By Caitlin Gonzalez, NCRW - NRWA Staff Writer
Are you thinking about becoming the next Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW)? Unsure of where to begin? Having gone through the process myself, I understand that it can be somewhat nerve-wracking. You want to put your best foot forward, but how? That’s why I wrote this article—to empower and motivate you on your journey towards certification. In this article, I’ll break down the process step by step and share advice from both a successful NCRW, Ashley Watkins, and a NCRW exam grader, Kim Isaacs.
About the NCRW
The NCRW is the National Resume Writers’ Association’s credential signifying the highest level of resume excellence. Those who obtain this distinction produce “quality-oriented and visually appealing” career documents that market job seekers in a “sales-focused, succinct” format.
To begin the certification process, you need to be a current member of the NRWA.
Steps to Certification
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started! Here is what you need to know to begin your journey towards certification:
1. Obtain a minimum of 10 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
You can earn CEUs each time you participate in a training program or webinar that is hosted by the NRWA and focuses on a writing topic. The beauty of it is that the more you continuously educate yourself, the higher your quality of writing will be in alignment with NCRW standards.
Pro Tip: By attending the upcoming 2021 annual conference, you will receive 10 CEUs (and lots of exam-boosting knowledge). To learn more about CEUs, click here.
2. Study, study, study!
3. Register to begin the first part of the certification process.
Your exam will be graded based on the standards detailed within the NCRW Study Guide and The Gregg Reference Manual. These are your lifelines for writing a resume that will knock the socks off your exam grader. If you are an NRWA member, you can download the study guide here.
Additionally, here is a list of books that are highly recommended. I happened to pick up Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed…Get Hired earlier in my resume writing career, and I still use it as a reference today.
4. Register for the exam.
You will be asked to complete an open-book Study Guide quiz and submit a sample resume and cover letter.
For your sample, remember that the exam graders are looking for writers with a strong command of English, the ability to strategically execute document formats with consistent value, and the skill to “sell” job seekers with relevant, front-loaded accomplishments.
The purpose of the sample is to assess your current writing level—either you will get a green light to move on to the exam or a yellow light asking you to pause and continue upskilling. You will also need to receive a 100% on the Study Guide quiz. Don’t worry—you can always retake the quiz and resubmit a sample if you are told you may not be “ready.” You’ve got this! To learn more about the quiz and how to prepare the sample, click here.
You’ve earned the 10 CEUs, studied, aced the quiz, and got a stamp of approval on the sample submission. It’s “Go” time!
After you schedule your exam, you’ll receive a fictional client profile. The test is to create a resume and cover letter using only the information provided. You have five days to complete the project. I recommend carving out ample time to focus. For example, I scheduled my exam so that my five-day period would include two weekend days. You’ll be grateful for the extra head space. Two graders will review your exam and provide results within four weeks. To learn more about exam registration, click here.
Advice from Ashley Watkins, NCRW, NCOPE
Ashley Watkins, founder of Write Step Resume, LLC, started her journey towards certification by attending NRWA webinars and reading Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed…Get Hired. This book inspired her, similarly as it did for me, to “step it up” and learn more about how to craft the highest quality resumes.
She signed up for the NRWA’s Writing Excellence Program, a 9-week course that accelerates industry-leading resume writing expertise. Ashley explains that “From day one, Norine Dagliano, Writing Excellence Instructor and NCRW Grader, offered tons of information on grammar, clarity, and concise writing.” Norine also suggested each writer secure a mentor. Ashley connected with Melanie L. Denny-Salomon who helped her perfect her client branding skills, which are “extremely important for the exam.”
Ashley says that she achieved certification on her first try in large part because of relationships and continuous education. “I would urge anyone interested in obtaining the NCRW to enroll in the Writing Excellence program first. Even now, I refer to the course material, The Gregg Reference Manual, and the NCRW Study Guide to tighten up my writing. The road to certification was not easy, but it is certainly doable for anyone willing to put in the work.”
Advice from Kim Isaacs, NCRW, NCOPE, CPRW, and NCRW Exam Grader
Kim Isaacs, founder of ResumePower, has been on the grading panel for more than 20 years and wants people to know that the process is like taking a test in school—“performance is tied to preparation.”
“The first step is to read the NCRW Study Guide. And then reread it. While it’s not meant to be a comprehensive resume writing how-to guide, it outlines tenets of resume writing best practices. Even veteran writers can learn from the NCRW Study Guide.”
Additionally, tap into the NRWA’s robust learning resources. “The gold standard is the Writing Excellence Program led by Norine Dagliano. The program is an investment, but the 1-on-1 instruction and personal attention from Norine will pay off—participants have a high passing rate.”
The NRWA “also has free and lower-cost resources for members, including a library of webinars and Resume Writing 101, a self-paced learning tool.”
Kim also wants you to know that every single grader wants you to pass! There are no tricks, and she doesn’t expect perfection; submissions can have some errors and still pass. However, give it your best to showcase your mastery.
“The NCRW is not a certification mill where you pay the fee, make a minimal effort, and get certified. Quite the opposite—the program is designed to recognize excellence and a continued commitment to the craft. You can expect some hard work going in, but the work will only make you a better writer. In turn, you’ll have happier clients, repeat business, and lots of referrals.”