Top Recruiter: Things I Wish People Would Do
This question originally appeared on Quora: What do recruiters look for in a resume at first glance? Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Engineering Recruiter.
I don’t look through stacks of resumes anymore. I hate paper. I do everything online.
There has been for many decades, a mysterious Wizard of Oz-type viewpoint of the recruiting world that I think is somewhat misappropriated. People seem to be truly fascinated by what goes on behind the curtain, when in reality, recruiters aren’t running the covert operation many think. “Does this candidate seem like they stand a chance of being a good match for this role? If yes, proceed to next step. If no, reject.”
Things I wish more people would do:
- Bring personality into the resume. We recruiters are staring at these missives all day long. Throw a joke in there somewhere for goodness’ sake. Very few of us are curing cancer. We should lighten up a bit. Know your industry, of course. An Easter egg buried in a resume may not go over well if you’re in a very buttoned-up industry. I think it’s important to keep the work experience details as professional as possible, but trust me, there are ways to have fun with it. I absolutely LIVE for creatively written LinkedIn profiles. For example, is boss. I have emailed his LinkedIn profile around to dozens of friends and co-workers over the years. (He knows his industry. Probably not a good play to talk about marijuana in your LinkedIn profile if you’re gunning for Director of Communications for Bank of America.)
- Include URLs for online footprints. I get it. We’ve overshared our way to a more private society, but if you’re looking to stand out, write some stuff on the Internet. Contribute to open-source repositories. Demonstrate some level of domain expertise/interest outside of your 9-5.
- List key personal projects. I ask this in almost every phone interview I do. “What kind of stuff are you working on in your free time?” I am always inspired by this. Also shows me that you have passion for your industry.
Things I wish people would stop doing:
- Using MS Word’s resume templates. Especially that one with the double horizontal lines above and beneath the candidate name.
- Writing resumes in first person. Exceptions for people who do it cleverly. If no one has ever told you you’re clever, then you’re probably not that clever. Don’t do it.
- Allowing their resume to be a ridiculous number of pages. Unless you are a tenured college professor Nobel Laureate with multiple published works, you do not need an 8+ page resume. That is not impressive; that is obnoxious.
- Mixing up first person and third person or present tense and past tense. Pick a voice, pick a tense, and then stick with it. I suggest third person and past tense. If I were you, I’d eliminate pronouns (e.g. my, I, she, he) from your resume altogether. Instead of writing “I helped increase overall sales by 300% by breeding rabbits in my garage,” eliminate the “I” in that sentence. Go through your resume and remove all the pronouns and rewrite the sentence to make it sound like a bullet point. By “past tense” I mean that your resume should always be voiced from the perspective of something you already did, not something you’re currently doing.
- Listing an objective at the top of the resume. Dude, seriously? This isn’t 1992.
- Mailing, faxing, or hand-delivering paper resumes. Immediate disqualification. Do not pass go. While I have your attention though, let’s camp out on that last point for a moment: Hand-delivering paper resumes. Look, I get it. People are trying to stand out. I completely respect the hustle. But in 2015, HR professionals are swamped, anxious, and jumpy. When a random stranger shows up unannounced asking to speak to someone in HR or recruiting, we’re wondering if you have a gun and a vendetta, and we’ve probably alerted security. It’s really creepy. It’s also not really how the corporate world works any more, and oftentimes it can place an undue burden on people to rearrange their schedule to make time to talk to you, which makes them grumpy, which doesn’t exactly put you in a good spot as a potential candidate.
- Sending resumes addressed to the CEO that end up on some random recruiter’s desk unopened. This is a gross generalization here and exceptions are made for smaller companies, but um, CEOs don’t often read resumes. We sometimes laugh at people who do this.
- Exaggerating titles and responsibilities. The truth comes out.
If you take issue with anything I’ve said here, you’re well within your right. Recruiters are paid to be judgmental. I am nothing if not honest.