It’s getting so you can’t avoid the cheesiness of the job boards no matter where you turn in the career industry, because they seem to multiply like the spawn of Bernard Haldane.  After embarrassing themselves at data-base dumps like HotJobs, job-board executives re-form similar operations under new names, and run the same rackets. The trend now is to sucker-punch the “$100K+” market — managers who believe they can buy their way into the next corporate suite for the price of a “Premium Membership.”

Marc Cenedella (formerly of HotJobs), the founder and CEO of TheLadders (“The Most $100K+ Jobs”), sends his members regular solicitations that compete with the ripest junk-mail ad-copy scenting your e-mail box. A reader passed along a sample that had me howling, until tears ran down my cheeks for the $100K+ suckers who swallow it.

The pitch is for resume writing — $695, or $1,375 for an emergency. (I kid you not.) Cenedella must not be making his nut with the $100K+ job listings, so TheLadders is now peddling resume-writing services. (I’m trying to figure out why I need a resume, when TheLadders’ data base is full of $100K+ jobs posted by “over 35,000 recruiters and hiring managers” who are waiting to find me in a search. All my info is in the data base, right? Oh, well. Guess I don’t understand the career-data-base business.) Take a look at this, from a January 28, 2008 e-mail solicitation:

“A professionally written ad is a waste of time, right? When your company launches a new product or service, you let the new kid write the copy, right? After all, everybody knows how to write and there’s not much skill to it, is there? Any old amateur can do it, yes?

“Look, people don’t get to the $100k+ level by making rookie mistakes like this – you know it takes a professional to craft a gripping, powerful ad that is going to move product.

“And yet, when it comes to their own resume, many people do let an amateur write it – themselves. Which is pretty risky when you think about it. Here you are, selling the most important product you’ll ever sell – yourself.”

But it isn’t Cenedella’s preachy pitch that this reader wanted to share. Read on.

“There’s a skill to writing resumes, folks. You need to address three different audiences simultaneously: the resume screener, usually a pretty junior person in HR who is looking for certain keywords, the recruiter (either an outside headhunter or an inside corporate recruiter) who is looking for a plausible fit and set of skills and experience, and the hiring manger [sic], who is looking for a more nuanced elaboration of your background and the specific successes you’ve had in your career.”

A nuanced elaboration indeed. Cenedella is going to sell you a professionally-crafted resume that you could not possibly write on your own, you dumb amateur, because you’ll make a mistake. “Look, people don’t get to the $100k+ level by making rookie mistakes like this.”

“…you know it takes a professional to craft a gripping, powerful ad that is going to move product.” Ooo, yah — and for $1,375 in an emergency.

In Silicon Valley, we used to call it, “eating your own dog food.” That’s when you use your own product in your own company, to show your prospects and customers that it really tastes fine and performs as promised. I dunno whether Cenedella eats his own dog food. But, if “the most accredited executive writing team in the country” that will write your resume writes his ad copy, too, then there might be just a single, wee-little, tiny spelling mistake in your resume that will make you look like a rank amateur and cost you a $100K+ job…

… just like that one tiny $100K+ spelling mistake in his ad copy costs Cenedella his credibility in a business that he’s got no business pretending to be good at. Which raises the question, Can the spawn of HotJobs, Monster, Bernard Haldane, and other career rackets convince you they know what they’re doing in anything they do?

If you really want help with your resume, maybe you oughta hire a real resume writer.

[More: TheLadders: Going down?]


  1. Wow, I am shocked that The Ladders would assume that “everyone” who writes his own resume is an “amateur.” Over the past 20 years, operating my own resume-writing company, I have come across many executives who do a fine job writing their own resume.

    On the other hand, I also have had hundreds of executives who have contracted with me to write their resumes because either they have not received any results from the resumes they have written or simply do not know where to start, as they have been out of the job market for several years. In these instances, hiring a professional resume writer can be very helpful to candidates.

    I would like to provide some advice on hiring a “real resume writer” as Nick stated at the end of his post. Also, at the end of this post, I will provide you with resources to find these professionals.

    But first, you need to understand the difference between a professional resume writer and a “service” offered by a job board.

    The key difference is the level of personalized attention you will receive from the resume writer for the “investment” made in your career.

    Many resume-writing services associated with job boards have you only fill out a “form” with your information and submit it into cyber space to a person with whom you will never speak. Further, you will have no idea of the level of expertise the person possesses in the resume-writing field.

    I would like job search candidates to ponder this next thought: If you can fill out a form and accurately portray your skills, abilities, and accomplishments, then why would you pay someone to “format” the resume for you?

    A true professional resume writer will take the time to get to know you and your goals through a personal consultation. He / she will become your “strategic partner” in the resume-writing and job-search process, asking pointed question to bring out your unique qualifications, achievements, and the inherent value you can offer to a potential employer. He /she will uncover aspects in your career which you may not think are valuable and position you to stand out from your competition.

    In addition, professional resume writers will be up-to-date on the latest hiring and technology trends used by employers to select candidates. That knowledge comes from participating in continuing education and seeking advice from the very people who will be reviewing the resumes. Further, professional resume writers will make it a point to earn certifications in their field, which speak to their expertise in writing resumes and the overall job search process.

    Having your resume written by a professional can be quite expensive. However, do not use “price” as your only determining factor when selecting a professional resume writer.

    Look for the professional resume writers who have taken the time to invest in their personal education in the employment field, provide personalized attention and are willing to become your strategic partner in the resume-writing process, have earned certifications, and have many years of experience writing resumes. These individuals will command a higher price for their services. However, the return-on-investment can be substantial.

    By asking good questions based on the information provided above, you can get a feel for whether your professional resume writer has a good grasp of your candidacy level and will be the right fit for you. An ethical resume writer will provide you with an honest assessment of your current resume and will not try to sell you services you don’t need.

    You can search for professional resume writers through several career-industry-related associations, such as The National Resume Writer’s Association (, Career Directors International (, and the Career Management Alliance (

  2. Aside from the spelling error, the ad copy was fairly well written, don’t you think?

    So would you be willing to give a ballpark figure for what would be a reasonable amount to pay for a “professional” resume?

    (Hey–at least they didn’t hyphenate “professionally written”.)

  3. Kathy,

    Wow. An entire article about the business. Thanks for your point of view.

  4. Working Girl,

    Sorry, but Cenedella does not present his e-mail as ad copy. He casts it as part of his ongoing advice to his members. At the end of the note, he closes by saying, “It’s really one of the best pieces of advice I can offer.”

    Clearly, though, it is ad copy. The coy presentation — the “friendly e-mail” charade — is a bit thin and insulting. Since he’s intending to provide friendly advice, no, I don’t think it’s well written at all. It’s tripe.

    He uses these “advice mails” to sell. (I didn’t want to publish the entire sample e-mail because it is copyrighted.) Every piece of spam I receive is written like that.

    For all its claims that it’s the home of $100K+ jobs, TheLadders is no better than HotJobs or others of its ilk.

    So, let me ask you: If your $1,375 resume included just one spelling error, would you be thankful that it was “fairly well written”?

    To answer your question, I have no idea what a resume is worth. What’s it worth to you?

  5. Hi Nick!

    So happy you started a blog; I’ll be sure to point all my clients to it, just as I do for your newsletter and book!

    As a brief follow-on to my colleague Kathy’s excellent post…the resume is the very least of what you pay for when you work with an experienced and credentialed resume and/or personal branding professional.

    The resume is the tangible deliverable and of course it has value. But as Kathy outlined, the big deal is really the “value discovery” process that identifies and clarifies your personal brand, the value proposition that the brand supports, and the accomplishments that support the value proposition.

    Proof of performance that speaks to the target emerges, but more importantly, a prediction of immediate on-boarding contribution and continuing strategic impact becomes clear.

    That knowledge delivers confidence on both sides of the desk. That’s what you really pay for. In fact a candidate armed with that knowledge can have a woefully poor resume and still get a great job if he does his job search right. (Of course a great resume doesn’t hurt!)

    Deb Dib, the CEO Coach

  6. Dear Nick:

    So happy to see you are still plugging away. You probably know that you are the one writer in the country (or the world) that I never disagree with.
    You hit all the notes that I have been crying “alarm” about, since 1970 myself. I’m happy to see you are writing a blog, now. It’s good, as all your stuff
    always is. You are uncannily on target, all the time.
    I just turned 80, What Color Is Your Parachute? just sold its 10 millionth copy, of its annual revisions.

    God bless your work, as always.

    Dick Bolles, author

  7. Hello, Dick,

    Thank you very much for your kind post. I am flattered and humbled. You have taught people something far more important than finding a job. You’ve taught generations how to find themselves, and made people realize that “they are their work.” As I started headhunting with my partner Harry Hamlin in 1979, your book presented a new challenge. We were good headhunters, but you challenged us to become coaches and advisors. Your thinking and teaching prodded us to do much, much more for our candidates, and for the managers we work with. For paving the way, I offer my gratitude.

    Congratulations on the 10 millionth copy of your book — and warmest wishes on your 80th birthday for good health and good spirits. Keep doing what you’re doing — and people will keep listening!

  8. Dear Nick,
    I sincerely appreciate your newsletters, too, and now your blog is a wonderful extension of your communication!

    Kathy Sweeney’s and Deb Dib’s meaningful posts resonated with me. Credentialed resume writers and personal branding specialists are committed to the outcome of their clients career search. And as Deb said, “… the big deal is the ‘value discovery’ process.” I couldn’t agree more!

    Though investment in mine and other similarly focused resume services is perceived by some as high, those who experience the process typically are life-time advocates and repeat clients.

    Their take-aways from the in-depth processes we work through to ferret out nuggets of value proposition gold are enormous. In some ways, hiring a professional resume strategist is like hiring a personal trainer. The manual labor of the mind that we coach or consult our clients through often is painful and rigorous. But our commitment to endure the same or greater intellectual rigor in producing their tangible and intangible results is solid.

    Most clients can only truly understand the value of such a process after experiencing it — but thankfully, advocates who have experienced the process are multiplying and driving new clients to our virtual doors.

    Not only will they ferret out the critical drivers that will steer their career to the next level, they will create a repository of stories from which to pluck and refer to as they engage in the interview process that follows.

    Jacqui Barrett, Master Resume Writer

  9. Ask The Headhunter regulars know that I’m not a big fan of resumes because people use them as a crutch. I think it’s great that professional resume writers have taken the time to explain the benefits of what they do. My favorite comment above is about how a resume writer is a personal trainer. Done right, I can see that.

    If you’re going to use a resume, my first advice is to do it yourself. The process is as important as the product.

    If you’re going to have someone else do it for you, beware who you hire. As in any other career-related business, there are too many hacks out there. Look for credentials, look for references. Trust your sixth sense. If something smells, avoid it. If a vendor belongs to a professional resume-writing association, check the association’s rules and credentials. Hire the best. As in any other task, quality matters.

    Funny, I don’t see any posts here from TheLadders’ resume team.

  10. I am delighted to see you now have a blog, Nick.

    May I jump on the bandwagon of my esteemed colleagues?

    Most of us at the top level of resume writing and career coaching do much more than produce a written piece of paper. We are strategists and an integral part of an executive’s high–powered marketing team. If all a candidate had to do was provide a chronology of their career history, anyone could do it. However, stepping outside of one’s self can often be difficult since we own so much of the things we’ve done over the course of our careers. Meaning … it can cause us to have tunnel vision focusing on unimportant details.

    Unfortunately, competing for those top positions today means a candidate needs to understand and be able to articulate his unique value proposition … because all that matters to a prospective company is “what can you do for me.” Translation: how can you make me money or save me money. A mere listing of what you did and where, followed by even the most impressive credentials simply won’t answer that question.

    Senior–level executives are paid for what they know. They boost their income based on how they deliver. Our job is to help them understand how to leverage their documented contributions in order to maximize their income.

    Cindy Kraft, the CFO–Coach

  11. I worked with Ladders resume service to revamp my resume. What a waste of time, money and energy. There’s no phone contact allowed (trust me, I tried to get a # and was denied at every turn) and the customer does most of the legwork by filling out a long worksheet. A customer-friendly solution would be to have the resume writer interview client via phone and only use worksheet as a last resort. The resume I got back as certified proofread had several mistakes and typos in it. I finally got in touch with the big boss at The Ladders (Alesia Benedict) and she was rude, argumentative and condescending about the errors. She told me that phone contact was impossible b/c all the busy clients couldn’t be bothered–but she could not explain why phone contact isn’t even an option. The person who did my resume was nice and polite–but not a proofreader. When I asked Ms. Benedict if they used a proofreading service she told me writers proofed their own work–I let her know that’s rather unusual, as it’s pretty much impossible to proof your own work once you’ve been living with it. I suggested using a proofreading service called proofreadnow and she told me it would take way too long. I let her know that I use the service it and turnaround is possible in as little as one hour. She blew me off saying she had so many customers it could never work. She did offer me a $100 credit for my troubles but a much better solution would have been a full refund. As far as I’m concerned a resume that comes back from such a high-priced service with errors is rather suspect. Don’t waste your money on this service. I wasted mine on your behalf.

  12. I would like to counter what “Ripped Off” had to relate concerning his/her experience. I’ve worked with Alesia Benedict on my resume development and I was quite pleased with the service I received. Because I travel extensively and my schedule is crazy, I thought it was not only more convenient but smarter to conduct the entire resume process by email. I don’t have time to schedule in what would be at least an hour’s conversation on the phone just to have my resume done! I took a weekend and completed the worksheets. Actually, it only took about an hour but I was able to take the time to dig up old paperwork that helped me refresh my memory on details. I found the entire exchange to be nothing but polite and professional. This was in January and since then, I’ve found a job using the resume her firm developed. I found it to be a smart investment in my career, especially since I’m an executive.

  13. There are two problems with this entry: first, Nick obviously has a problem with online recruiting, the real reasons for which he does not disclose (what he offers as reasons doesn’t hold water); and second — probably a result of the first — is that he grasps as straws when maligning those online services: in this entry he found a misspeling “manger” instead of “manager”. OK! It’s a typo that a spell-checker would miss because both happen to be valid words — and, I don’t know if Nick realizes that — it’s possible to make a typo even for a literate person.

    Although I in general like his opinions (and have his book, btw), I think he needs to quit flogging this particular particularly dead horse ( etc.) For me, the first sign of this blog entry’s being another bucket of agitprop was my realization that after having read a couple of initial paragraphs I got a ton of epithets but still didn’t know what it was about. When one needs to introduce a tupenny thought with a ton of “preparatory” vituperation, I know one’s got nothing to say and an hidden agenda.

  14. Sorry, Passerby, but when you’re in the business of writing expensive resumes and you claim perfection is key, you don’t get a pass when you misspell a word in your promotional materials.

    I’d stop attacking the big online job boards if, as you say, they were a dead horse. But corporate HR departments continue to waste massive amounts of money just to diddle job hunters. That dead horses is drinking the trough dry. In many companies, there are precious few funds left to do real recruiting after HR writes that check to Monster, CareerBuilder and Ladders.

  15. Nah, Nick, you missed my point (perhaps I didn’t state it well). I’m quite ready to agree with you in this particular case: I can believe this particular guy is an idiot and that particular company doesn’t have a business model and proceeds by BS’ing the public on all sides.

    My real point is larger; it’s not based only on this particular blog entry of yours — it’s based on your book, and other posts and emails and what not; it’s somewhat synthetic.

    It’s obvious that you’re hostile towards online job boards. I have used them myself and think they are quite all right. Not all, not always, but then nothing is all and always. I’ve got a number of very decent projects from for example, and my experience with online outfits spreads over a decade at least.

    I’m not saying there’s no crap there: there _is_, for sure. But it’s not _only_ crap (like I’ve already said), and they’re not unique in having lotsa crap to offer. In fact, my worst work-search related interactions were always with non-virtual recruiters, believe it or not. Now, recruiting industry: _that_ is a veritable cesspool, cheap lying lowlives galore. Moreover, there’s no clear separation, for many times the online lead leads to a recruiter. Buyer beware applies everywhere, always.

    But to make the long story short: in my opinion, your hatred of online job boards is baseless, and since you keep banging on this particular drum, you must have some kind of hidden agenda that is the real driver of your aggressivity here. You will disbelieve it of course (or pretend to do so), but my best two jobs of the last decade came from Monster. My worst job of the last 20 years came from a physical guy; fairly numerous interactions that left me choking of hatred and with a violent desire to pump my interlocutor full of bullets if I could, or maybe even to rip him to pieces with my bare hands were with physical recruiters. In about twenty years I’ve known exactly two decent guys in this profession — and got no work out of them (just so happened; I’m not saying decent guys are useless by definition). This whole profession is dominated by human garbage who recruit during the day and probably pimp or sell drugs at night. And btw, online boards — among other things — allow me to avoid them altogether.

    Your arguments against them, as far as I can see, are:

    1. Nothing specific expressed with a lot of disparaging epithets.
    (No substance; nothing to refute)

    2. They’re dangerous in terms of privacy.
    Refutation: everything online is; never put your exact demographics in online forms anywhere. Works like a charm: no one needs your name and SSN to determine if you may be a right specialist for the job. Register as “Johnny Blah” an dlet them contact you; then you’ll see how it goes, continuing in a specific and non-virtual situation.

    3. They make spelling errors (larger meaning: they’re illiterate, low-life scum)
    Refutation: correct, but so are non-virtual recruiters; in addition to whatever else, online boards allow you to avoid dealing with recruiters altogether (because a lot of ads there are actually direct and a lot of searches are actually done by companies directly).

  16. Perhaps this is the key to this mystery:
    “But corporate HR departments continue to waste massive amounts of money just to diddle job hunters.” — instead of giving this money to you, which you imply would not be waste. Perhaps it is as simple as you have to compete with these boards, and you’re not quite winning, so you spread anti-board propaganda. I think companies should use boards more, not less — although I do agree they should keep their HR out of it (but then, in my experience, it wasn’t HR). Nick: there is NOTHING * WRONG * WITH * ONLINE BOARDS. Your saying that there _is_ doesn’t make it so; the arguments you’ve come up with (so far) are inconvincing and actually backfiring by making your vehement but unsubstantiated stance on this issue suspicious.

  17. Passerby,

    The 3 reasons you list to explain my problems with job boards are (1) inaccurate, because I discuss my reasons at length in my writing, (2) true, but it’s only one reason, (3) this has nothing to do with job boards per se; I was criticizing TheLadders’ resume business.

    In your subsequent post you hit the nail on the head. My main problem is with the amount of money the boards suck out of corporate coffers via HR. If you read my writing, you know that while I believe 95% of HR isn’t worth spit, I say the same of headhunters and recruiters. I repeatedly advise job hunters and employers to “do it without a headhunter.” What HR spends on job boards doesn’t make any difference to my revenue because headhunters are responsible for only about 3% of all hires made. My point is that HR could be spending that money on intelligent recruiting done by humans. I feel sorry for managers who sit without hires while HR is playing footsie with the big boards.

    There is “nothing wrong with online boards”? Go spend some time on discussion forums like slashdot, where you’ll find loads of comments about job boards.

    Careful — You’re starting to sound a lot like an employee (or PR flak) of a job board now. :-)

  18. > Careful — You’re starting to sound a lot like an employee (or PR flak)
    >of a job board now. :-)

    :-) Yeah, I know: but what can I do about it? I’m not their shill (for what it’s worth — which isn’t much, I understand).

    > What HR spends on job boards
    HR doesn’t spend anyting; companies do. That was an aside. Now back to you…

    > doesn’t make any difference to my revenue because headhunters
    >are responsible for only about 3% of all hires made.
    You mean there’s enough for both of you? Also, 3% sounds unintuitive… Where does this figure come from? I’d think most hires are made thought headhunters. If not, how most hires are made? And separately, so if recruiting money isn’t the reason, why do you then have this strangely rabid attitude toward the boards? I read your book, your articles online, your emails, and still I can see no reason for you to hate them so much. They’re like the rest of humanity: some good, some bad, mostly ho-hum — worthy neither of great love, nor great hate.

    >My point is that HR could be spending that money on intelligent
    >recruiting done by humans.
    Well. Um… I said above that I’ve known two decent men in the recruiting profession. Now, I have known no decent humans in the HR profession. “Decent”, perhaps, is a wrong word; I don’t mean they’re indecent, so let us say ‘intelligent’. They truly should stick to paperwork and organizing the New Year party. Everything you’ve ever said about HR is right on the money.

    >I feel sorry for managers who sit without hires while HR is
    >playing footsie with the big boards.
    In my experience, it was these managers who actually worked the boards. No, really, there’s absolutely no board-specific harm coming from these boards. I was contracting for about two decades, beginning before there were any boards, and in fact the internet itself wasn’t around yet. I mean I saw them from their beginnings to whatever they became later and I don’t remember having any evil experiences with them. Most work I found w/o either the boards or live recruiters, but boards have been somewhat instrumental overall (+, like I said, my best two jobs came from

    > Go spend some time on discussion forums like slashdot,
    Oh c’mon, slashdot ;-) ;-) . I won’t believe you read slashdot. A bunch of attitudinising low-brow dweebs, most of them probably underage. I couldn’t care less what slashdoters “think” and wouldn’t be caught dead in this sort of company. I hope you have better info sources to use to form your opinions, really.

  19. Passerby,

    Your post is full of typos and you’re taking on a pro about this issue. Quit while you’re behind, would you? Nick, you rock, as always. Thank you!

  20. I’m not selling anything you idiot. Nick (hopefully) doesn’t need childish sycophancy of the sort your posting here. Ef off.

  21. Interesting thread I suppose. Its always frustrating to run into an online battle between two people on a comment thread – usually becomes less about the topic and more about winning the argument.

    I will say that before passerby said it, I was wondering how so many people chimed in just to say nick is the greatest person ever. Not knowing anyone on this thread, can’t help but feel like there are some manufactured comments. However, no way to know.

  22. Nick,
    I just stumbled across your blog .. by way of doing research on *THANK YOU* for not letting me make the mistake. God Bless you and keep up the great work. Your blog just earned another dedicated fan.
    Best regards, -T

  23. I am glad I found this thread. I read it all, and appreciate Kathy’s comments [Feb 2008]. I recently got my resume critiqued by The Ladders, and yes, I thought that ditching $695 was toooo much money. And for that sum of money, I would get a free cover letter [valued at $135]. Gosh! … So, I do my search for sample resumes and cover letters.. bingo! Plenty of them! Sample after sample, for Free!! Of course, I had a decent resume to begin with, so I didn’t really need to start from scratch. But I got to this blog __Just In Time!__ to keep to myself $695, maybe for a new PC!