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Job Search Help: Is it Worth Paying For?

April 13, 2012
Should you pay for job search help?

This week I answered a question on LinkedIn that probably goes through many job seekers’ minds at some point:

Paying for job search help such as using headhunters, professional resume writers, LinkedIn, etc. Is it worth it? Why or why not?

My response was voted “Best Answer,”  so I thought I’d share an overview here and elaborate a bit.  Let’s take the question piece by piece, since it’s not all the same answer.

Headhunters and Recruiters

It was not uncommon 30 years ago for candidates to pay for a “Headhunter” or  to help them find a job, but this dynamic has shifted.  Presently,  the employer will typically pay the Recruiter to conduct a search.  Many Recruiters work on a contingency fee basis, meaning the company doesn’t pay them unless they find the right candidate – and they are competing with other Recruiters to find YOU.  So, they have a pretty strong motive to get you hired if you are the right person for the job.  What this means for job seekers is that you must be find-able!  If you make it easy for them to compare your skills to their orders (an order is a job opening), you’ll  have a better chance of getting presented to a hiring company.

It is important to also keep in mind that you are not the client in this relationship – the hiring company is. You are the product. It’s the Recruiter’s job to find you for a job, not to find a job for you.   The downside of working with recruiters is that they are in the business of sales – they must sell their client company and the job to their candidates – and sell the candidate to the company.   This means they will paint a rosy picture of the job opportunity and it’s up to the job seeker to do their homework to determine if it’s even a job they’d want.

Professional Resume  / LinkedIn Profile Writers

As a professional resume writer myself, I would love to say that every job seeker should hire one, but that’s just not true.   However, based on comments I hear from Recruiters and the resumes I see at job fairs, most job seekers need some kind of help.  Here are some things you should consider when determining if you should get help with writing your resume or your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Are you a highly skilled writer who has specific knowledge of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of resume writing?
  2. Are you familiar with all the LinkedIn fields and how best to use them to get returned in searches?
  3. Do you know how an applicant tracking system works? Are you familiar with both key word optimization and formatting issues that can determine if your resume will go into the ATS black hole?

Bonus Question: If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, do you have the ability and desire to learn, and the luxury of time to go through the trial and error process, even if it takes months?  

If you answered “Yes” to the top three these questions or the Bonus Question, you do not need to hire someone. You should purchase books, read industry blogs, and take advantage of the multitude of free services that are available to help job seekers through this process.  However, if you answered “No” to any of them, keep reading for more information to determine if it is “worth paying for.”

Let’s say you’ve already done the work yourself.   If that is the case, evaluate the response you are getting from employers on your resume.  If you are applying for jobs that are strong matches for your skills, you should be getting at least a 20% call-back rate.  If you aren’t, it’s a good sign that your resume could be improved.  People who hire professional resume writers are often folks who thought they could do it themselves, and 6 months later with ZERO interviews, realize they need help. If you’ve already given it your best effort and aren’t seeing results, it’s time to call in reinforcements.

If you are consistently getting interviews but no offers, you may not need a resume writer, but an interview coach instead.

So, is it worth the money? Let’s do the math. Most quality resume writers charge anywhere from $300 – $1,000+ Let’s pick a nice round number like $500 just as an example.  If your target job will be making $50,000 per year, that’s approximately 2.5 days’ pay. So, if you start getting interviews and your job search is shortened by anything more than those 2.5 days – you’ve made your money back.

It is possible to find some “resume writing” services online for less than $300.  Before you use them, ask:  How much expertise does the writer have?  How will the writer find out about your personal brand and accomplishments to know what to add or enhance on your resume to match your target position? Remember that they must make a profit, so how much time and effort do you expect to be spent on your order based on what you are spending?  Be sure you know the answers to these questions and are comfortable with them before you use a low-cost service.

LinkedIn Premium Membership

Many job seekers wonder if it’s worth paying for a premium LinkedIn membership.  There is no blanket answer to this question, but in many cases, it is not.  The benefits are really the added advanced search functionality, and the ability to see more analytic reports.  I recommend that you conduct an advanced people search to see the additional fields that will be available to you if you pay.  Are those fields that you would like to be able to use in a search?  Do you have a plan for what to do with the search results?   For me personally, I find that my LinkedIn activity in groups, personal messages to connections, and answering questions gives me a better return on effort than the advanced search fields, so I choose not to pay.  However, many people do see value in the paid account, so it comes down to a personal decision and whether YOU will use the additional services.

Should you pay for job search help?

The “is it worth it” question boils down to the same factors as any other hire-or-do-it-yourself purchasing decision:
– CAN you do it?
– Do you WANT to do it?
– Can someone else do it better?
– Is the service something you’re willing to pay for?

You can see the original Question and all 10 answers here: 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. carterarchitecture permalink
    April 15, 2012 4:44 PM

    Shared again with Linked-In and Twitter. Great Advice Karleen

  2. April 17, 2012 6:20 AM

    Some great tips – a paid LinkedIn account is well worth looking into. I would say as a job-seeker you probably get more from a paid account if you are thinking about freelancing because you can use it is great for pitching ideas to specific targeted people within specific organisations.

  3. farouk111 permalink
    May 10, 2012 1:59 AM

    i think of it in terms of investment
    i pay some money to get some money when i get the job : )
    thank you

  4. June 15, 2012 6:11 PM

    If paying for assistance with writing resumes or profiles is a concern, talk with some of the people you meet at career or workforce development centers about trading skills. When people think of networking they usually focus on finding out who you know, but an oft overlooked aspect of networking is trading on what you know. By mixing with people at career centers you may meet someone with a special talent for resume writing that may be in need of your skills.

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