Career Advice

Should You Always Take A Recruiter's Advice?

A client of mine (we’ll call her Caroline) whose newly designed and compelling resume had attracted multiple, focused interviews at target companies and garnered various compliments for its impressiveness, received a call from a recruiter.

The recruiter requested she make formatting changes to standardize the resume to fit her recruitment needs in how she submits all candidates to her clients (i.e., her clients being defined as ‘the companies’). This strictly bulleted and non-design savvy format dulled the resume and made it less likely to set Caroline apart in other, non-recruiter-focused scenarios.

Caroline asked me later: “Why do recruiters have rules that would make a cool resume look just like everyone else’s?”

Explaining that recruiters often have client-focused (i.e., company-focused) rules they follow when submitting to their clients, complying with these resume formatting requests are opportunities to maintain the relationship with the recruiter and facilitate smooth processes. As such, adjusting the resume can support both your and the recruiter’s goals.

However, you should not strictly write for recruiters’ eyes.

That said, and I make this clear with new clients before delving into the resume process, I do not advise writing your resume strictly for recruiters’ eyes as you may limit your overall results.  Here’s why:

  • Often, recruiters’ niche needs for plain-vanilla, bulleted format preferences do NOT provide an advantage to job seekers to distinguish and market themselves. In fact, it often makes it easier for the recruiters/their client companies to minimize the risk of hiring and thus eliminate candidates, versus maximize the candidate’s opportunities.
  • When working with recruiters, they can be tremendous advocates to job searching candidates, but at the end of the day, THEIR client is the company, and they are serving the COMPANY’S desires/requests. So, if candidates’ fixate all of their attention on recruiters’ preferences, it can become a disadvantage to their overall job-search.
  • Put another way, Master Resume Writer (and former recruiter), Dawn Bugni, The Write Solution, says, “First, I tell clients, if you’re working with a recruiter, do what they tell you to do. They are your best advocate and greatest resource during the process. Work with them, honestly.”
  • “However, I go on to say, recruiters are focused on a specific target. They build relationships with hiring authorities in their industry and get to know preferences. What works for them and that specific client job order may not benefit you or interest your next target. Do your research and ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.”
  • Interestingly, a recent blog from career expert and fellow Glassdoor blogger John Sumser asserted that the odds of a conversation with a recruiter landing you a job are .0035%, further reinforcing my advice that you not develop a resume focused purely on recruiters’ preferences.

A richly designed, non-traditional resume is an advantage.

  • Use of charts or graphs and inclusion of value propositions, personal promises, pull-out quotes and testimonials often result in non-recruiter-focused, non-traditional resumes. Or do they?
  • Here’s the thing:  in my conversations with recruiters, some of the resume ‘rules’ they espouse (including page-length limitations, bullet-only, plainer formats, font preferences and the like) are crafted more as a rule of thumb because candidates are unfamiliar and/or untrained in developing well-written, strategically designed resumes.
  • In other words, recruiters’ advice often is based on the number of poorly written resumes they receive, and a desire to fit a square-peg, square-hole need as efficiently and quickly as possible.
  • In my experience shepherding candidates through job-search success by writing and designing resumes with flair, and resumes that entice with richly woven stories, I am adamant that job seekers must market themselves innovatively, courting the reader, enticing them to want to know more, and not boxing themselves in with job-search derailing, homogeneous resumes.

Job search is marketing!

Job search marketing is akin to product marketing. Start with a methodical, strategic approach to sell your relevant competencies and transferable talent in the language of future performance, then prove what, how and WHY you did what you did, as well as why it mattered to the company.

In other words, shine a beam of light on your assets, include personal promise sound bites, benefits of employing you and chunked-up illustrations of the core competencies within which you have had rich and performance-centered experience. Relate all of this directly to the target reader’s needs. (This means taking time to really research your target audience).

All of this usually means deploying non-traditional formatting and design strategies to lead the reader and to make the resume glimpseable and understandable in a non-linear world.