing a new product, you would want to know who your customer is; if you’re writing a CV, you want to know who your target audience is. There is no single ideal CV for each person based only on their history. The best CV for a candidate looking to land a digital marketing coordinator job is different from the best CV for that same candidate to get a sales development role or even a social media coordinator role. Different experiences, achievements, and skills matter for different jobs—your CV needs to reflect the ones that matter for the jobs you are applying to.
CV writers can also help motivate you, especially if you are feeling deflated from a job hunt—with all its rejections and radio silences.
How to Pick the Right CV Writer
If you have decided you want to hire someone, you’ll quickly realize that “there are thousands and thousands of them out in the world who say they can help you with a CV. While many of these are legitimate, not all of them are going to be a fit for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you find a CV writer or service who will give you the biggest leg up on your job search.
Is the CV Writer or Service Reputable?
Before selecting a CV service or writer, you want to make sure that your choice is qualified and that you will get the product they are promising.
Look at reviews—both on their own website and third-party sites.
Understand the criteria. If you are looking at CV services with a lot of writers, you might want to find out what standards and vetting processes they have in place. The service’s website might include this info or you could ask for it directly before agreeing to use them.
Ask for referrals and recommendations from your network. That way you know that someone you trust was happy with the work the CV writer did.
Are There Red Flags?
Here are a few red flags to watch out for from CV writers or services. Most are not definite dealbreakers, but might be a signal to dig deeper or consider looking elsewhere:
Job guarantees: Some CV services will guarantee that you will get a job in a certain number of days or your money back. Be wary—there’s likely fine print with some extreme qualifications you need to meet to be eligible. Plus, no one can realistically guarantee that you will get a job based on your CV alone, no matter how fantastic it is. Landing a job depends on so many factors—including the job market, the number of jobs you apply to, your experience, your performance in interviews, and the speed of the hiring process where you are applying.
Extreme prices: Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money. At prices that low, you might not be getting personalized advice or your information could be sold to third parties for advertising purposes. On the flip side, if a CV writer is charging in the high triple digits or more for just a CV (and you are not a C-suite executive), make sure they have the experience and results to justify it or skip straight to cheaper options.
Lack of transparency: Before paying for anything, you want to know what you are getting, right? A service or writer should be up front about their prices and process, including how many rounds of edits you get and what type of file your CV will be delivered in.
Generic advice or lack of input needed from you: If you have already submitted your CV for a review, and it is clear from the results that whoever wrote the feedback didn’t read your CV, tread very carefully before giving the service more money. Or if a CV service does not ask for more information about what kinds of jobs you are looking for or anything else about your experience, consider whether your money is better spent on something more personalized.
What’s Your Timeline?
You should have an idea of when you need your CV to make sure that the CV writer you choose is able to deliver on time. If you want to start your job search “soon,” spending a few weeks on your CV might be fine, but if you spotted a perfect job you want to apply right away before the posting comes down, you might need it in a few days—in which case you need to make sure the CV writer can meet your deadline (and you should be willing to pay extra for a rush job.
What’s Your Budget?
CV review and writing services can range in price from free to thousands. Typically, you should expect to pay at least one hundred to a few hundred Rand for a professional to rewrite or revise your CV. Folks far along in their careers, especially at the executive level, tend to have to pay more than early-career job seekers.
What Is Your Ideal Process?
As mentioned earlier, every CV writer and reviewer needs some amount of input from you. But the amount and type of involvement you have in the process can vary. Do you want some tips on your CV that you can use to update it yourself? Do you want the writer to handle the writing and go back and forth with several rounds of revisions to make sure it is exactly how you would like it?
Think this through before you look for CV writers and be prepared to ask probing questions about their writing or review process to make sure it lines up with your expectations and needs. If one CV writer is not offering what you would like, move on to another.
Do They Have Experience Helping People in Your Role, Industry, and Situation?
While looking for writers, see what industries, careers, and situations they have experience with to ensure they have a track record of helping people like you. A CV writer who has a background in the industry you’re looking for work in is especially helpful because they “can speak the language.
Is Their Personality and Style a Good Match for You?
Before you make a final choice, try to get a sense of who the writer is beyond their experience. Read anything they have written on their website, LinkedIn, social media, and various professional profiles. Pay attention to both tone and content. Are they warm and bubbly or no-nonsense and to-the-point? Neither is good or bad per se, but you might prefer one over the other.
You likely work better with some colleagues than others because of their personalities and work styles. A CV writer is no different. You will get your best possible CV from someone you gel with.