What’s Involved in Creating a Professionally Crafted Résumé?

resume tracking system

By Kamee Gilmore.

Following the Canada-wide résumé pricing survey Maureen McCann and I conducted last fall, I was interested in taking a behind the scenes look at the résumé development process in order to gain a better understanding of the time that professional writers actually invest in crafting a strategic, value-focused résumé. I compiled the following information after receiving feedback from seven of last year’s survey participants.

I noticed a common theme across responses: each writer stated that project timelines could vary significantly due to numerous factors and considerations related to individual client requirements. Interestingly, many writers had not tracked their time prior to this study, but once they documented their processes some were surprised to discover the amount of time invested in a project.

The data below represents writers with varying ranges of certifications, education, and experience. I think it is important to note that we are unique writers with individual processes and styles – that is the beauty of our industry. It is imperative that we appreciate our own talents and processes and use the following information as a reference point only, not as a comparison.

How Much Time Does it REALLY Take to Craft a Professional Résumé?

I’ll admit that I felt I took an astronomically long time to develop a résumé, so much so that it was starting to affect my confidence as a writer. It wasn’t until I read Maureen McCann’s article about how a résumé is created that I truly began to not only understand but appreciate WHY projects can take so long.

As survey results came in, it became apparent that others in our industry also felt they took longer than average to create a résumé. I was particularly surprised to learn that even those with multiple certifications and significant industry experience invested substantial time and effort into each project. I realized that the amount of time it takes to develop a résumé doesn’t necessarily decrease with training or years of expertise.

Participants’ estimated working hours were reported as follows (for résumé service only):



The Process

By breaking down the résumé development process we can better understand where our time is spent during a client engagement. Taking a detailed look at the steps can help us establish appropriate compensation for our time and justify prices when selling services to potential clients.

CPC members share a similar approach to résumé writing, which includes key phases and activities.

  • Perform Client Intake – Respond to email correspondence, schedule appointment, conduct initial “discovery call” to discuss client’s career goals and service needs, generate invoice, prepare client service agreement, process payment, provide additional forms or homework to client.
  • Review Client Documents – Review client’s existing résumé, targeted job postings, completed forms or homework, as well as additional supporting documents essential for crafting branded, value-focused, career marketing documents.
  • Conduct Interview or In-Depth Consultation – Prepare “deep dive” questions to uncover additional information and pertinent details during a face-to-face or telephone interview with the client. Survey respondents reported that interviews run approximately 60 minutes or more.
  • Develop Strategy – Develop client’s value proposition, determine document format and design, and plan for the inclusion of creative elements, if appropriate.
  • Write First Draft – Create résumé, proofread, and edit.
  • Obtain Client Approval – Send completed first draft to client for review; address any changes requested by client.
  • Finalize Résumé – Make final revisions, proofread, and edit. Produce versions of the document in different file formats, if required, such as PDF, MS Word .docx, and ASCII .txt. Email document(s) to client.

Having completed this survey of résumé writers’ processes, my already significant level of respect for these professionals increased immensely. One cannot help but admire the time invested in the delivery of client-specific services driven by the sincere desire to help clients succeed in the highly-competitive job market.

How does your own process and timeline compare to the survey results?

Have you implemented ideas to optimize the time spent on each client’s project? Do share your insights, tips, or dilemmas!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


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Excellent article. I really enjoyed reading that, specially because you highlighted the time to craft an entry level résumé and an executive level résumé.


Thank you Tallys,

This was an interesting and eye opening project. I hope others in our field benefit from this research; I know I sure did!

Kamee Gilmore

Good article. I average 2-6.5 hours, non executive including the full process.
I honestly believe that job postings are much longer than they were from 1994-2000. I feel that employers are used to requiring employees and managers to do much more work on the job, compared with earlier years. This of course is an opinion. I also believe that each resume writer is committed to giving the client his/her best effort 100% so that the client has a good chance to be called for an interview session. When clients tell you they received a call, it is a rewarding feeling.

You hit on such excellent points in your comment, Karen. I love that everyone has their own unique process when working with clients. And, like you said, with hiring processes and technology continually changing, we as resume writers commit 100% to advancing our own knowledge in order to support the career success of a diverse range of clients. I couldn’t agree more, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing the excitement in a client’s voice when they update you to say they got “the call”, or landed “that job”! ????

Great article Kamee. The timelines resonate with me. Some projects come together smoothly and quicker while others can be more complex and labour intensive. It is hard to determine exactly how long each project takes because I will work on a client’s documents for awhile and then switch gears to work on another project. I would be interested to know if other resume writers follow the same pattern or stick to one project until completion. Personally, I work in on a client’s project in spurts and need to step away at intervals to re-energize.

The time variations between projects can definitely be significant, that is true. For myself personally, I prefer to work on one project at a time. I find it difficult to bounce from one project to the next as I become so immersed in each client/project. I do find that I need a day or so break during the writing/development phase, especially if I feel “stuck”, when that happens I will work on various other business related activities.


I think I’m an anomaly here. I have little formal training, other than I was teaching resume writing, interview skills, transition and a number of other subjects to the military, as their Career Transition Coordinator (8.5 yrs). It became apparent these folks — the vast majority of which had never had a resume nor done a job interview in typically 20+ years — were not going to succeed unless I rolled up my sleeves and figured out how to sell them to the civilian work world. This I did and, thank goodness, very successfully, too.

Over that time, I created my own hybrid-resume style that I now use in my private practice work with both civilians and military (they still seek me out). I offer a full package to clients which includes, well, anything they need. From the basics of finding jobs, how to network, how to read postings and determine which will fit them, doing their Myers-Briggs, prepping for interviews, helping challenge and overcome their fears and a list of probably 10-12 other services, all lumped into one, as they require them.

I work a lot with military releasing/voc rehab clients, who need special care adjusting their limitations to a new world of work.

I have a background in HR and recruiting, as well, so I believe I really “think” like an employer and imbue that way of thinking into my clients, as we work through their job-seeking/finding process. I also work half-time as an EAP Career Counsellor, so I have a unique and up-to-date awareness of the shifting requirements in the workforce and have written about some of my findings on the LinkedIn blog.

I do actually charge by the hour. And find your numbers for resume production fall pretty closely into my bucket of services PLUS resume delivery. But I usually do at least three 60-90 minute info-gathering sessions with my clients as I develop the document, then more fine-tuning on a couple of phone sessions reviewing the document(s). I’ll often include a cover letter and then I teach them how to use my LEGO style resume to reinvent it for themselves, for different postings/paths. Because I’m almost always writing Career Transition resumes, not just ones that are for more of the same or promotion-seeking.

Not sure if that means I’m not charging enough (it probably does 😉 but thought I would weigh in here in case it’s of interest to the discussion and just a little bit off the normal track for comparison.

I would love to hear from others who do this kind of “expanded” work and what kinds of payment they receive! Thanks for your hard work in putting this info together and out there… it’s very much appreciated!

Hi Judy,

It really is incredible the diverse range of talent, skill, and expertise that CPC members bring. It appears that you yourself have a lot to offer as a result of your expansive hands-on experience.

Although the above study is in respect to resume service only, I think all participants offer a resume service as part of a larger career marketing or career development package; some may include a tailored cover letter, LinkedIn profile development, interview coaching, job search support, etc. For myself, I offer a tiered pricing model for resume and cover letter packages based on a client’s career level and objective, and offer add-on service options for an additional flat-rate. Feel free to check out my website to view packages, process, and pricing (www.paradigmresumeservices.com). I, like most others in our field, undervalued my time and services at the start. I gradually raised my price-point as I gained experience, training, and credibility — a resume and cover letter service that was just $125 in my earlier years is now an investment of $899!).

The great thing about our industry is that there is such a range of services and support we can offer, with no limitations on how we offer them to our clients. I hope others can chime in as to the value-add services or packages they might offer as well 🙂