March 2024

by Ruth Sternberg, NCOPE – NRWA Newsletter Editor

Spring is right around the corner! And so is your opportunity to do some things that will help your personal and business growth.  This issue of the newsletter focuses on a few of them:

  • Speaking at the annual conference
  • Improving your writing and your chances of NCRW certification
  • Honing your sales technique to get a “yes” from your next prospect

Ruth Sternberg 

Speaking of the conference: Are you on the fence about attending because of the cost? The NRWA offers grants! Read more about them below.

Also in this issue, you can learn about a trend that could affect your clients’ success with the ATS. It’s the trend involving the use of AI to score applications.

Happy reading! I hope this month’s stories are valuable to you as you work to serve more clients in 2024 and beyond.

Once again: Have a story idea or want to write something? Let me know! Contact me at

Ruth Sternberg

Share Your Expertise at the NRWA Conference

We are pleased to announce we are accepting proposals from prospective speakers for the next NRWA conference, Oct. 8–10 in Providence, R.I.

The focus is on best practices and trends in the resume-writing industry. We are looking for thought leaders, industry innovators, and dynamic presenters who can engage a diverse audience and initiate thought-provoking discussions focused on learnings that can help us grow and advance as a resume writing and career services professional community.

The 2024 conference will include multiple single sessions per day of live conference materials, with select hybrid presentations running concurrently from October 8–10. Presenters are expected to lead their presentation live from our venue in Providence, R.I.

The submission deadline is Sunday, March 10, by midnight, Eastern Standard Time.

Click here for everything you need to know:

Presenting at the conference provided me with the opportunity to share knowledge and connect with peers. I learned much myself and expanded my professional networks in a supportive setting. At first, I was nervous and excited about presenting. But once I got started, I was fine. Everyone in the audience was very supportive. – Sara Timm

Can’t Afford the NRWA Conference? Help May be Available

By Robert Rosales, NCRW, NCOPE

Immediate Past President, NRWA

Did you know that the NRWA has a grant award program?

Since 2021, we have offered a limited number of need-based, educational, and membership grants for resume writers and career professionals. The goal is to support NRWA members who may be experiencing difficulties in their businesses due to health, economic, or other challenges.

The scoring system is weighted to recognize long-term NRWA members who have held leadership roles, worked with clients who are not asked to pay for services, regularly delivered free speaking presentations or training workshops geared to helping job seekers (especially those in underrepresented communities), and are experiencing significant financial difficulties.

Grants are awarded quarterly and are not renewable or transferable. Currently the NRWA awards grants for:

  • NRWA Membership (one year)
  • Annual Conference Registration

Applications are continuously accepted and due four weeks prior to the following deadlines:

  • March 15
  • June 15
  • September 15
  • December 15

Those received late will be considered for funding in the next quarter.

You can find the grant application here.

To ensure anonymity in the selection process, we remove identifying information from applications and assign each applicant a number. The NRWA Grant Selection Committee, composed of the sitting president, president-elect, and immediate past president, evaluates the applications.

Anyone interested in applying for a grant should be prepared to answer questions about their specific activities: 

  • NRWA Membership
  • NRWA Engagement
  • NRWA Leadership
  • Client Base
  • Financial Need
  • Career Goals

Robert Rosales works with college graduates, mid- to senior-level career professionals, managers, directors, and those seeking career transitions. He owns EZ Resume Services.

NRWA Profile, Brenda Mariah

What are your thoughts about the certification process?

I was kind of terrified about attempting to earn the NCRW.

There was a reputation that this certification was nearly impossible to earn. The stigma that it was so challenging pretty much kept me from pursuing it. The fear was real.

Brenda Mariah

NRWA President

However, once I had a conversation with Kathy [Keshemberg], and she walked me through the process, I became far more comfortable about trying. Seeing the high level of detail given with the sample submission feedback was the motivation I needed.

There is something quite special about getting the green light to test. So, there is tremendous value in just submitting a sample to see where you stand.

My additional thought is this: Considering that our clients are investing their hard-earned dollars into our professional expertise, we owe it to them to make sure we're providing the best possible service.

On the flip side, I had braced myself to possibly receive feedback that I could benefit from additional training (that's where the Writing Excellence Boot Camp comes in).

Fortunately, I got the green light, and that was like a shot of concentrated confidence that propelled me to schedule my exam. I waited on pins and needles to get my results, but once the decision came back, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

What are your recommendations for colleagues who want to pursue the NCRW certification or those who may be hesitant?

One of the first things I will suggest is to set a date, give yourself a deadline, and set aside time on your calendar to study, review the study guide, and brush up on areas that you know you struggle with.

Getting plugged into your own NCReW (which is my made-up word for an NCRW study crew) can help build a sense of community and accountability to get it done. I think accountability is one of the biggest drivers that helped me make that final push to finish my submission. Don't think about it too much.

Norine Dagliano hosted a session at the 2023 NRWA conference where we played a Jeopardy-like game show to test our NCRW readiness. I volunteered to play, and I was proud of myself for having the courage to try and for getting so many answers correct. You see, there is not a single thing but a cumulation of things that helped me believe I was ready. Take your first step. 

NRWA’s Writing Boot Camp Will Help You Get Certified — and More

By Kathy Keshemberg, NCRW, NCOPE

NRWA Certification Chair

You might have a goal to become a Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) but wonder if you are a good enough resume writer to pass it.

The process is rigorous. It includes familiarity with style rules and a grasp of grammar and structure, and it can be tough to weather the judgment of the NCRW Certification Commission.

But the NRWA has developed an educational program that will prepare you and raise your confidence as a writer, so you can earn this gold-standard credential and better serve your clients.

It’s our Writing Excellence Boot Camp. The next session runs from March 12 through April 16.

You still have time to apply. The deadline is March 5.

The course, established in 2016, meets weekly for six weeks. Norine Dagliano, one of the NRWA’s most experienced writers and a frequent conference presenter, developed the curriculum to align with industry standards and best practices.

It is focused on getting you ready for the NCRW process, but its value is much greater.

Vincent Vitale, who recently became an NCRW, shared that he regularly uses his boot camp materials for reference, and he still asks Norine for occasional feedback on a resume.

How do I know if the boot camp is right for me?

The program is geared toward someone who writes resumes regularly. We recommend that you come into it with two to three years of resume writing experience. However, two recent NCRW candidates who were somewhat new to the profession when they joined boot camp are now certified. At a minimum, having good baseline writing skills is necessary, along with a willingness to listen to feedback and apply what you learn.

Experienced writers also have taken the course, though Vitale said it takes courage to admit that it could help. He enrolled following a 30-year career in human resources. He already had been writing resumes for quite a while, and he had a high level of confidence.

“I didn’t think there was anything anyone could teach me,” he shared. “After all, I had reviewed thousands of resumes. I knew how to front-load a bullet point, keep my paragraphs under five lines, and include keywords. After years of writing resumes for myself and my friends, I was pretty impressed with myself.”

He had decided to go after his NCRW and submitted the required sample resume to find out if he might be skilled enough to pass it.

“Imagine my surprise when my submission returned as ‘not ready,’ complete with detailed comments and corrections,” he wrote to us. “Luckily, instead of getting angry at the criticism, I took the feedback as intended: to help me grow.”

How is the training structured?

Classes are delivered live over Zoom and consist of a PowerPoint presentation followed by class Q&A and discussion. You will meet a fictional job seeker and be taken through the steps of developing the fictional candidate’s resume and cover letter. This includes discovery and strategy planning and final copyediting and formatting. Each session builds on what was taught the previous week.

Participants complete a weekly homework assignment framed around what was covered in the session. You will receive custom feedback from the instructor and be asked to share your homework with the class the following week. This powerful exercise allows you to see how others have approached the same information.

And here is something the program provides that you usually don’t receive during a typical training course: one-on-one mentoring throughout the six weeks, focused on your ongoing client work.

In between the weekly Zoom sessions, Vincent sent Norine client resumes he was working on. “It was awesome!” he said. “I finally had clear feedback on what I could do to improve my work. It wasn’t easy to receive the feedback, but it helped me understand where I could improve, especially with grammar and sentence structure.”

How do I qualify for enrollment?

Because of the intensive, hands-on nature of the training, we limit the class size to six participants. Before we accept you, we want to evaluate your current skills. To accomplish this, we have an application process.

If you are interested in enrolling, submit a sample resume and cover letter to The Certification Commission will review your submission to determine if you are ready for the program.

Should your samples reveal a current skill level that measures up to NCRW standards, we may encourage you to bypass boot camp and register directly to begin the certification process. One applicant for our last camp moved directly to the sample submission and exam and is now certified. Apply now and see where you stand!

Is the program successful?

Most of the boot camp graduates do end up earning their NCRW credentials.

“It was well worth the investment,” said Vincent. “The program is geared toward helping you obtain your certification, but beyond that, I could feel myself becoming a better resume writer. I look back on my work, and it's amazing how my resumes look today compared to before I took the training. And my confidence has skyrocketed.”

Kathy Keshemberg has helped clients manage their careers for four decades, including by writing dynamic resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. She is the owner of A Career Advantage.

Turn a “No” into a Sale

By Tom Powner, NCOPE

If you're in sales, you know how frustrating it can be to hear a “no” from a potential customer.

You've spent time and effort building rapport, identifying their pain points, and presenting your solution, only to be met with resistance or rejection.

But don't give up just yet. A “no” doesn't always mean the end of the conversation. In fact, it can be an opportunity to dig deeper, address concerns, and move the prospect closer to a “yes.”

It recently happened to me. In January 2024, three clients purchased my full array of services. Two had spoken with me in May and July 2022, respectively, and one had contacted me in July 2023. All three had told me, after initially learning about my offerings, that they weren't interested in my services.

What did I do?

Well, first of all, I didn't take it personally. 

The first thing to remember is that a “no” is not a reflection of you or your product. It's simply a response to the current situation and the information available. The prospect may have a valid reason for saying no, such as budget constraints, timing issues, or competing priorities. Or they may have some misconceptions or doubts about your offer that need to be clarified.

Either way, don't let this discourage you or make you defensive. Instead, consider it a challenge to discover more and show them the value of your solution.

This was an issue I had for years. I took it personally, primarily when I had provided that extra deep dive, and we had a great introductory conversation. It took me a while to build a thicker skin and let these rejections roll off, but I would also see how to improve my sales calls from feedback that I would acquire.

Ask Open-ended Questions

One of the best ways to get past a “no” is to ask open-ended questions that elicit more information and insight from the prospect. For example, you can ask:

  • How many job interviews have you landed with your current resume?
  • Have recruiters on LinkedIn found your profile and reached out to you?
  • How many job interviews lead to job offers?
  • How does your resume make you feel when you read it out loud?

These questions will help you uncover the prospect's underlying needs, motivations, and pain points, as well as the gaps or opportunities your career services can fill. They will also help you build trust and rapport as you show genuine interest and empathy for their situation.

Reframe Investment Objections

Before I discuss with the prospect the cost of the investment to team with Career Thinker, which is clearly on my website, I ask about their salary target (Note: I never ask what their current salary is).

I explain that career services pricing is wildly inconsistent and can range from $99 to $2,900, and even more, just for a resume. I then proceed to coach them on setting up a “permission budget” for quality career services — usually 1.0–1.5% of their target salary.

That formula works 97% of the time, makes sense, and leaves room for more services in job interviewing, resume distribution, and LinkedIn coaching.

Create the Vision

During sales calls, I review the proposed ROI (return on investment) they can expect when teaming with Career Thinker.

  • A resume/LinkedIn that brands their value in their market.
  • A properly designed resume and optimized profile can help them get through ATS and LinkedIn search algorithms and land more interviews.
  • Value-based rather than function-based bullets generate better interview conversations and questions.
  • A well-designed personal branding strategy and coaching can help them negotiate a better salary offer.

In the back of my mind, however, I am clear about one thing: Prospects who decide not to invest in themselves at a fair rate of less than 1.5% of their target salary will not be my clients.

I know that there are ONE BILLION+ professionals on LinkedIn, most needing our help. There are more prospects to speak with.

Provide Social Proof

A final way to get past a “no” is to provide social proof that demonstrates the credibility and effectiveness of your solution. Social proof can be in the form of testimonials, case studies, reviews, ratings, awards, or endorsements from other customers or experts who have used or recommended your product. For example, you can say:

  • Don't just take my word for it. Here's what some of our happy customers have to say about our solution.
  • Let me share with you a success story of how we helped a similar company achieve their goals and overcome their challenges.
  • Did you know that we have a 4.8-star rating on Google and a 97% customer-satisfaction rate?
  • We're proud to be recognized as a leader in our industry by reputable organizations such as ...
  • We have the endorsement of some of the top experts and influencers in our field, such as ...

These examples will help you boost your authority and trustworthiness, as well as appeal to the prospect's social and emotional needs. They will also help you overcome any objections or doubts the prospect may have about your solution.

I invite my prospects in pre/post-sales communications to read my LinkedIn reviews by sharing my review link.

Follow Up

I coach many business owners in our industry. Sadly, most don't follow up with sales email campaigns. If prospects don't purchase, they consider it a no. Follow-up is a must, whether it's manually or in email campaign software.

I get most of my leads through LinkedIn. The customers I referred to earlier were connected with me there. Here’s what I did:

  • I passively stayed in front of them through my posts and activity on LinkedIn.
  • I emailed them directly through outreach campaigns on July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and the winter holiday season.
  • I sent as many as five additional, personalized, emails to each person, one offering bonus materials.

Typically, I find there is a lag between completing my sales call, the first marketing email, and the purchase time. About 72% of my nonreferral new business comes after my second follow-up sales email.

You Can Do It

Getting past a “no” in a sales call is not easy, but it's not impossible, either. Following these tips can turn a “no” into a “maybe” and a “maybe” into a “yes.” Remember, a “no” is not a failure but a learning opportunity. Use it to improve your sales skills, build stronger relationships, and close more deals.

Tom Powner is the owner of Career Thinker, serving job seekers at all levels with a full array of writing and branding services. He presents seminars about the job search process and is the creator and instructor of the NRWA’s Nationally Certified Online Profile Expert (NCOPE) course and certification program.

AI Screenings: Should Our Clients Opt Out?

By Lisa Dupras, NCOPE

Concerns about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the application screening process surfaced again last month when New York City passed a law requiring that employers who use it to vet candidates disclose this fact and offer New York-based applicants the choice to opt out.

It’s the first law of this kind in the United States. Some companies are offering the choice to those outside of New York, too. And increasingly, we will be called to answer the client question: Should I opt out?

The answer is it depends.

AI is already used in recruiting by companies such as Amazon and Google to vet clients using a candidate relevance score, also called a candidate matching score. It generally employs an application fit index, talent compatibility score, and other variations. The software company Criteria reported recently that 12 percent of hiring professionals use AI in their recruitment and talent management processes to develop job descriptions, source talent, create and score assessments, screen new applicants, communicate with candidates, and train new employees. 

The score is based on a calculation that includes education, skills, and experience, as well as historical hiring data. The score ranges vary, with higher scores indicating higher relevance and signaling how well a candidate’s resume matches the job posting.

The AI that includes this capacity builds on machine learning with tools such as large language models (LLM), which rely on data to “learn” and make decisions. These systems gather information about candidates with various tools, including video. This cutting-edge ATS can:

  • Assess candidate relevancy scores and match prediction for interview selection.
  • Screen social media for red flags.
  • Evaluate video interviews for job match assessment.
  • Use personality or aptitude tests to assess cultural fit.

It allows recruiters to move well beyond keyword searches and rely on machine learning algorithms to find the best candidates. AI tools can process the nuances of language and interpret complex information not explicitly stated in a resume.

Here is an example:

A candidate applies for a customer service rep position. It requires excellent communication, problem-solving ability, and experience working in a fast-paced environment.

  • The LLM scans the resume for keywords related to communication skills, such as conflict resolution.
  • The machine-learning model analyzes past hiring data and identifies patterns, like a higher success rate for candidates with previous call center experience.
  • Resumes showing customer service ability not captured by identified keywords or without traditional call center backgrounds would receive lower Candidate Relevance Scores.

The theory is that the AI model will learn and improve over time to use more finely tuned keywords, and recruiter reviews will catch and include resumes with lower scores. This can result in better candidate selection and faster screening processes.

Recruiting expert Kevin Wheeler has written about this and believes that AI will greatly speed up the hiring process, reduce bias, and enhance the quality of candidates.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has opined that AI will improve hiring decisions because it can identify patterns and calculate probabilities. 

But some concerns about the recruiting technology are starting to surface, among them:

 The candidate's resume could be exposed to selection bias for unknown factors.

  • Companies do not share the factors that can adjust relevancy scores.
  • The assessment of candidate relevance relies very strongly on data rather than intuition. 

Some companies, such as ADP, allow the candidate to opt out of this more sophisticated AI screening. While this sounds good, it carries concerns as well:

 Potential bias introduced by LLMs is bypassed when resumes are reviewed solely by recruiters.

  • Resumes that highlight unique skills and experiences may fare better with human review. 
  • Opted-out resumes may be reprioritized. 
  • Lengthy screening steps will require more rigorous human intervention.

How should resume writers advise clients? 

Here are some thoughts: 

  • Suggest that clients strongly concerned about bias or lack of transparency opt out if possible.
  • Suggest opt-out if the candidate review process only utilizes AI with no human review.
  • Suggest opt-in if the resume is a clean match and the client wants increased visibility.

There is a lot more to discuss regarding the use of AI in the hiring process, and I hope to tackle some of these issues in upcoming newsletter issues.

Meanwhile, the best thing we can do to ensure our client’s competitiveness is to continue to write quality resumes that focus on their relevance for the roles they are seeking. Becoming a Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) through the NRWA is a great start. Attending NRWA webinars and conferences is another way to stay connected with industry trends.

Lisa Dupras is a resume writer, career coach, and owner of Elev8 Resumes and Coaching in Lanoka Harbor, NJ. She specializes in helping folks pivot into IT careers.

Professional Development 

electronic learning

The NRWA offers live and on-demand webinars, a self-paced Resume Writing 101 course, teleseminars, and more opportunities for learning throughout the year.


Certification Programs 

NCRW - Nationally Certified Resume Writer
NCOPE - Nationally Certified Online Profile Expert

Resume Experts

Visit our public-facing companion site to access our directory of resume experts, learn more about how we help job seekers, and read our Ask the Experts blog.


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