Many of the clients I speak with indicate that they’ve done (or plan to do) extensive research before making a decision on a resume writer. And what is the most common question I run across during this research?

“Do you have specialists in my industry?”

I usually stop them right there, because that question indicates that it is education time.

With the power of the internet and various software programs, any half-decent resume writer can learn enough about your industry to speak intelligibly about it. As such, I inform my clients that the true value of a resume writer is not an industry specialty, but their ability to market their clients powerfully on paper. In my opinion, the best way for a resume service researcher to determine this is through samples.

No matter what super-slick sales pitches or credentials one throws around, the work samples can tell you if you’re dealing someone who can properly convey the client’s skills to make the most impact.

Now, while you won’t necessarily know the client’s background and training that was considered to develop the document, there are four aspects of a resume sample one can examine to easily discern whether the writer achieved the objective of creating an effective resume:

1) Initial Visual Impact – in a stack of 85 resumes, there has to be something about your resume that aesthetically impresses the reader right off the bat. Don’t forget, your reader is likely to be an over-worked middle manager whose time is dominated by 3 other projects, interruption from subordinates, interruption from management, and a myriad of other standard duties. When your resume is #49 of 85, it has to “wow” them.

2) Excellent balance and readability – you would be surprised at how many resumes are discarded at this point. When reviewing resume samples, make certain that the resume writer has achieved great document balance. Check for margin consistency and spacing optimization. I have seen resumes prepared by supposed professionals that have had large, uneven, and highly noticeable gaps between information blocks. Also, check readability by looking for excessively long paragraphs or a lengthy list of bullet points. If you look at it and say it looks lime an intimidating read, that H.R. Manager is likely to think the same.

3) Can you tell the resume’ objective – the whole point of the resume is to quickly deliver the goods. Within 15 – 20 seconds, you should know the major qualifications of the resume’s subject. If during the review of the sample you cannot quickly identify the objective, the it is likely an ineffective product.

4) Content sophistication should up to par – once you get past the general effect, you want to ensure that the writing fits the goal. In all cases, verbiage should be sophisticated, yet concise. The level of sophistication should be consistent with the professional level being sought. Prose above or below the position’s level can put your reader off.

There are what seems to be a million resume services out there and finding the right one can be a chore. You definitely want to make your inquiries, but samples serve to give you insight as to the level of quality you can expect to receive. If a resume service does not show you samples before you spend hundreds on a product, then my advice is to run!