7 reasons why recruiters and employers dread reading a résumé

Here’s a fact: Very few people like reading résumés, especially those who read hundreds of them a week. Ask any recruiter or employer. I critique and write résumés as part of my job. I’ve read hundreds of them and have conducted numerous critique sessions, but I’ve got nothing over recruiters and employers.

The only bright spot in this whole process is reading a résumé that doesn’t give me a sharp pain between my eyes, one that is relatively sound. A résumé that is outstanding–now, that’s a WOW moment.

Once you understand that recruiters and employers are not dying to read your résumé, you can focus your attention on writing one that pleasantly surprises them, one that prompts them to recommend you for an interview. To entice them into inviting you in for an interview, you must avoid making the following mistakes:

1, An apathetic approach to writing your résumé. Don’t let your apathy show in the quality of your product, which shouts, “I’m not into writing a résumé. It means I have to think about what I did.” This sentiment comes across loud and clear from people who feel this way. They resent having to write a résumé and would like others to do it for them. Do not rely on others to write your résumé; it’s your responsibility.

2. Your résumé is a tome. It’s a five-page document consisting of every duty you performed within the past 25-years; and it’s so dense that the person reading it puts it in the “don’t read” pile simply because it’s nearly impossible to read. I recently glanced at a résumé that resembled what I’ve just described. I made no false pretense and simply put it down after two seconds saying, “I can’t read this.”

3. It lacks accomplishments. I know, you’ve heard this a thousand times. But it’s worth repeating because you want to stand out from the rest. Recruiters and employers relate to quantified results with dollars, numbers, and percentages. Many people think accomplishments should only be highlighted in the Work History section or under Career Highlights.

One or two of your accomplishments should be stated in the Performance Profile. “Develop processes that improve operations and result in double-digit revenue growth. ” A statement like this is meant to grab the reader’s attention. This assertion must then be backed up in the Work History with explicit examples and dollar amounts.

4. Failing to show recruiters and employers what you’ll do for them. Recruiters and employers don’t want to know what you did; they want to know what you can do. You’re probably thinking, “If my work history is in the past. That’s what I did. How do I show employers what I can do?” It’s what we in the field call prioritizing your statements, or targeting your résumé to each company to which you apply. In other words, illustrate how your qualifications and accomplishments match the employers’ requirements in order of importance.

5. You don’t know what recruiters and employers want. Many people don’t take the time to dissect the job ad to discover the most important skills and experience the employer wants to see on your résumé. If the ad is skimpy, go to the company’s career section on its website.

Better yet, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call him/her and ask more about the position. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding influential people at companies. The bottom line is that you can’t write a targeted résumé if you don’t understand the requirements of the job.

6. You lack keywords and phrases. As CareerBuilder.com points out, keywords are the skills applicant tracking systems (ATS) search for to determine if your résumé will be the first of many to be read by recruiters and employers. Your branding headline, much like the headline on your LinkedIn profile, is the first place on your résumé where you’ll utilize keywords. Then you will make sure they’re peppered throughout the rest of your résumé.

7. You apply for a job for which you’re not qualified. I know the urge to find a job, any job, is great; but don’t waste the time of a recruiter, employer, and you by applying for a job for which you’re not qualified. You may think there’s an inkling of hope that you’ll get an interview. But if you have only five of the 10 requirements necessary to do the job, there really is no hope. And this can be determined within the first 10 seconds of reading the résumé.

A woman in HR recently related this story to me, “I received a résumé in a USPS photo envelope (heavy duty mailer) certified mail.  The résumé is on lovely cream-colored card stock, beautifully formatted. The problem, she is applying for the Assistant Town Accountant position and for the last 10 years she has been a dog groomer.”


 

These are but seven faux pas you must avoid if you want to write a powerful résumé that is enjoyable to read and gets you a spot in the hot seat. Once you’re at the interview, you’re one step closer to a job offer.

I’m not the enemy–8 myths and facts about what I do

myths

I recall a conversation I had with a recruiter who told me I’m the enemy. The reason she told me this is because my job as a career strategist and workshop facilitator is to prepare jobseekers for their search. And I imagine this recruiter believes I instruct my customers to do anything to pull one over on recruiters.

While it’s true my goal is to help my customers get jobs, I will not go to any measure to help them land in a position, especially when they’re not qualified.

The fact that this recruiter called me the enemy got me to thinking about how misunderstood I am when it comes to preparing jobseekers for their search. Here are 8 myths and facts about what I do.

1. Myth: I tell my customers that all recruiters are scum. That they only care about themselves and their client, the company.

Fact: I tell my customers a recruiter’s paycheck comes from the company. However, the recruiters’ goal is to create a match between employer and candidate. Many recruiters want to build healthy relationships with jobseekers–it only makes good business sense.

2. Myth: I encourage my customers to lie on their résumés or, at the very least, embellish their accomplishments to trick recruiters into calling them.

Fact: My mantra is, “Never lie on your résumé.” People who lie on their résumé are found out for the frauds they are. So don’t make it worse by claiming you’ve accomplished more than you have, I advise.

I’ll admit that I tell my customers to conceal their age by only listing 10-15 years of work history. 

3. Myth: I tell my customers that the recruiter’s purpose is to screen them out of consideration because of their their salary requirement, so they should agree to a lower salary. Then they can battle it out with the hiring manager.

Fact: Yes, recruiters need to know if the opportunity is at all plausible, so I tell my jobseekers it’s best to know earlier than later if they and the employer are even close. Why waste everyone’s time?

4. Myth: Similar to myth # 3, I tell my customers that the telephone interview with the recruiter is only a screening to verify they have the technical requirements for the job and has nothing to do with determining personality fit.

Fact: Recruiters need to verify if my customers can do the job, have the required software/hardware/procedural skills required by the employer; but good recruiters also determine if applicants are a personality fit. I tell my customers to be prepared for more difficult questions, including behavioral-based ones.

5. Myth: I tell my customers that recruiters have no say in the hiring process.

Fact. Recruiters don’t make the ultimate decision, but their opinion is valued by the hiring manager, so the interviews will be challenging and reveal the strengths, as well as the weaknesses, of the applicants.

6. Myth: I tell my customers to go around the recruiters and speak directly with the hiring managers.

Fact. Going around the recruiters will not only fray relationships with recruiters, it will demonstrate a lack of integrity and will turn the hiring managers off. However, if my customers are not getting the love from a recruiter, they should take measures into their own hands.

7. Myth. I tell my customers to contact as many recruiters as possible to increase their chances of getting a job.

Fact. My father told me as a teenager to play the field; this always backfired. The recruiter can be your best friend, so don’t dis him by not showing the love. My customers need to build the trust with the recruiter and not insult him by being a player. Some recruiters are putzes, so move on until you find one or two that deserve your love.

 8. Myth. I tell my customers that all recruiters read cover letters.

Fact. From the words of a recruiter who doesn’t read cover letters, “I read 200 résumés for one position. No, I don’t have time to read cover letters.” Some recruiters (the smart ones) read cover letters, but no all.

As you can see, I’m not fighting against recruiters; I’m merely trying to prepare my jobseekers in a realistic manner. I don’t believe all things come up smelling like roses. There are jobseekers who will pull dumb moves, and there are recruiters who will treat my customers with disrespect. The goal is to develop a partnership between jobseekers and recruiters.

 

 

 

A breakdown of your job search in 4 areas

There’s been speculation as to how jobseekers should segment their time for the job search. Some embrace the idea of dedicating a certain amount of time to their job search methods; They have a well-devised plan.

Others don’t give much thought to how they’ll spend their time and energy on the search. This can be a mistake.

Having guidelines, whether you adhere to them or occasionally drop the ball, provide objectives which are necessary to achieve your goals. The job search is not an exact science, however you need a guideline to give yourself direction. Consider the following way of segmenting your job search into job-search methods.

60% Networking related activities

The Department of Labor has stated that at least 60% of jobs are gained through networking, and most pundits would agree that networking is the best use of your time. However, some people have the misconception that attending networking events only constitutes connecting with people who can be of mutual help.

Networking should be a daily event that comes about naturally, such as during family gatherings, on the sidelines of a soccer game, while getting your hair colored, in the grocery store, etc. You must prepared to present yourself in a favorable manner at all times; first impressions count.

Note: Lou Adler, expert recruiter and author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, recently wrote an article for LinkedIn in which he states networking should constitute 60% of your job search. 

20% LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the best way to network online, period. Facebook and Twitter are great media for communicating real-time, but serious business people and jobseekers use LinkedIn on a regular basis with great success.

I only suggest 20% percent because putting more effort into LinkedIn can make you complacent, believing that it’s a replacement for personal networking. It isn’t! LinkedIn is a great supplement for personal networking.

Once you’ve developed connections on LinkedIn, it’s time to reach out to them and touch them in a personal way: meet with them in person, talk on the phone (if they’re long distance), and at the very least communicate via e-mail.

10% Job Postings/Researching Companies

Estimates for success using this method to search for work only range from 4-10%, according to the well-known Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute.  The image of jobseekers hunched over their computer mechanically zipping résumés into the clouds depresses me.

Why not develop a list of companies for which you’d like to work, follow their progress (or lack thereof), and send a nicely crafted approach letter (which indicates your interest in a possible positions) to the companies that show movement? Or better yet, call them.

Let’s adjust this figure. Spend 5 percent of your time playing the lottery by sending out your generic résumé that most likely will be lost in companies’ huge databases; spend the other 5 percent doing your research and composing introductory letters or making phone calls that will garner greater success.

10% Agency/3rd Party Recruiters

This figure assumes you use agencies or 3rd party recruiters. Some of us stiffs, perhaps more than one would think, don’t use recruiters due to the industry in which we work. So this 10 percent can be thrown out the window for people who haven’t even run across a recruiter.

On the other hand, if you are in an industry where working with recruiters is the norm and you demand a high salary, this figure seems a bit low. Richard Bolles gives this method of job search a 5 to 28 percent chance of success if used alone, taking into consideration the salary requirements of the jobseekers.

Adjustments

If you don’t use recruiters, shift 3 percent across the board. The readjustment would then be:

  • 63 percent dedicated to networking
  • 24 percent LinkedIn
  • 13 percent the job boards and researching companies

Put it in action

I’ve heard pundits claim that creating a weekly schedule to follow is fruitless. I disagree. Having a schedule to follow on a consistent basis gives you structure and objectives toward an attainable goal.

Let’ say you’ll spend 30 hours a week to conduct your job search—a good number, I think, as you’ll want time for other important things in your life. Of those 30 hours you’ll spend 18 combined hours on networking activities, only 3 or 4 of those hours attending networking groups; 6 hours on LinkedIn; and 3 hours online and recruiters.

Of course your plan may be derailed for one reason or another–Uncle Al blows into town. You don’t have time to attend the third networking event of the week. No sweat, get back on track the next week and stick to the theoretical schedule. The most important thing is that you are proactive in your job search, not spending 30 hours a week sending your résumé into the dark void.

5 things to consider for an interview; it’s not all about the hard skills

Recruiters and staffing agencies are not only concerned about job candidates’ hard skills; they’re also concerned about their soft skills. And this makes sense. Who would want to hire a dud who brings the operation down with his attitude? Jon Prete, “Who would you hire: Charlie or Ashton? It’s all about attitude!” and Jeff Haden, “The 5 Biggest Hiring Mistakes,” both emphasize the importance of hiring someone who will be a good fit.

This said, how should you prepare for the job search with this in mind? Here are five areas of your job search to focus on.

Be the round peg for the round hole: “The outstanding salesman with the incredible track record of generating business and terrorizing admin and support staff won’t immediately play well in your sandbox just because you hired him,” writes Haden. Let’s face it; if you’re difficult to work for, you have one strike against you already.

Look at yourself long and hard and determine what areas in your personality you might improve. Also determine in which work environments you feel most comfortable. If you’re a demanding person with little tolerance, you might consider an atmosphere with other demanding people…where you can’t terrorize other people.

Show it on paper: Many jobseekers say writing about their soft skills on their résumé and in their cover letter is irrelevant. This is bunk, especially with your cover letter. I don’t suggest that you use clichés like, “hard worker,” “team player,” “dynamic.” I suggest you illustrate these traits through your accomplishments. Show rather than tell.

A Manufacturing Manager who has a team-work approach and leadership skills might write: Consistently met production deadlines through collaboration with colleagues in various departments and providing effective leadership to (formerly) unmotivated subordinatesResult: Products were shipped to customers with a 97% return rate.

Talk about your soft skills while you’re networking: “I hate bragging at networking events,” I’m constantly told. “Nobody wants to hear about my personal qualities.” Yes they do. If someone is going to recommend you to a solid contact, wouldn’t you like to be assured that she will tell him that you loved what you were doing; you were a positive influence on you co-workers?

Demonstrate your enthusiasm while you’re networking, whether at events or on the sidelines of your daughter’s soccer game. Instead of saying, “I’m innovative”; say, “I came up with ideas that were often implemented and led to significant cost savings.”

Of course demonstrating your soft skills at the interview is important: This goes without saying. Interviewers today are using behavioral questions to find the people with the right attitude. “If crafted properly,” states Prete, “behavioral questions can provide a glimpse into a candidate’s decision-making process as well as their values. [Leadership Development Advisor, Beth Armknecht Miller] believes that a great majority of employees fail in a company because their soft skills and values don’t match those of their manager and company.”

Unlike the résumé where you have limited space, the interview provides you the platform to tell your stories using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) formula. You may be asked about your ability to effectively discipline subordinates. “Tell me about a time when you were effective in disciplining an employee. How did this help the employee perform better?” Have a story ready.

Seal the deal: The interview is not concluded until you’ve sent a follow-up letter, I tell my workshop attendees. This is another opportunity to emphasize your strong personality skills, making you a better fit for the position than other applicants. Many jobseekers fail to send a thank you note, and some don’t get the job for that reason.

A former customer recently wrote me, “The HR person really liked my hand-written thank-you note; said it was rare.” The message here is that you can stand out as a courteous, professional, and follow-through type of candidate simply by sending a thank-you note.

Jobseekers generally think that recruiters and staffing agencies care only about the technical skills. (After all, recruiters can’t present a zebra with orange stripes to their client when a zebra with black stripes is called for.) But two recruiters are telling you that employers want a great personality fit, as well. Take their advice and sell yourself as an all-around employee from the very beginning.

5 rules not to break in the job search: in response to a dismayed recruiter

A recent entry, The Angry Young Job Seeker written by Amy Ala, speaks of the ignorance and downright audacity of a talented gentleman this recruiter was trying to place. Demanding, belligerent, arrogant, are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe the subject of Amy’s account.

In reading the article, you get a sense that the author was trying to help the jobseeker, while also keeping in mind the needs of her client. She demonstrated patience, diplomacy, and understanding. In the end she couldn’t in good conscience recommend the jobseeker for the job. There are those who go to great lengths to help jobseekers find employment.

So when a jobseekers commits follies–like the one Amy was trying to place–it’s hard to believe the lack of common sense they display. It makes one scratch her head and wonder, “What makes people behave this way?” Let’s go over some basic behavior to avoid when engaging in relationships with recruiters, HR, and hiring managers.

  1. Don’t forget your manners. Remember when your parents taught you manners? These manners were meant to be practiced throughout your life. In Amy’s article, the jobseeker surely didn’t exercise his manners and this did him in. He verbalized his displeasure with having to go through another round of interviews, was inflexible in terms of meeting for an interview, and demanded “relo” fees.
  2. Understand the role of a recruiter, Human Resources, and hiring managers. It is their job to find the right person for a position that needs to be filled. If they recommend or hire the wrong person, it doesn’t bode well. Your job is to make them see you as the answer to their prayers, not expect them to be the answer to your prayers.
  3. You are not the center of attention. You are a means to an end, namely serving the organization that hires and houses you. This is an extension of the previous point. Your objective is to get an interview, land the job, and keep the job. As you rise in the ranks, your leveraging power will increase. Until then, do as you’re told.
  4. When the workday ends, those who can help you realize your goal have other obligations. This is my little rule. When the workday ends, I have my kids’ events to attend, not unlimited time to conduct business. Some recruiters, et al, may be more flexible of their own free will or because their job calls for it. In other words, they don’t work for you.
  5. You are better than a buffoon and a squabbling fool—If you’re a bit irritated but generally  agree with what I’ve written, thank heavens. If by chance, you’re saying who the @#%& is he to be stating these rules, chances are you’ll find it very difficult to land and keep a job. But honestly, you’re better than someone who would break these rules, including the jobseeker mentioned in the article.

Keep your dignity. With all this said, don’t be taken advantage of. Any recruiter, HR professional, or hiring manager who treats you wrong isn’t worth his…or her…weight in salt.  Many jobseekers approach me and ask what they should do if they haven’t heard from a recruiter or employer after many attempts of contacting them. I tell them to continue to follow up but don’t hound or stalk them. They’re sending you a message, albeit a poor one. Your dignity is worth more than hounding fools who don’t know your value.

Read the article, and you’ll wonder how The Angry Young Job Seeker could be so clueless. The landscape of the job search has changed and the rules may not favor the jobseeker; but as I tell my jobseekers, eventually it will be a sellers’ market. What a wonderful thing that will be.

Can’t we all get along?

Some of my customers, not all, for the most part think recruiters—internal and third-party alike—are unfair and the reason for their failure to get a job. They think recruiters are only concerned with two things: 1) determining if my customers meet 10 out of 10 requirements and 2) want them to work for peanuts. I know this is not necessarily true, I know that recruiters have a job to do, which is to find what the employer wants. This is how recruiters get paid.

I’ve read some pretty good articles on things that tick recruiters off. There was one from the annoyed recruiter who wrote about how lazy some jobseekers are, like they don’t return her calls when all she’s trying to do is match jobseekers up with her companies. Danielle Powers essentially took jobseekers to task for poor communications. I wrote a response entitled Response to the Frustrated Recruiter Lady to her scathing article.

Most recently Mark Bregman wrote an article entitled Don’t get De-Selected, in which he talks about faux pas jobseekers want to avoid at an interview; six in fact. All common sense to me. And I warn my jobseekers about mistakes to avoid; that’s all I can do. I believe Mark Bregman when he says talking too much or asking too many questions is bad practice. Hell, I hate it when people talk too much.

You see, I agree with how recruiters wish things were, like jobseekers would communicate better and show initiative and think at interviews. I also agree with jobseekers on how they wish things were, like recruiters would return their phone calls—to which recruiters are probably thinking, “Be real, Career Trainer Guy. How can we return tons of telephone calls, and do we want to listen to people whine?”

Another point of contention for my jobseekers is how recruiters start the phone conversation by asking what salary they made at their last job or what is their minimum salary requirement. Between you and me, it’s better to be sure both parties are on the same page, rather than waste time interviewing only to find out they’re so far apart.

Another complaint I hear is, “Don’t mess with my résumé; I spent a lot of time and money having it written.” I know recruiters’ response to this is, “Here’s the thing, Mr. jobseeker, you may have had it written by a professional résumé writer, but my customer (the company) wants to see specific qualifications, even if they go back 20 years.” Hey, I get this; recruiters know what employers want to see on a résumé.

But this isn’t an entry on defending jobseekers or bashing recruiters, because I realize recruiters are under a lot of pressure, pressure to place polygons into polygonal holes, not square ones. I know you gals and guys make a lot of phone calls and listen to some BS now and then, like, “My experience at XYZ Company makes me ideal for the Marketing Directors position.” Even if Ms. Jobseeker’s experience is that of a Marketing Specialist but the President of the 25-employee company allowed her to use on her résumé any title she desired.

What’s the solution? How can we get jobseekers and recruiters to play nice? I suppose the answer is getting both sides to be realistic about the system and the roles each play. I, for one, will try to get the message across to my customers and recruiters. Until then business will go on as usual.

Response to the Frustrated Recruiter Lady

While reading an article titled, “You are the Laziest Jobseeker Ever,” I felt sympathy for a recruiter who writes in near stream of consciousness describing lazy, apathetic jobseekers. From the sounds of it, she had certainly had enough of jobseekers who don’t give a damn. She is a frustrated recruiter lady.

I once wrote an article on jobseekers who actually care about their hunt and make great efforts, despite being rejected many times over. They are the people I meet on a regular basis in my workshops and coach them through the process, the ones who go about the search the proper way—networking, sending targeted résumés, using LinkedIn, etc. They are not the ones portrayed in this article from the Frustrated Recruiter Lady.

Frustrated Recruiter Lady describes in her article jobseekers I optimistically like to think don’t exist, ones I conveniently store in the back of my mind. They are the people over whom my colleagues and I pull our hair out. “Does this person want this job?! He won’t even return a phone call on a sure thing. The employer says she wants him,” we say with exasperation. But these jobseekers are far and few between.

Frustrated Recruiter Lady exasperatingly writes that when a jobseeker responds to her with a fragmented e-mail instead of a well thought-out cover letter, it is inexcusable and deserves her wrath. She writes, “THEY did not sign their names or include their phone numbers which means that I had to go back to CareerBuilder to look them up… well guess what YOU MOVE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LIST THAT WAY!”

Chill out, lady, I want to say when she overuses those all-cap words. Doesn’t she know writing in all caps is like shouting? But I can also  understand why she is misusing capitalization; she is frustrated, as I would be.

“So I am not going to dig back through Careerbuilder to find you again?” she continues. “Yes I most likely saved you in a folder or put you on my work list, but still, your lack of investment in the process makes me think you are flighty.”

This is how she reacts when she gets a response like, “I’ll get back to you.” I’ll get back to you? No, I think, you should answer Frustrated Recruiter Lady’s message IMMEDIATELY. (Yes, I’m shouting.)

I have to admit that my desire to help this type of apathetic jobseeker is minimal at best. The way it works with recruiters is that they are not working for the jobseekers; they’re working for the companies that pay them money to satisfy a very important need—filling a vacant or soon to be vacant position. They are not the jobseeker’s best friend, but by helping their customer, they are ultimately helping the jobseeker. They’re simply the middleman…woman. The jobseeker holds only one card, the card that tells them to put it on the line.

The recruiter is the person who won’t or can’t penetrate the walls of companies who prefer to engage in the Hidden Job Market.

I understand Frustrated Recruiter Lady’s annoyance, and it’s not because of the way she capitalizes the eleven words above. It’s the same way I feel when I’m leading a workshop and an attendee forgets to turn off her cell phone. And when it rings she doesn’t turn it off. She lets it ring until I mockingly say, “I like that ringtone. Where did you get it?” Many in the room laugh at my sarcasm.

Yes, Frustrated Recruiter Lady, it should be the way you want it to be, as long as you’re fair and honest and care one little bit about your next-body-to-fill-a-position person. When you think about it, the job of a recruiter can be difficult. So give her the respect she’s owed and pick up the phone or send a cover letter. That’s the way the game is played.

One of my jobseekers approached me the other day and asked if she should send a quick text to a recruiter’s inquiry or reply with a well-thought-out cover letter and résumé. I smiled and, of course, told her to play her card the right way.

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