What does it feel like to work as a professional CV writer? I’m delighted to interview Soozy G. Miller and find out more about her job and her experiences. Soozy G. Miller collaborates with private clients at all levels of skill to write and re-write CVs to help them self-market and promote their personal brand with focused, clear content. Soozy guides clients to better resumes, cover letters, thank you letters, follow up letters, LinkedIn profiles, and other social media profiles. She provides paper resumes and works with entrepreneur James Gregware to create interactive material (http://ity.im/o8sVd).
Interview with CV Writer Soozy G. Miller
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How did it all start? How did you get interested in becoming a professional CV writer?
Soozy G. Miller: I have been a business writer for close to 30 years, so I have a lot of experience editing and focusing written material. I received several emails from a resume company that was soliciting writers, so I eventually capitulated and passed the “test.” After about six months, the company asked me to also write blogs for the website, so I am now one of the senior writers.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Considering the fact that nowadays there are an abundance of books and free online resources available, one would think that there should not be any need to approach a professional CV writer. What’s your experience?
Soozy G. Miller: Nothing substitutes for one-on-one personal help. I’ve tried to use the books. CV writing is a very specific skill. Reading about a specific trade can produce a pretty good result, but for optimal results, employing a professional is the best way.
Karin Schrock-Singh: Do you think schools should include in their curriculum mandatory lessons on “Personal Branding”, such as how to write impressive CVs, how to negotiate salaries etc.
Soozy G. Miller: Yes. But the resume lesson has to be based on the latest recruiting techniques. I’m not sure about salary negotiation because there are so many schools of thought on the techniques. If someone is getting ready to negotiate, he/she should find the method that feels most natural.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What kind of people are more in need of CV writing services (students, graduates, senior executives)?
Soozy G. Miller: They all are; each group has its own issues. Graduates need to use their recent educational training more to promote their candidacy. The less qualified need to be very specific about their experiences and successes. Senior Executives need to understand that resume writing is a specific skill and that following the writer’s lead will bring the most success.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: In your opinion, what are the qualities that make a great resume writer?
Soozy G. Miller: Someone who has infinite patience with repetitive issues; the same issues come up again and again, but you have to treat each situation with fresh eyes. Also, when the client gets angry because he/she is so used to an older format, you have to take the time to talk to the client and stay calm.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How can you become a professional CV writer? Is it just about practical experience or is there a specific course that you can recommend that a person can take?
Soozy G. Miller: First, I think, you have to be an experienced and good writer—and editor. You have to know how to write with impeccable grammar and punctuation and you have to know how to edit and focus text. Though resume writing is different than any other kind of writing, if you don’t have a strong writing foundation, the results will never quite be what the client needs. A company I sometimes work with used to hold free training sessions—they don’t anymore. I learned a lot from them. You can also become certified.
Karin Schrock-Singh: Can you recommend any certification programs for CV writers?
Soozy G. Miller: I just know of one trustworthy path: Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the 10 most important lessons you learnt in your career as a CV writer?
Soozy G. Miller: The 10 most important lessons I learnt in my career so far are as follows:
- Customer service is the most important part of my job. Period.
- Be prepared to coach more than write.
- Customer/user feedback is essential to ensure the best resume.
- Don’t assume anything about anyone—ask questions.
- My confidence is crucial to my success—my methods work and I make sure that’s clear in every conversation.
- Never take criticism or questions personally; all answers should be about the product.
- Even when the customer is irate and yelling, assume a calm, soothing tone in correspondence. That usually wins.
- Though there are many common and repetitive issues in resumes, apply the same energy and time to each client.
- Employees above a certain level (usually executives) will act as if they’re right, even when they’re absolutely wrong.
- Don’t be offended when a client pays but says nothing about the resume.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the positive aspects of being a CV writer?
Soozy G. Miller: It’s a win-win situation: I get paid to do what I love while helping a client find a job. I spend a lot of time talking to clients about the changes I’m making to their resume. Some haven’t ever had a resume; some have been using the same resume since 1982 and think they just need to add their most recent position; some have been told an outdated resume rule and they insist on including it.
My two favorite results are 1) clients landing their goal position on my first draft and 2) guiding resistant clients to understanding. Higher-ranking clients tend to be more difficult; they don’t realize that resume writing is a very different skill than all other writing regarding grammar, punctuation, and general structure.
My favorite type of client comes to me prepared to work with me, follows my lead, answers my questions, and provides specifics. Resume writing, at its best, is a collaborative process.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the negative aspects of being a CV writer?
Soozy G. Miller: As mentioned above, the repetitive nature of the resume issues from client to client can be gruelling. And you have to handle whining. When clients don’t understand the new format or I change their fancy document to the plain Word document, sometimes they get very upset: “I paid for this stupid thing?! It’s a Word document!” Sometimes it takes multiple emails and repeating myself several times before the client understands why the original resume doesn’t work and my methods are better.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: On the Internet I came across some highly creative CVs, and also video CVs is something that some job candidates consider when applying for jobs. However, I still feel that in real life resumes are still submitted as a word file due to scanning software that companies are using. What is your experience in this regard? Did you get any inquiries for more fancy looking CVs and do you also offer services like that?
Soozy G. Miller: Some more creative houses want applicants to think as inspirationally as possible. Those are not my clients. For the rest of the world, the key to resumes and CVs now is simplicity. I see so many “fancy” resumes with multiple fonts, graphs and graphics, and 3-4 pages of repetitive information dating back to the 1980s. Most companies have applicant tracking systems (ATS) or some kind of search engine that helps weed out the pile. Then recruiters have to review the remaining applicants and further discard resumes before an even shorter stack is sent to a hirer or manager. Recruiters get hundreds and sometimes thousands of resumes for any given position. They don’t have time to decipher graphs or figure out what an applicant is trying to say. I have to explain to many clients that the ATS might actually block or ignore resumes that deviate from my simple, easy format. Graphics won’t make a resume stand out; they will make the resume discardable. I’ve also been on the hiring side and that was an eye-opening experience regarding resume review. I wrote an article about it: https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/resume-lessons-from-a-recruiter&pt=YGccyYG4wZ5H.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Your observations and comments make perfect sense. However, in that case – if I was the candidate – I would put it to the test in two ways. I would submit my “fancy” CV online (for electronic screening purposes) and I would additionally send my “still fancy” resume in high-quality printed version via post directly to the HR Manager (or hand it in personally if it would be a local job that I would be highly interested in!). I might also consider presenting my resume in a completely different way. I would think that in case I would not survive the electronic screening process, I would still get some more individual attention from the HR Manager. Whether that would make the HR Manager invite me for an interview (which would obviously be my main goal) would still not be certain. It could also be that the only reply I would get is “Please submit your resume electronically as a word document”. Whatsoever, at least I would know that it was not just artificial intelligence that discarded my application but that also a human being looked at my resume. Let’s say you would be the Hiring Manager, what would you do in that case?
Soozy G. Miller: You’re assuming that a hiring manager would see your resume. Unless you’re talking about a very small company, if your resume is that fancy and creative, chances are an HR Manager wouldn’t even see it unless he/she glimpses something noteworthy immediately in the content.
I’ve been on the hiring end, looking at too many resumes, so as the hiring manager, the only thing I would care about when looking at a resume, fancy or not, is whether or not it shows the skills that meet the job requirements. And I would want to see what you’ve done for other companies in my industry. I’m not going to take your word that you’re “organized” or “detail-oriented” or “a communicator.” I’m planning on paying you money to do something important for me, so I want to make sure that you can actually do the job. You can’t prove your worthiness to me with descriptions of yourself; you prove that you’re the right person for the job by showing me what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved.
The resume will be dumped very quickly if the applicant doesn’t have the position’s criteria on it. I have seen that many times. I’ve done the dumping. When hirers scan a resume, they will immediately look for required skills for the specific position—remember, they’re looking at possibly hundreds of these every day. If the job requires PeopleSoft and the resume is beautiful but doesn’t have PeopleSoft, it’s garbage.
Also, remember, not all systems are compatible. Not even between versions of Word. I have had several clients say they can’t read my draft even though it’s hard coded and in basic Word. The majority of larger companies require online submissions anyway, which is the ultimate leveler. Your fancy resume isn’t necessarily going to look that good when printed from the company’s printer. And you don’t know where the hirer is viewing the resume at any given moment. It could be on a Smartphone—where all bets are off in terms of viewability. When I was on the hiring side, one applicant’s phone number was on his resume when he sent it, right at the top where it should be, but when it got to me, there was no number. Job seekers really shouldn’t take a chance when it comes to resumes—there is too much competition and too much can go wrong during submission.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: I also heard that HR Managers consider creatively designed CVs as less professional. What is your point of view?
Soozy G. Miller: Creatively designed resumes and CVs are not necessarily less professional, but they will be discarded faster. A candidate can make a resume or CV stand out with accomplishments, not design. Accomplishments are key. As I said, the ATS can have problems with a highly designed resume and there are so many applicants, the reviewers are looking for a reason—any reason—to discard a resume and reduce the pile. One important way a company can tell if a candidate is suitable is by the accomplishments at other companies. Forget the design; the more accomplishments on a resume, the more attractive the resume.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: I fully agree on the accomplishments because they would reveal how good a person really performed their tasks (but let’s also bear in mind that it only reflects past achievements and does not give a 100 % guarantee that similar outcomes can be achieved in the future too. Companies are surely interested in knowing what a person achieved, but their focus will also be on what a candidate can specifically do for them once hired which could be highlighted in a cover letter.) The problem is that candidates when writing their CVs often focus on listing all their responsibilities and believe that then their resume will automatically look impressive. Many often are not aware of their achievements or simply don’t know how to express and quantify them in an effective way. However, I would definitely include accomplishments also in a ‘creatively’ designed resume. I would think it stands out. Do you agree?
Soozy G. Miller: Well, design is also subjective; a design that a candidate thinks looks nice may appear really ugly to a hirer. You don’t know where a hirer is looking at the resume—on an outdated desktop? On an iPad? Printed on an old machine? When I was a resume reviewer, the company owner sometimes looked at resumes on his cracked iPhone. Anything a candidate can do to make the process easier for a recruiter will be helpful. As a recruiter, do you really want to figure out the name in script on the 60th resume you’ve looked at?
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Another problem is also that accomplishments need to be questioned. They could also be fake or inflated as an online survey conducted by AOL Jobs from a survey size of 18,000 revealed (see picture). A candidate might make it to the interview stage for his/her accomplishments but if the company conducts some background checks or questions the candidate during the interview stage, and finds out that they were unrealistic or just made up, the credibility and trustworthiness would be lost instantly. Unfortunately not every company conducts thorough checks about a candidate’s credentials during the hiring process. The person who would have been caught lying on their CV would have got the opportunity for the interview but not get the job offered in the end.
Soozy G. Miller: Wow, those are some seriously disturbing stats! There are two elements of a resume that help to establish authenticity: the address and the specifics of accomplishments. The address (including house number) has been traditionally used to show veracity, but now many candidates are fearful of safety and privacy and will only put their city and state. Regarding the accomplishments, the more specific they are, the more truthful they likely are. Anyone can add a job description to a resume—those can be found easily on the Internet. It’s not as easy to claim specific accomplishments using data and numbers. If an accomplishment is fraudulent, an experienced interviewer will probably be able to tell during a conversation about it. To verify a resume, the hirer can research the references, which are no longer a part of a resume and can be requested, and a company can check the candidate’s social media profiles, which is a popular research tool now and which I’ve written about. If a candidate is bent on lying about an entire resume, there’s really not much a company can do except due diligence research.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What is the earning potential for a good CV writer? How much do you charge for your resume writing services?
Soozy G. Miller: I suppose a resume writer could make hundreds of dollars, depending on how many resumes you can write in a given week. I charge $100 per resume, more for CVs, other amounts for others material like cover letters, thank you letters, follow up letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc. Some resume coaches charge more (into the thousands!) and I never understood that because all resume writing has the goal of getting the client to an interview. Some resume coaches charge more because they incorporate resume writing into helping clients with long-term lifestyle changes. I understand that. My services are more immediate; you want that job? Boom! In a few days, I will increase your chances of getting to an interview. I’ve been told several times that my prices are appropriate and spot on.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: In a resume, a candidate needs to promote him/herself as effective as possible. How do you promote your services as a CV writer?
Soozy G. Miller: I post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and I tell people.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What is the number 1 mistake that most jobseekers are making when writing their resumes/CVs?
Soozy G. Miller: There are two, actually: 1) The resume is too complicated and wordy and 2) the applicant talks about how passionate he/she is about the field.
Karin Schrock-Singh: Mistake number two surprises me. As a recruiter I would love to see a candidate expressing his/her passion for the job/company/industry in a resume. I find that many job applicants would not know how to convey their passion on paper. I feel that most of the times only by meeting a person face to face you can see if the person speaks, looks and acts really with enthusiasm and passion. So if someone would explain A BIT MORE IN DETAIL how passionate they feel about working at a certain company I would definitely consider them. I’ve seen professionals who are highly qualified and experienced but have zero enthusiasm and motivation. How happy would I be as an employer to have someone like that in my team? Someone that I have to push to get things done and who leaves as soon as the clock strikes 5pm? Don’t you think that passion is a crucial factor in the hiring process?
Soozy G. Miller: Well, imagine as a recruiter that you’ve looked at more than 100 resumes today. Let’s say 50 or 10 or 80 of those resumes contained the word “passionate.” Do you think all of those candidates are passionate about the position? Let’s say they also had the phrase “excellent communicator” or “highly organized” or, one of my favorites, “professional.” Do you think all of the candidates that use those phrases really embody all of those traits? Do you think that being “professional” should be listed or should it be assumed? Unless an adjective can be supported by a specific fact on a resume, it does not belong. Personal descriptors are too subjective. Statements about one’s self cannot be trusted. Accomplishments, stats, and awards—those are facts. Those elements can be trusted.
Besides, how does passion translate? Any given job has many tasks—what if the investment broker candidate is passionate about trading commodities but doesn’t really like other stocks and the job requires all types of trades? Will the candidate not work as hard in the other parts of the job?
In my experience, if a resume contains the word passionate, and it reaches the interviewer, he/she will probably respond, “Great, but how does that benefit the company?” Back when I interviewed in the corporate world, when I told the interviewer I was passionate, the answer was always, “Okay, well I hope that lasts because these are long hours!” or “I’m glad you like what you do—just remember this job has other elements to it!”
Many, many applicants use “passionate” on a resume. Because it’s a common thread, it really doesn’t make candidates stand out, it blends candidates into the pile. Adjectives are ignored. Accomplishments make the candidate stand out. Applicants should let the accomplishments prove the passion.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What is the worst CV you ever saw and why? In comparison to that, which CV was the most impressive one and why?
Soozy G. Miller: The worst resume was presented in a functional format (based on responsibilities, not chronological order) and in pdf format, so I had to copy and paste line by line, move elements around, add a lot of notes to clarify and focus the client, and heavily edit the wording. That is exhausting and takes a long time.
The most impressive resumes, the ones I enjoy working on the most, are the ones that start out vague and/or with very little content and then the client responds with very specific answers to my questions. I love when the process works and the final resume beautifully supports the candidate’s goal position.
Karin Schrock-Singh: We are living in a fast-paced, technologically highly advanced environment. Do you think that in the future, let’s say in the next 10 years, resumes will completely disappear and be replaced by something else?
Soozy G. Miller: Yes, I’m already working on it. I’ve partnered with an entrepreneur, James Gregware, on a new, interactive resume that has shown incredible successes. We’ll be making interactive resumes together – they have been focus-group tested and the results are through the roof. I think that is the future.
Karin Schrock-Singh: That sounds very interesting. I’m getting a bit curious now. Can you please reveal more about these interactive resumes?
Soozy G. Miller: To create an interactive/promotional resume, clients go through me to have a regular paper resume or CV (and possibly other materials) written. Then James takes my finished product(s) and creates the digital or promotional resume. James’s format is totally flexible; clients can add art and video and we can tag a resume for notification when the hirer views it so the applicant can send a follow-up letter. We can create a resume QR code for a business card. James blind tested the interactive version and every time it made top 3 for favorite resumes, even when the applicant wasn’t totally qualified. Plus, reviewers spent 8-10 minutes on the interactive resumes, not seconds like on a paper resume. It’s quite revolutionary. Here is mine: http://ity.im/o8sVd.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: If you would have to hire another CV writer. What are the 3 questions you would ask the candidate to make sure that s/he is competent (apart from requesting samples of CVs makeovers: BEFORE – AFTER)?
Soozy G. Miller: 1) How long have you been a writer? Do you have any resume writing experience? 2) Please give me a writing sample that’s not a resume. 3) What makes a resume stand out?
Karin Schrock-Singh: Thank you very much Mrs Miller for your precious time and your valuable contributions, I highly appreciate. It’s always a real pleasure for me to interview professional insiders like you.
If you would like to get a resume makeover, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Soozy G. Miller directly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 631-599-0002 (USA).
Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.