So you’re going to try to get a recruiter to pay attention to your resume. Or, maybe you’ve gotten a call from a recruiter who wants to talk with you about an opportunity. Or, maybe you’ve decided to respond to some job ads you’ve found online.
If you are going to interact with recruiters, you need to understand some of their basic beliefs.
Recruiters don’t really make hiring decisions. They winnow a big pile of resumes into a little one. They make judgments about who is fit for a job and who isn’t. Not the final judgment, mind you. Recruiters make the decors that narrow the list of prospects from 100 to 10. Then they rank and present the ‘short list’.
Recruiters belong to the category of people who can’t give you all of the help you need. They can, however, exercise a veto on your candidacy. Recruiters are gatekeepers and evaluators. Here are five keys to understanding what recruiters believe:
“For all jobs, there is someone who is good enough.”
Recruiters are evaluated on the percentage of open jobs that they fill. That makes them supreme realists. They are faced with overwhelming piles of information and high pressure deadlines. They are always willing to compromise job requirements in order to get the position filled. A recruiter’s reputation really rests on his or her ability to sell a candidate who is less than perfect. This means that your interactions with a recruiter always need to show your willingness to comply with their recommendations.
“Shorter resumes are better than longer resumes.”
Recruiters sift through huge piles of information. Just because you think that your illustrious career deserves three pages of single spaced detail doesn’t mean that anyone has the time to read it. Stick to the high points. If you can’t get your resume into a single page, get help. Boring a recruiter with too much detail is a certain path to being weeded out.
“The best person for a job is really the best available person.”
This is really a subset of the idea that for every job, there is someone who is good enough. Deadlines drive hiring decisions. They are not looking for the best candidate for the job. They want the best candidate for the job who is available to take it. A sign of a good candidate is the willingness to wrap things up in your current job quickly. Proving that you are invaluable in your gig makes you harder, not easier to place.
“People who aren’t currently working are not good enough.”
While being easily available is critical, being too available is the kiss of death. Recruiters view the unemployed as damaged goods. In some cases, they will not even look at the resume of someone who doesn’t have a job. If you are out of work, always have a project that you are pursuing that is work related, even if you have to volunteer. Never let the absence of a paycheck keep you from working. In most places, a project you do when between employers is called ‘consulting’.
“Hygiene, demeanor and dress are essential attributes of a great candidate.”
This ought to go without saying. Recruiters make a million judgments based on first impressions. A recent shower, a shave, clean clothes, shined shoes (really), business attire and deodorant (but not cologne or perfume) are the bare minimum. Good eye contact and clear evidence of preparation are the second layer. Well thought out answers to obvious interview questions are the third layer.
Getting a job involves a kind of warfare. Be well armed. Recruiters don’t have the final say on anything but they do winnow the pile of applicants. They are looking for a reason to reject you.