Every week job seekers ask me how to land a job by impressing a recruiter. Sometimes it may seem mysterious how recruiters evaluate talent, so recently I decided to go straight to the sources and get specific answers from the recruiters and employers themselves.
This is one of the longest blog posts I’ve ever written but there are so many detailed responses from people in the best position to understand how recruiting works, I think it is worth the time and effort to read this. Knowledge is power!
“When I tell people I’m a recruiter, most of the time they have no idea what my positions entails. I think the biggest misconception people have about my job and my employer is that we get paid to help individuals find jobs. In reality, we work for businesses and get paid to find the companies qualified, potential hires.
Part of my job is to search for these quality candidates. I have the most success finding candidates through job boards or referrals. Since I am searching through hundreds of resumes a day, I have to quickly discern top talent. Resumes that are specific and well-formatted often catch my attention. For example, don’t just say you helped your company grow. Instead, say you helped grow business by 20 percent. The more specific the better and always use hard numbers to reinforce your expertise or skills.
If someone is looking to attract the attention of a recruiter, my advice would is be as transparent as possible. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and post a current resume on various job boards. Choose major job boards like Monster or Indeed, but also try to find niche job boards in your industry. If a hiring manager wants to connect on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to accept. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see if you’re a good fit for a position, and may keep you in mind for future positions, but won’t be able to do this if you don’t connect with them.”
– Tracey Russell, an experienced recruiter who sources 60 candidates a week for Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search, a national sales and marketing recruitment firm
“I lead a company, Quest Groups, that recruits tech candidates in Silicon Valley, Austin, and New York. We don’t just scour job boards and send 100 candidate lists to the client company. We use personal relationships and connections to place the best candidate with the best job. It takes me about 45-50 seconds to read a resume.
When I look at a resume, I look for:
1. A short and precise objective;
2. How long you have been at your current company;
3. What you’ve been working on recently and how relevant it is (my firm only works in the high growth tech market, so it is important that you have helped to build cutting-edge technology);
4. Previous job and how long and how relevant the company was at the time;
The bottom line is that I only look to see how the candidate can add value to an emerging market, so always build upon your career.”
– Joe Kosakowski, CEO of Quest Groups, a human capital investment firm focusing on the disruptive startup technology world
“The most important thing to remember about recruiters is that they review hundreds if not thousands of job candidates per month. Standing out in this sea of candidates is not about gimmicks. Unless you’re applying for a creative, design type job, forget about the colorful resume or unique font. Focus on appealing to the professional eye of the recruiter with sharp and professional credentials. Here are three specific ways you can manage your career to help you get noticed by recruiters:
1. Embrace added responsibility. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for more responsibility. If the added responsibility comes with a new job title, then great. If it doesn’t, just make sure that your LinkedIn profile and resume clearly document your growth.
2. Be consistent. There’s nothing more troubling to a recruiter than inconsistency. I’m not referring to the ups and downs that we all experience in our careers. I’m talking about large swings in performance or commitment that indicate a lack of focus. And by all means, make sure your resume and Linkedin profile match up.
3. Build your professional network and don’t be afraid to showcase it. Recruiters love it when they see a cover letter, resume or profile that indicates a robust network. Add some well-placed testimonials to your credentials to really shine.
– Bob Myhal, CEO of NextHire.biz, specializing in recruiting for small and mid-sized businesses
“The number one strategy I recommend is to manage your social presence. Sure, it’s important to make sure there aren’t any compromising pictures proudly displayed on your public Facebook page, but that’s kids’ stuff. The biggest issue I have with candidates’ social profiles is a lack thereof. Not having a LinkedIn profile during a job search is like going fishing without any bait. It’s possible to catch a fish on a bare hook, but it’s gonna take a whole lot longer. Having a detailed and descriptive LinkedIn profile is crucial if you want to get noticed by recruiters. LinkedIn is one of our top resources for scouting passive talent.
Put effort into your profile. The second biggest mistake I see is candidates who have a LinkedIn profile but put zero effort into it. Recruiters use boolean searches to peruse LinkedIn profiles, so if you only list companies you worked for, you likely won’t be found.
Tell your story. Use the words that you see in the descriptions of the jobs you want. Even if you’re happy where you are, you most likely want to progress your career in the future and might even have the chance at your dream job. If you want to get noticed by the people recruiting for that dream job, make sure it’s easy for them to find you.
Another good way to ‘get found’ is to join and participate in relevant LinkedIn groups. Groups are an easy way to expand your network very quickly, meet other professionals in your field, and show recruiters you’re serious about your line of work.”
– Bethany Perkins, Manager of Recruiting and Human Resources at SoftwareAdvice.com
“Become as active as possible in your industry. Be involved with technology user groups in the local community; use Google+ hangouts, software community meet ups, Java user groups etc. Recruiters attend these types of meetings all the time and it’s a great way to get recognized and network.
Of course there are job search platforms like the Kavaliro Job Database, Monster, and CareerBuilder that will aid and facilitate your job hunt, but nothing will ever replace word of mouth to land of a job. The best piece of advice I can give to get recognized is to not be bashful about your job search. Let people know you are looking for a job and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Telling your family members, neighbors, or friends will always be a great way to put yourself on the market and make people aware you’re in search of a new job.”
– Bill Peppler, Managing Partner at Kavaliro Staffing Services
“The best way to attract the respect and interest of a recruiter is to actually be a fit for a position they currently have available. Don’t just blast resumes around aimlessly. Nothing is more annoying to a recruiter than when an unqualified candidate reaches out to them (sometimes multiple times!) For example, if a job posting clearly states that a college degree is required but you don’t have one, DO NOT apply for that specific position. It is a waste of the recruiter’s time, and it makes the candidate look like they either can’t follow directions, didn’t read the posting, or just don’t care. This does not make a good first impression!
Although I know it can be difficult, candidates should also refrain from following up with recruiters. A VERY occasional check-in can be ok, but believe me, if you are a good fit for any position that a recruiter has available, they WILL call you! Recruiters deal with so many people on a daily basis, they need to focus their time on those candidates who are the best fit for their current openings. If a recruiter is not calling you, it’s because they do not have anything currently that would be suitable. But if you are a match, you will get a call from them without having to reach out – I promise.
This point is crucial: A common misunderstanding is that recruiters are ‘job finders’ for job seekers – the truth is that we are not! In reality, we are paid by companies to go out and headhunt the specific type of candidate they are looking for. We sift through hundreds of people to find one needle in a haystack every time a client reaches out to us to fill one of their open positions. Job seekers tend not to understand this, and instead expect us to find jobs that we can market them for. Even if we genuinely like someone and would love to help, doing so is just an impossibility, especially in an economy where there are way more applicants than actual job opportunities. Candidates should be respectful of this point, and not have any false expectations when entering into a relationship with any recruiter. Please don’t think we are being cold or that we don’t want to help you; it’s just impossible for us to help the vast majority of people who contact us.”
– Jackie Ducci, President of Ducci & Associates, a boutique recruiting firm specializing in the New York and Washington, DC metro areas
“Things that make working with a recruiter successful:
1. Come to the table prepared. Recruiters use their interview with you as their assessment as to how you will fare with their clients. Be prepared to explain and answer the following:
– What is the next ideal position for you? What skills and behaviors have you demonstrated that would prove you would be a good hire in this role?
– People can train and educate themselves to be good at a lot of things, but you also have ‘natural gifts,’ things that you do well that seem to be part of your DNA. What are your natural gifts?
– Be prepared to explain work history, short-term stints and what your greatest accomplishment within each role has been. Understand frequent job movement can eliminate a recruiter’s ability to place you in one of their clients companies. Our ‘knockout’ is three or more jobs in a ten-year timespan.
– If my client should hire you, what is the ROI (return on their investment)?
Before you meet or talk to the recruiter, do your homework. What firms are of interest to you? If you have found positions that are of interest, talk to the recruiter about their network within these firms. They should also have suggestions of potential firms of interest.
2. More is not better, it’s just more. A frequent mistake made by candidates is they market their resume to every recruiter they can find. Here are a few facts on this:
– A top notch recruiter will insist you work exclusively with them if they are taking you to market. Reality is, we get paid by companies, so if we deem you worthy of marketing, being loyal is key.
– Being ‘mass-marketed’ by many recruiters only dilutes your worth. If everyone is calling on your behalf, most clients will think you’re desperate, therefore no longer that special talent they can only get from one source.
– Understand that sometimes a recruiter can hinder your search more than help. It cost money to pay a recruiter, so clients only want to pay for the best of the best. If you’re unemployed, had too many jobs or been fired by a high profile company in your industry, you may be better off to go it alone. Then there won’t be a fee to hire you!
3. The biggest advantage a recruiter offers is the opportunity to get an audience with their client without your resume sitting on the stack of resumes on the HR person’s desk. You are still responsible for the interview so make us proud!
– Dress appropriately and put your best foot forward. Communication skills are critical. Maintain eye contact. Smile.
– Ask if you have answered all their questions to their satisfaction or if you can clarify anything further.
– My favorite question for you, the candidate, to ask: If a year from now you have hired me and you feel I have done a great job, what would I have accomplished?
Good luck. We love supporting great folks who are passionate and respectful. We will give you our respect and attention in return.”
– Sharon Hulce, President/CEO of Employment Resource Group, an affiliate of MRINetwork, one of the largest executive search and recruitment organizations in the world
“Resume keywords are just that: key. When we find those keywords – in our case the technology and software lingo – we call everyone. We give the benefit of the doubt, because even if it’s a horrible resume it could just be their ignorance in writing. However, it’s the conversation that follows which convinces us as recruiters to move forward with finding a candidate a job. If we are going to be their representatives, it’s because they are who and what they say that they are.
As a recruiter, a badly written resume isn’t going to keep us from calling. If you have the keywords on your resume and the skills to back them up, we can rewrite it and line you up for the best opportunities.
Don’t have long stints of unemployment that are recent if you’re in the tech world. There are too many jobs out there and too little talent. If you’re unemployed for a year right now, there’s something wrong.”
– Kevin Maas, Division Manager for the Philadelphia branch of Jobspring Partners, a professional recruitment and placement agency in ten cities across the US and Canada
“Typically, we find the best candidates through referrals and professional development programs, and we look for individuals with T-shaped skills. This means your resume and interview should convey the depth of your skill set as well as your ability to effectively work with other parts of the company. In today’s competitive environment, interdisciplinary skill sets are more important than ever, so refining T-shaped skills is a great way to manage your career and set yourself apart.
Professional development programs show us that people are serious about learning their craft and taking the next step in their career. If you are at networking events, career events, or training sessions, we know that you are motivated and willing to expand your knowledge of a subject.
Referrals from our team members show us that candidates may already be a good skill and culture fit, so it removes a bit of guesswork from the recruiting process. It’s also a very low-cost method of conducting an initial screen. Our team members find referrals through alumni networks and traditional networking events. We also work with other companies to host professional development events where we meet potential hires. Our last hires were recruited through employee referrals and a university career fair.”
– Adam Kirsch, COO and hiring manager of Ithaca-based software firm, Yorango
“When I look on a profile on LinkedIn or any other tool, I look for tenure and a track record of making money or saving money. If I look at accomplishments for each position (NOT just a vague career summary), I can tell if the person makes a difference for the people they work for. I also look for career progression within 3-5 year periods at the same company. Someone who is promoted internally rather than having to change jobs to get promoted is more desirable. If someone has been in the same position for 10 years, they either are not strong enough to be promoted or do not have the drive to move to the next level. There are plenty of jobs for these individuals, they are just not the type of people a recruiter will notice quickly.”
– Aaron Wandtke, Senior Partner, Executive Staffing Solutions, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting for healthcare and managed care organizations
“It is my experience that as times have changed and we have more ways of communicating we do a poorer job of it today then back in early 1990s when I started in the business. My number one piece of advice to anyone looking for work and wanting to attract a company’s attention is to treat the relationship as a personal relationship. If a candidate wants to attract my attention, I need open and honest and straightforward communication. When I receive emails with a name and an unsolicited resume attached, this does nothing to entice me to contact the person, let alone open the file. Provide me with some detail about who you are in the email, call me and leave a detailed phone message, tell me who you are and what you are looking for. This is the first positive step to attracting my attention. It may sound very simple but it amazes me how many times I receive resumes without any explanation to them.”
– John Francis, Owner of HR consulting company, Theonera Inc.
“I’m a Founding CTO and advisor to several growing Silicon Valley startups, and a technology consultant to innovative Fortune 500 companies. I get pitched Senior Engineering, Director, VP, and CTO opportunities several times a week without actively looking. The following is my formula for turning the marketing of my engineering skills and services inbound:
1. Write (but don’t print) a fantastic resume. Just write it. Don’t make excuses about whatever you think you don’t have in terms of experience. If you don’t write it down, you will not find out where the gaps are and you won’t focus your efforts. Revise it a few times to highlight the impacts you’ve made and the value you’ve create from the employer’s perspective. Don’t just list your abilities.
2. Register a domain for your full name, and publish your resume online. The age of paper resumes is almost over. What you need is a searchable website that shows up when recruiters are looking for your skills. This is why you need to write a resume from their perspective, not your own. Inevitably they’ll be looking for a problem they’re trying to solve. You want your website resume to show up in their results.
3. Take LinkedIn seriously. Use its ‘my homepage’ linking feature to point to your resume website. This boosts your website’s rankings on Google and makes it come up higher in Google results. Connect to as many people in your industry as possible. Be indiscriminate; others are! Connect to friends, because they know recruiters. Connect to recruiters, because you’re helping them find candidates when they need candidates (i.e. you and your friends). Connect to respected people whom you can help: being connected with them increases the odds that people will want to connect with you.
Why connect at all? Because first, you want to inverse your relationship with the job. You want the job to find you, not spend all of your time finding the job. That’s why you build a network. And second, the Law of Network Effect says that the power (or value) of your network is the square of the number of connections you have. Compare someone who has 100 connections with someone who has 1000 connections: the former can reach about 10,000 second-degree contacts (smaller than one large corporation). The latter can reach about 1,000,000 (almost all movers and shakers in an entire industry)
4. Pay acute attention to what your network wants. Once you’ve reversed the relationship to an inbound one, you need to focus on actually providing the value that the recruiters are looking for. Most folks such as engineers make the mistake of burning themselves out on trying to sell a skill that doesn’t resonate. It’s not that your skill is outdated. It’s that recruiters and hiring managers have their own language for things that they’re attracted to. Learn how to rephrase your values in their terms. If there’s a technical gap, often reading a 50 page technical book related to your skills over a week of nightly reading can put you years ahead of others competing for jobs under the same skillset.
5. Speak with authority. If you’ve been working with a certain toolset or skills, you’re already more of an expert than people who have had that same skill on their resume for years, because your knowledge is more recent. The rest of the journey depends on attitude and some imagination. The insecurity during screening and interviews usually stems from the impostor syndrome, observed in high achievers.
6. Never answer questions about your salary. The fastest way to kill your chances with a recruiter is to tell them how much you’re making. There is no correct answer. As soon as you answer the question, you’ve turned yourself from a potential valuable candidate to a data point for negotiating with other candidates. Practice ways of not answering this question, such as ‘Sorry, but I’m not comfortable sharing that information at this stage of the process. I’m looking for a fair market salary for the value that I bring to the table.’ Many recruiters are pushy negotiators and are fishing for early data points. If their repeat their question, simply repeat the above answer, until they’re embarrassed and stop asking. If they repeat the pattern over three times, simply give them a five second silent treatment, then repeat the above answer. Never answer a salary question until you have a written offer — this is your right.
7. Embrace failure. Too many people confuse being rejected with being found out. Even a child knows that she’s more likely to hit the bullseye by throwing multiple times in a row or at the same time. It’s simple statistics. But with job interviews, most people put all their eggs in one basket. Instead, you should learn to think in the following manner: if the odds of failing with one recruiter is 90% (or pick your own number), the odds of failing with 10 of them in a row is (90% ^ 10 = 35%. In other words, if you tried 10 times in a row or at the same time, you’d have 65% of failing at failing (succeeding). This should be great news, even to those of us with the terrible record of 90% failure.
It may sound too simple. It is! I’m closely connected with multiple engineering networks (University of Waterloo, Carnegie Mellon University, Microsoft, Google, Silicon Valley startups, etc) and yet, of the many people who come to me for advice, almost all of them have skipped some or all of these steps. When I tell them about these steps, most acknowledge them but few, almost none, implement them.
That’s probably why we have the saying: There is no secret to success.”
– Amin Ariana, AminAriana.com
If you found this article useful, please share it!