Working With Recruiters, Part 1: Your Resume

With so many professionals questioning how recruiters work, this topic comes up frequently, and for good reason: numerous myths abound about what recruiters really want to see on your résumé, what to avoid, and what is sure to get a response.

As a former recruiter, I often saw great candidates undersell themselves by a mile, while not-so-skilled professionals could get their foot in the door just through a well-written document. (I’ve seen it happen! Check out the chapter excerpt to my book for an enlightening story).

One thing is for sure: then and now, recruiters need basic information that gives them an accurate picture of your fitness for their client needs.

In a nutshell, this is the plea I’ve heard most frequently from the hiring side of the table:

Explain your value proposition.
Improving your chances, according to a technical recruiter, involves taking a “short snapshot of wins, achievements and results” that shows your impact to revenue and costs.

In other words, if you’re going to be evaluated just on your résumé, ensure that your value leaps out, makes sense, and is summarized for easy reading.

Don’t make me hunt for the good stuff.
If there are key points among your major qualifications, say so UPFRONT.

I’m reading several dozen résumés right along with yours, and I might miss out on your new MBA, or the fact that you offer a background in logistics along with purchasing experience.

The technical recruiter, for example, recommends putting that “snapshot” squarely on the top portion of your résumé.

Explain your gaps.
Life happens, and it’s possible to have been unemployed while looking for work, or while raising a family.

As I’ve noted before, giving your gap a name means that I don’t have to guess what’s been going on in your life, or toss your résumé before finding out.

Don’t use the cover letter to rehash.
Some recruiters love the cover letter, while others ignore it. It’s safe to say that I’ll at least glance at it, and there’s where your problems can start.

Avoid repeating or lifting résumé information. Instead, tell me why you want to work at this particular job, and what connection your skills have to my client’s needs.

Give me bullet points… and save some trees.
If you’ve written a masterfully crafted, five-page résumé, it will hit the trash without a second look.

Why? Because I need your information to be concise, and I can already tell that you don’t know how to convey your point.

There’s nothing harder on the eyes than a résumé full of long paragraphs. Remember—my email is full of documents from well-qualified job hunters, and I will be skimming – NOT reading – yours.

Proofread, and then proofread some more.
As one recruiter puts it, “One spelling mistake, and you’re out.”

Echoes a hiring manager at a technology corporation, “These are the days of MS Word! It still amazes me to see résumés that have so many typos.”

Seeking stability…
One trait shared by numerous recruiters is avoiding job hoppers. As many recruiters have noted bluntly, I’m on the lookout for longer tenures.

“A habit of job-hopping assures the resume will not be read,” notes one executive recruiter.

If this applies to you, remember that recruiter criteria CAN be subjective… and you may need to expand your search techniques to cast that wider net.

Skip the font and presentation circus.
I can have a tough time reading what you’re really all about through the fancy fonts, borders, and other frivolities stuffed into some résumés.

“I look first for presentation, meaning the résumé must be well-organized, logical, and easy to read,” notes a nonprofit hiring manager.

In fact, notes an accounting hiring manager, “I’d err away from the art project,” noting that a clean look and use of different sizes or bold in the same font are preferred choices for easy reading.

A good résumé response, says a corporate hiring authority, can definitely be compounded by an “unconventional” design.

Remember that I might simply not have the need…
So don’t take it personally! My client companies have very specific requirements as to length of tenure, keywords or skills, and location.

Yet, many résumés will cross my desk, and they might not fit my criteria. For example, it’s a fact of recruiting life that many of us look only for passive candidates (meaning the ones that aren’t looking at the moment).

And while I might be excited about your background, there are times I just can’t sell my clients on it.

But remember: today’s hiring situation can change within minutes. As one recruiter told me, “Stay in touch. Things can change very quickly, and you never know what opportunities I might try to fill tomorrow.”

Next week: Working With Recruiters Part II: Getting Up to Speed

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