What Recruiters Are Saying About Resumes
(By J. Michael Worthington, Jr.)
Recently ResumeDoctor undertook the immense project
of interviewing several hundred recruiters/headhunters to find out
what they are saying about resumes. These recruiters stemmed from
varied specialties and industries throughout the US and Canada (Engineering,
Information Technology, Sales and Marketing, Executive, Biotech,
Healthcare, Administrative, Finance, etc.). ResumeDoctor sought
to find out what are the recruiter's likes and dislikes in a resume
they receive and what is going to get a resume read by them. Some
of the "Pet Peeves" shared will be obvious, while others might surprise
a job seeker.
#20 - Burying or Not Including Important Information
in the Resume
Many recruiters shared that candidates often leave off very
important and critical experience/information that is pertinent
to the job they are seeking. Just as bad is to include this important
info, (i.e. holding a Security Clearance or being bi-lingual in
Spanish, when it is a requirement of the position), but burying
it so deep into the resume the recruiter will not see it. No recruiter
has the time to play Sherlock Holmes or guessing games to figure
out a candidate's background. Job seekers must be aware that recruiters
receive literally hundreds of resumes a day and spend only about
10 seconds "skimming" through each resume. This is why it is imperative
that if a job seeker possesses the requirements of the position,
that they GRAB the recruiter's attention IMMEDIATELY with these
skills/experience. If not, it reduces the chances that a recruiter
will call considerably. The best scenario is to customize each and
every resume that is sent out and tailor it to the "hot buttons"
that will catch the employer/recruiters attention within 5-10 seconds.
#19 - Gaps in Employment
Employers are probably going to be a bit more understanding
than in the past regarding gaps of employment because of all of
the corporate layoffs, reductions, etc. However, holes or gaps in
dates in a resume will solicit questions from employers and recruiters
alike, so be prepared to answer. Even if you took a sabbatical for
personal reasons, it is a good idea to state such.
#18 - Resumes Written in the 1st or 3rd Person
A resume should not be written in the first person. A resume
is a marketing piece and business correspondence. No recruiter or
future employer wants to read a resume full of "I did this and I
did that..." Furthermore, writing a resume in the first person often
leads to it becoming too verbose.
Writing a resume in the third person was also slated
a major "pet peeve" among many recruiters. There is no, absolutely,
no reason for such. Once again, a resume is simply a quick marketing
piece about the job seeker's background and how it matches the requirements
of the position. It is not a biography for a book jacket cover.
For example: "Mr. Smith is an excellent recruiter, who has placed
Recruiter Trey Cameron of the Cameron Craig Group shared the following
comment, "At least make it sound like you actually wrote the resume
yourself. I don't care how experienced or senior level you are."
#17 - No Easy to Follow Summary
Candidates have to realize that recruiters receive literally
hundreds and hundreds of resumes per week. A resume has to GRAB
the reader from the get go. Recruiters told us that if a resume
does not convey a match within 10 seconds, they move to the next
candidate. An effective summary section will help the recruiter
identify if the job seeker is a viable candidate for the position
quicker. This summary section can be customized to the position
you are applying.
For candidates of a technical nature, it is imperative
that a Technical Summary is also compiled. Make sure that these
technical skills are clearly laid out and current. When creating
this Tech Summary, be careful not to create a long list of "alphabet
soup" no one will ever read or understand.
#16 - Pictures, Graphics or URL Links
Unless you are a super model or are applying to a position such
as an actor or television personality that might require a "headshot,"
there is absolutely no need to include your picture. A candidate
should be judged based on their skills, education, and work history,
not race, sex, age, etc. Providing a picture only opens up problems.
Secondly, pictures are next to impossible to download into recruiter
and HRIS systems. In addition, sending a picture only increases
the file size and download time of your resume. Remember, a candidate
only has about 10 seconds to grab the recruiter, don't waste these
precious seconds for a picture to download.
Much the same goes for graphics and endless URL
links. Including graphics only causes download time to increase
and often makes a resume more difficult to read on a computer screen.
Furthermore, because of the fear of computer viruses, many recruiting
departments are set up not to accept graphics, pictures, downloadable
files, etc. Your resume, in that case, will just be deleted before
it is even opened. In the case of URL links, they just clutter up
your resume and no recruiter will ever spend time "clicking"
on these links. Give the recruiter the facts. Like what was mentioned
in Pet Peeve #20, no recruiter has the time to play Sherlock Holmes
or guessing games to figure out a candidate's background.
#15 - Resumes not sent as a WORD Attachment
Unless specifically requested otherwise, your resume should
be sent as a Word Attachment. Word is the standard in business correspondence.
Do not send your resume as a PDF, Mac file, etc. As already mentioned,
candidates have to be aware that recruiters receive literally hundreds
upon hundreds of resumes per week. A recruiter simply does not have
time to download and convert special files. PDF files require a
much longer download time and special software. In addition, do
not send your resume in a ZIP file. Not only does a recruiter not
want to deal with going through the extra step of opening a resume,
but also ZIP files are designed for long documents. No resume should
be 60 pages long period. Furthermore, ZIP files can contain viruses
that cannot be detected in the email body message. Savvy recruiters
will often just delete the email message as to not risk contaminating
their system. Unless you are a graphic designer or multi-media developer,
no recruiter will spend time going to your "homepage"
to download your resume. Even if you are a graphic designer, you
still need a Word attachment resume. So if you are an accountant,
engineer, etc. do not try to be fancy, because no recruiter has
the time or desire to call up a homepage.
Another top reason for avoiding formats other than
Word or a plain text file is that it becomes increasingly more difficult
to download into many HR and recruiting systems. Often a recruiter
will not have a job for you today. If they cannot enter your resume
into their recruiting system, they will be unable to match your
resume with any positions that do become available. This also goes
for mailed and faxed resumes. Unless specifically requested otherwise,
recruiters are looking for easy to open Word attachments.
Recruiter TIP: Many recruiters shared with us that it is
always a good idea to name your Word attachment "Smith, John
Resume." Recruiters have no time to "guess" the author
of the attachment. Many recruiters are still organizing resumes
sent to them in one folder, so already providing the recruiter with
your resume with an easy to follow document name will make your
resume easier to find.
#14 - Poor Font Choice
When creating your Word Attachment resume, keep your font simple
and easy to read on a computer screen. Be kind to your reader. Do
not use italics or extremely difficult to read fonts like Edwardian
Script. Font size is just as important as style. 8-point fonts are
too small to read, even for Superman. Microsoft seems to have settled
on 10 point Arial as their default font in most of their applications.
People are accustomed to reading such on their computer screen.
For headings, recruiters shared that 12-point bolded is the best
Recruiters told us that that second best choice is Times Roman
as every newspaper and magazine is printing with such. Once again,
people's eyes are accustomed to reading text in this font. However,
10-point Times Roman, (unlike Arial), is too small for a computer
screen. It is recommended if you choose Times Roman, use 11 or 12
point. If a resume is difficult to read, a recruiter will simply
move onto the next one.
#13 - Objectives or Meaningless Introductions
According to recruiter Gayla Moore of Taylor Recruiting in Austin,
TX, "A general objective is a good way to have your resume
tossed out immediately. A candidate who states they want to be with
a great company who values its employees... well, guess what? Everyone
Instead of an Objective that can pigeonhole your focus too narrowly
or an introduction that adds nothing to your background, use this
top piece of real estate to really SELL yourself, by creating a
HEADLINE. Don't be shy. Tell them who you are and what you do immediately.
Come up with one powerful sentence or phrase to "grab" your reader.
Think of this like a headline to a major front-page news story:
PATS UPSET RAMS IN SUPERBOWL. What is going to grab that reader
to want to read further? For instance:
Senior-Level Health and Safety Manager with Extensive
Experience Working with FDA Regulations in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
Recruiter TIP: This headline can be customized
to match the job description and "hot-buttons" of the
employer or recruiter.
#12 - Lying or Misleading Information
We all know the temptation is there to beef up your background
by stretching the truth here and there to land that job. BEWARE!
It is becoming more commonplace for companies to do extensive
background and reference checks on a candidate's background prior
to hiring. Also, companies are demanding that their vendor recruiters
do more extensive background checks. The chances of being caught
are forever increasing.
Recruiters stated the most common misleading information being
put on resumes is:
- Inflated titles
- Inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps of employment
- ½ finished degrees, inflated education or "purchased"
degrees that do not mean anything
- Inflated salaries
- Inflated accomplishments
- Out and out lies in regards to specific roles and duties
Connecticut recruiter, Tom Mahon shared this story, "One bonehead
forgot we had worked together a few years earlier (I still had his
old resume) and sent me a new resume where every title was upgraded.
His former Employers apparently promoted him because he was doing
such a great job at his current Employer." If you are in sales,
don't be surprised if an employer will ask to see your W2's to verify
your sales income before being hired. So in a nutshell, recruiters
are "hip" to what is going on. Present your resume accordingly,
#11 - Employer or Industry Information Not Included
According to executive search recruiter Terry Cantrell of Panama
City, Florida, "People often try to write a resume so generic
that a reader has no idea what industry the candidate comes from.
Did they manufacture fertilizer, package cow chips, cook and distribute
potato chips or assemble computer chips? Often I have no idea what
"Acme" sells, services, imports or manufactures. I cannot take
the time to filter through a thousand resumes to see what and where
their real network is. I am usually looking for a reason to exclude
resumes, not a reason to include them."
Kelly Persichetti of the Persichetti Group adds, "I always
tell candidates to think about WHO the initial receiving audience
is of your resume. With this in mind, many times one has to be more
explicit with their resume. Believe it or not, many recipients wouldn't
even know if the resume they were looking at was even in their own
It is suggested that your resume specifically state the type of
industry, revenues, public or private in the body of the resume
in or beneath the specific company. This will help the reader determine
if it's a direct industry OR an ancillary industry.
Recruiter TIP: Another idea is to bullet-point in your
summary the specific industry experience the recruiter or hiring
manager is seeking. For instance:
- Extensive Internal Audit Experience in the Healthcare industry
#10 - Personal Info Not Relevant to the Job
Not only is including personal info that is unrelated to the
job a waste of space, but it can actually hurt you. You never want
to include information that could be viewed in the wrong way or
open up even the slightest temptation for prejudice or misinterpretation.
Recruiters do not need to know your age, height, weight, martial
status, sexual orientation, religious or political affiliations,
or even about your hobbies. They are trying to fill an open job
requisition, not match you for a blind date.
There are times when there will be exceptions.
For example: If you were applying for a position as a computer programmer
at Burton Snowboards, and your hobby happens to be snowboarding,
then definitely include this related information. Your hobby in
this case offers value to the potential employer and will work as
a benefit to you. Your familiarity with the snowboarding lifestyle
and industry could help to open the door for that all-important
One recruiter shared with us that he recently received a resume
from a candidate who included their shoe size. Another recruiter
also sent us a story about a candidate who included his dead daughter's
bio on his resume. Needless to say, this info has no place on a
resume. Your resume is your personal selling tool and should be
clear of any and all non-related information.
#9 - Unqualified Candidates
Candidates who apply to positions they are not qualified for
#8 - Paragraphs
Long paragraphs, not bullet-points
#7 - Long Resumes- Too long
#6 - Functional Resumes as opposed to writing a Chronological
#5 - Poor formatting
Boxes, templates, tables, use of header and footers, etc.
#4 - Contact Info
None or inaccurate contact info or unprofessional email addresses
#3 - Dates
Not included or inaccurate dates
#2 - Too Duty Oriented
Reads like a job description and fails to explain what the job
seeker's accomplishments were and how they did so.
#1 - Spelling Errors, Typos and Poor Grammar
This article is published with permission from ResumeDoctor.com.
© Copyright 2002, ResumeDoctor.com