What does it take to become a certified resume writer?

Certified Resume Writer

There’s more to writing resumes than most people realize. And, there’s far more to operating a successful resume writing business, even as a one-person show, beyond just writing resumes. It was apparent to me from the get-go that in order for me to develop a level of trust with potential clients, demonstrate my ability to write a compelling resume, and perhaps most importantly, differentiate myself in the market, that I would need some credentials. So, I set out to become a certified resume writer.

After some research, I learned that there exist multiple professional associations that offer resume writing professionals platforms in which to learn, communicate with peers, and earn credentials. I chose to earn my first certification from The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, better known as PARW/CC.

My first certification in resume writing, which I earned from PARW/CC is called the Certified Professional Resume Writer, CPRW for short. The CPRW designation has been the golden standard for many years, and is often a requisite for other certifications offered by Career Directors International, CDI.

In order to earn my CPRW through PARW/CC, I had to have some foundations for how to write a resume. I was tested on different types of resume structures (reverse chronological vs. functional). I was also tested on my ability to decipher a large amount of information and put together a complete resume. It was challenging yet rewarding. Earning my CPRW certification would pave the way for more.

After gaining exposure working with senior and executive-level clients as a contract writer, I was ready to step my resume writing game up. I wanted to really differentiate myself and give potential clients even more reason to work with me. CDI offers a lot of different certifications. So, I set forth to become a Certified Executive Resume Master, CERM, for short. This was a certification held by less than 4 dozen people WORLDWIDE!

In order to earn the CERM designation, I had to compile and submit a portfolio of the work I had completed for my executive clients and submit to a blind panel of the industry’s best and brightest resume writers. Additionally, I had to pass an exam that tested my overall business acumen. Not only did my portfolio pass unanimously during the first submission, but I completed the exam as 1 of the top 10 to achieve above 99%!

The hard work has paid off in many ways. I have learned a tremendous amount about my craft (which I continue to do), and have provided my clients with the confidence they need that they are working with one of the best. As I’ll touch on in another article, I have also earned multiple certifications in job interview preparation coaching. This includes my CEIP (Certified Employment Interview Professional) from PARW/CC and my CEIC (Certified Employment Interview Consultant) from CDI.

Job Interviews: Don’t Stop Short!

Don't Stop Short

Since I began interview preparation coaching I’ve noticed a common trend in the responses that my clients often give, that is, they stop short in their responses. By this I mean that when my clients give a response to an interview question, they don’t often enough relate their experience, skills, and abilities back to the company they are interviewing with. For example:

Question: Tell me about yourself

Response: Since graduating college a decade ago I have had a very successful career in sales, being promoted and given progressively greater responsibilities. When I’m not working I love playing guitar, petting turtles, and reading books. I am very excited about this opportunity.

Analysis: While the above statement is of course made up, it is not far from the mark. What’s left out? Examples of key skills that can be attributed to a successful career in sales, a CAR (Challenge, Action, Result) example, and how this is important to the company you are interviewing for.

Note: It is important to remember that the organization at hand has a pain point. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be hiring anyone. So take the time to think about that before you head into your interview so you can tailor your responses to address their pain point. For example:

Question: Tell me about yourself

Response: Over the course of my career I have excelled in sales both as an individual contributor and as a sales team leader which has been demonstrated by my ability to identify and execute on effective sales strategies, utilizing data and market research to identify new business opportunities, and by my ability to transform individuals and sales teams to become top performers. An example of this would be when I was recruited for the Widget Company, who was experiencing a slump in their sales. I redirected their strategy after extensive market analysis, developed the way the sales team approached the sales process, and as a result reversed the trend and produced enough revenue to generate profits for the first time in several years. I am confident I can bring my extensive knowledge and experience to make a fast, positive impact for your company. I would be happy to share more examples with you if you’d like.

Analysis: Clearly this type of response is superior. We have immediately set the tone for being a sales leader and have identified 3 ways in which this can be supported. We then give the interviewer a quick CAR example and then relate this all back to the company at hand. Finally, we make the offer to provide more examples, which you should (and better) have ready!

By shifting the focus of your responses back to the company you are indicating to them that you are not in it as much for yourself (i.e. just there for earning potential), as you are making a positive contribution to the organization in which you are interested.

What is a “good” resume?

Great Resume

What is a “good” Resume?

A long, long time ago in a job market far, far away job seekers used to be able to get away with writing down their job description, include whether they went to school, add a name and phone number, and it would be considered a resume. Welcome to the present, where software programs read our resumes and decisions are made in mere seconds. What makes a good resume? What does it take to pass the many tests in order to be considered for a callback? Let’s examine a few key items:

Do you have the right content?

It’s not just how you say it, but what you say. Sounds as natural as it feels to write about yourself. Indeed, it is hard. You need to make sure you have the right content in your resume to pass the basic qualification requirements in addition to satisfying the ATS systems. So what do I mean?

 – Keywords – Not just any keywords, but the right keywords.

 – Context – You need to be able to paint a picture for the reader, give some clues as to how you were effective in your past roles.

 – Accomplishments – Describing your accomplishments is almost as important as actually having produced those results.

Formatting is essential

It is surprising for me to see (or maybe it’s not really) that many of the resumes I review, a good percentage of which are made using templates, totally fail the formatting requirements needed to pass most ATS programs. Here are some deal breakers and grey areas to be aware of:

 –  Headers –  What information goes there?

 – Tables – how, when, and where to use them

 – Columns – vertical elements are nice in a resume, but columns?

 – Font – It may or may not make a difference, it depends on several factors. One thing is for sure though, NO COMIC SANS!

Formatting is SO essential, there’s more!

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how formatting can be the key to having a “good” resume. What I haven’t gone into is the following:

 – Spacing

 – Font size

 – Section titles

 – Borders

 – Boxes

 – Symbols/Characters/Icons/Visuals

 – Bullets

Honestly, the list goes on. There is so much more that goes into a good, nay, great resume, that most busy professionals don’t have the time to learn. So many of the resumes I review lack many of the basic elements of a good resume, not to mention the more sophisticated elements that really make a resume stand out.

Entire books, workshops, webinars, podcasts, etc. are devoted to help people learn how to become better resume writers. There is just so much information you need to know to write a good, effective resume.

So what is a “good” resume?

A good resume is a resume that takes everything I’ve mentioned in this brief blog and combines it with the storytelling content that demonstrates to the reader that you are worth inviting in for an interview. It’s the keywords, content, layout, formatting, style, etc. that makes a good resume.

Advanced Career Services is your knowledge warehouse for everything related to resume writing and interview preparation. You have questions / We have answers. Check out some of our other blogs here. or contact us here to schedule an initial consultation.

This is big! Your Certified Executive Resume Master!

Certified Executive Resume Master

I am excited to announce that as of this week I have earned the designation of Certified Executive Resume Master. I thank Career Directors International to facilitate such a designation and am honored to be one of a select few (less than 30) worldwide to hold this designation!

A note from CDI:

Scott Nichols, Owner of Advanced Career Services/Next Level Resume, has been awarded an international designation as a Certified Executive Résumé Master. Evaluated and awarded by the Career Directors International Board of Certification, his work demonstrates an exceptional grasp of the discrete personal and business aspirations pertaining to astute, top-tier executives. This knowledge includes use of the appropriate key words and competencies, position responsibilities and challenges, and effective resume presentation styles for the ‘best and the brightest’ in business. CDI President, Laura DeCarlo, states that, “When selecting a resume writer a job seeker should always look for an individual who is certified and who has experience working with job seekers in their industry. Selecting a skilled professional with a Certified Executive Résumé Master designation is the natural choice to confidently put your career in the hands of a qualified expert who has made the effort to specialize in this highly competitive population.”

Tips On How To Prepare For A Job Interview

Interview Preparation

Think of it this way: the person who is most prepared for a job interview is likely going to be the top candidate for the position you are interviewing for.  Will that be you?

So, with that in mind, it is critical you take the time to prepare for your interview. Here are some keys to helping you prepare.

Understand the Need of the Organization

Many of the people I’ve worked with often look this critical element of preparation. Try to understand why the company is hiring.  What are they looking for? What about your role is critical to the success of the business as a whole? This is often touched on in the job description provided by the company. Read through it several times. Highlight what you think the need is. Then, take the time to write down how you can solve that need. What makes you better or more qualified than anyone else to fulfill that need?

Understand Yourself

Most of us find it challenging to talk about ourselves, or at least that is what I’ve observed from my years of resume writing and interview coaching. So let’s briefly guide you through a couple ideas to help know how to talk about yourself in your job interview.

  • Relate your experience to the position you are applying for. By keeping it relevant to the job at hand you are engaging your listener and giving them reason to believe you will do well in the new role.
  • Understand that it is OK to talk about yourself, your interviewer will be expecting it! This is your chance to sell yourself! Write down your accomplishments ahead of your job interview and review them before going into your interview so they are fresh in your mind.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Keep your strength focused on the job you are interviewing for. Keep your weakness away from the job.  Provide an example of something you are working on and make sure your weakness is not critical to the job. This is really important. If you are interviewing for a mattress salesman job and you tell your interviewer your weakness is talking to people then you are doomed! You get the idea.

Remember It Is A Conversation

While it is critical to prepare and rehearse for your interview, you want to make sure you don’t sound like a robot. With enough preparation, you will feel more comfortable with your responses and will be able to focus more on having an engaging conversation with your interviewer. Likeability is an important consideration for a new hire. Engage the interviewer with questions throughout the interviewer so they get a chance to talk about themselves. Just remember to keep it formal, you are not trying to make a best friend, you are making a strategic partnership.

Prepare Thoughtful Questions 

Demonstrate your professionalism and preparedness by bringing a list of thoughtful questions. Make it about the interviewer, the company, and the position. Also, remember that you are interviewing the company to make sure the job is a fit for you too. Here are some examples to consider:

  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What changes would you like to see within the organization?
  • What is the growth plan for the organization?
  • What is the typical succession within the company for people in the role I am interviewing for today?
  • What has made other people successful in the role I am interviewing for?


There is more information on how to prepare for a job interview than I can fit in this blog. Keep checking back for new information or contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your interview coaching or resume writing needs.