There came a point in my career when my company went bankrupt, the economy was in the dumps, and my network of friends and acquaintances was getting me nowhere. Like all job hunters, I had good days and bad days. On good days, I brewed coffee for that caffeinated, I-can-overcome-anything feeling. On bad days, I never got out of bed.

Finally, after a string of bad days, I called the phone number in a small ad I had come across in a bunch of business publications. The number was for WSA Resumes.

I told my contact at WSA that I needed a job. I told him I attribute my career success in part to the fact that I have always been able to write a very effective resume, but I have hit a wall.

WSA sold me the executive pack, which was $1000 for someone to rewrite my resume in three days. (They have less expensive packages, but I was in a moment of panic.) I talked to someone for a couple of hours, and she rewrote the resume in a way that smacks of a piece of direct mail: headlines, bullets, italics, and bold lines. The resume did not look like one I had ever seen. My friends said it looked cheesy. They said, “Don't send it.”

But I started to trust the writers at WSA because they noticed patterns and accomplishments in my career that I had not noticed. They phrased achievements in ways that I would not have thought of. They were able to frame my work life in a way that could open new fields to me. But most of all, I wanted to take a risk. I realized that I was getting nowhere and I needed to try something new and this was the only new thing I could think of.

To my surprise, my executive package came with a cover letter. It began, “If you can use my skills on your management team then I'd like to talk to you.” I cringed. I told WSA the letter is not my style.

There are actually a few more things I told WSA. You know how when you're spending a lot of money you get uppity? That's how I was. I argued about file formatting, I argued about hyphens and semi-colons. I'm sure I argued about more, I just can't remember.

Finally, I ran out of things to argue about, and, armed with my new resume, I started my job search again. I found no openings.

So I called WSA, and I was hoping they would not remember me — the person who argued about everything — but they remembered. “Yes, we can help,” my contact said.

They send out resumes cold. Which is, of course, in keeping with their direct mail perspective. So I signed up. It costs $1.50 a resume. My contact recommended sending out 8000 resumes. I wanted 500. He said direct mail is an odds game. I picked 500 companies. Then I changed my mind. Then I picked a new 500. Then I asked for some more lists. I was nervous. The cost worried me, but I took to heart the saying, you have to spend money to make money.

Finally WSA printed all 500 cover letters, stuffed envelopes, and slapped on address labels. Everything was ready to go. Then I sent an email to WSA with the subject head: EMERGENCY. I told them that I have a lot of direct mail experience and they should send the letter out on Tuesday, not Friday.

WSA dumped me. They tore up my letters and my check. They said I should find someone else to help me. So I took WSA's cover letter and the resume they wrote for me, and I spent a week finding email addresses for CEOs and I sent my resume myself – cold – to 500 CEOs. And guess what? I got fifteen responses and two job offers.

So I recommend that you hire a company like WSA. You will get a standout resume, and you will see yourself differently, so you will summarize your career differently, and you have a new chance at landing a job. And this is the other thing: unless your network is coming up roses for you, job hunting is, really, an exercise in direct mail. Once I admitted that I was not above a direct mail campaign for myself, things started happening.

I think WSA hates me, but luckily, I am not proud, so check out their web site:

(Update: WSA no longer exists. But the woman who oversaw my resume overhaul is Elaine Basham, and she’s still in the resume business today. Send her an email:

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13 replies
  1. William Mitchell, CPRW
    William Mitchell, CPRW says:

    How, being a certified professional resume writer myself, what does everybody think I feel about this subject? (LOL!)

    The cross that our industry bears is that most people will never know the value a resume can bring them … until they actually hire one! For most people, only the results convince them otherwise and they can’t experience the results until they hire a professional writer. The ultimate “Catch 22”.

    I had a client in the Houston area who had been trying to get on with this large hospital system as a Medical Billing Clerk. For more than a year, she hadn’t even been able to get them to acknowledge receipt of her resume, much less extend the offer of an interview. Once we re-wrote her resume and she pit it into play, she got an interview offer within two weeks.

    Now THAT’S results!

    The truth is that most non-professionals focus on the content alone, which does not play a pivotal role at the start of the review process. They pay no attention to formatting aspects such as presentation, spacing, strategic placement of vital information, visual center development, etc., which all play a key role in the reader’s reaction upon initially reviewing the document. I discuss this very topic on my blog:

    That’s the difference training makes.

    William Mitchell, CPRW
    The Resume Clinic

  2. Susan M.
    Susan M. says:

    This article puts me in mind of a quote by Marshall McLuhan: “We don’t know who discovered water, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.”

    We’re all susceptible to being “fish” when it comes to describing ourselves: We’re so used to who we are – or think we are – that we may no longer see (and describe) it in ways that resonate with prospective employers. I’m not sure the ultimate conclusion is to hire a professional resume writer, although that’s one option. But enlisting the aid of smart friends and colleagues in resume preparation makes sense. They may find ways to describe you that you wouldn’t come up with yourself.

  3. Seo Optimization
    Seo Optimization says:

    Excuse me. Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.
    I am from Honduras and learning to read in English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “Seo is masking bad coffee with sugar.Learn how you can leverage seo tools to make your marketing team more.”

    Thank you very much :). Chapman.

  4. AussieK
    AussieK says:

    I have always written my own resumes and that has always worked for me, well at least until recently. Bad economy or not, I read and re-read my CV and knew that it did not capture my experience in a way that would allow me to move forward in my career. No matter how many times I tried to improve it I felt I was missing the mark.

    And then I read your post and thought it was ridiculous to pay someone money to write your CV. But then I re-read your post and many others and thought, what the heck? Let’s give this a try.

    And so I contacted Elaine Basham. That was last week. Today, I am a changed person :-) It was a great experience working with Elaine! She was professional, patient and right on the mark. She was the first person who said to me “tell me about your professional experience, let’s start from the beginning”. And then she asked pertinent questions along the line. And she listened. And then she said she would get back to me with the new CV in a couple of days’ time.

    And she did.

    When I received and read my new resume I was so happy! Elaine managed to capture what I told her in simple, powerful and clear words, finally creating a document that I feel represents me.

    Thank you, Elaine!

    And thanks Penelope for suggesting Elaine.

  5. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Awesome submit. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that you are honest and want to give WSA a try. Thanks for the post.

  6. Gregory Baker
    Gregory Baker says:

    i dont know how to wirte one at all,im a vet,i in iraq right
    now.this deployment is about over,so i really need someboby to help me with mine please.

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