Résumé-writing business marks a decade
A spinoff from an executive search firm, Vertical Media Solutions offers job-search materials preparation and coaching services.
Joel Marotti launched Vertical Media Solutions in 2007 after noticing that downsized but talented workers had trouble marketing their skills to employers.
Marotti started a management consulting and executive search firm called the Stephen J. Group in 2005. He soon saw an opportunity to take the knowledge he gained working with companies and branch out to help individuals job search during a “scary period” for the economy.
“We wanted to pivot and keep everybody earning a living,” he said.
He named the firm Vertical Media Solutions, with the idea that it would help job seekers — from “fresh out of high school all the way up to the C-Suite” — move up in their careers.
Marotti and his four employees develop résumés, cover letters, CVs and LinkedIn profiles for their clients. They also offer interview preparation and job-coaching services.
“We’re in the business of helping people represent themselves,” he said. “Some of the sharpest engineers are excellent at what they do. If you ask them to go into an interview or how to present their qualifications, they aren’t as good at that.
“We encountered a lot (of that) in manufacturing. … Once we figured out our niche, we founded this new business.”
Located at 1514 Wealthy St. SE, Suite 254, VMS also has satellite offices in Ann Arbor and Lansing.
In the beginning, Marotti and his team met with most clients in person, but they quickly concluded it would be more efficient to switch to phone and email consultations, except in rare cases.
“Doing it online allows us to do the same job without the inefficiencies and allows us to work with people all around the country,” he said.
Marotti said each project has three team members assigned to it.
“The way we’re set up is I act in a sales capacity and do career evaluations and coaching, and then we have a project manager who oversees the big picture, and résumé writers who are engaged in development, research, etc.”
He strives to be frank with clients that the process is not a résumé factory where you can “click a button and get a generic résumé.”
“It’s not a true online business, where you place an order and a day later, out comes your résumé. It’s about a seven-day cycle,” he said.
First, the firm has prospective clients fill out a questionnaire, followed by an hour-long phone interview called a career evaluation.
“We have to evaluate whether we’re a good fit for one another,” he said. “Because we are a small business, we focus on limiting how many jobs we do a week.”
The career evaluation probes clients’ educational background, work history, salary information (if clients opt to disclose that), whether previous roles were people-management roles and reasons for changing jobs or fields, if applicable.
“We want to know everything about you because the more we know, the better we can help you,” Marotti said. “We need to understand what it is you want to do next.”
The contemporary approach to writing résumés requires a mindset shift for many job hunters, Marotti said.
“The old résumé was task-based,” he said. “Today, we have to have a strategic approach.”
One example would be creating a “functional résumé,” rather than a chronological résumé, for a job seeker who has changed jobs frequently — especially if a prospective employer is looking for someone with five years of experience.
“(A functional résumé) is a highlight reel of your strongest accomplishments,” Marotti said. “Say it’s from eight years ago. We can arrange it in whatever way is most effective. We hit the most powerful statements first. Say the reviewer sees that, and they get excited about what you can do, and they get engaged. Say they call you to ask where you worked and when, then you can provide that information.
“We’re cutting out dates. But we’ll make that decision judiciously. … If you fit the bill, (reviewers) will be more likely to make a call, and it will get you one step further than you would have otherwise.”
He said that approach also can work for job candidates who have had periods of unemployment. By emphasizing the jobs with the most longevity, it puts the attention on skills rather than timeline.
Part of the reason VMS asks for so much detail about experience is clients tend to think in titles rather than categories, and companies use a range of titles to describe similar jobs.
“A good example is sales,” Marotti said. “We see an enormous amount of people referred to as account managers — people responsible for a certain amount of accounts who are acting as a liaison, selling products and services to clients.
“Companies may call these sales reps, sales engineers, account managers or account executives. When someone is getting onto the market, we may not want to call them those specific titles, because HR will look at that, and they won’t know what that means.”
Marotti said his team strives to create a category-based résumé that can apply to many roles within one industry and cover letters that can be customized to each company.
After the team has finished researching and writing a résumé, CV, cover letter or LinkedIn profile, it goes through a round of edits, and then Marotti reviews it and sends it to the client.
“If they have changes, we jump back on the phone with the writer. They can ask, ‘Why did you do it this way?’ There’s a method to everything. If you’re not comfortable with it, we’ll change it,” Marotti said.
Although VMS does not guarantee job placement, Marotti said in the past 10 years, it has helped an assistant city manager become a city manager, a three-star general transition to a Fortune 100 company, and a sheriff work his way into the Department of Defense, where he then moved into black ops.
It also has helped new college graduates, executives, managers and those looking to change fields.
In 2015, it added outplacement services for companies planning layoffs.
“This is something that a lot of businesses do when … they have to let a group of people go,” he said. “The company contracts with us to provide a package of services to help their employees transition out and get their next jobs.
“Even with the job market being strong like it is now, there’s a lot of benefit to companies to think about outplacement, and when they do, it’s very beneficial and can reduce liability.”
In addition to job materials development and outplacement services, VMS offers interview and career coaching.
VMS charges for projects on a sliding scale based on the amount of time required for each project, and the firm works on about 263 projects per year.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a fantastic reputation in the marketplace,” Marotti said. “It’s not because we make promises we can’t keep, but because we take a consultative approach that allows us to create longer-term relationships.
“We’re helping them build a powerful presentation of their professionalism and qualifications and in a way that’s in line with market trends.”