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Your Resume and What Employers Want to See

Aug 17, 2007
The recruiting industry has changed dramatically since the mid-90s when the Internet began to catch fire as a networking tool. Prior to the advent of online job boards such as CareerBuilder and Monster, your local newspaper had a monopoly on "help-wanted" advertising going back pre-Industrial Revolution (I remember a few years back being quoted $450 to run a 3-line ad over the weekend--for $50 more I could add a black border around it).

Resumes came to you via mail or fax and the ones that got your attention arrived on expensive paper with signed cover letters--the presentation gave you as much insight into the candidate as the resume itself did. As an independent recruiter you were only as good as your database of candidates (which for most recruiters consisted of a Rolodex of business cards or a drawer full of resumes). You actively sought out individuals to network with, collecting every resume thrown at you regardless of the positions you were working on at the time. "Got a cousin in advertising sales? Have him give me a call!"

I think employers were more willing to take risks with less qualified candidates then (let's say, pre-1998) than they are now. Hiring managers and recruiters recognize that online resources can provide them with exponentially greater access to candidates today than in years past. It's not that the talent pool is deeper, it's just more accessible (and more public) than it's ever been. So the same company that might have been willing to take a chance on a good candidate from a different industry ten years ago now wants someone whose experience matches their position as closely as possible.

I am a big believer that the best candidates for a particular position are the ones who would be taking a step up in their career by accepting. They are inherently motivated because they're improving their pay, adding to their responsibilities and increasing their exposure. But today employers want over-qualified candidates; people who are actually taking steps down in their careers or at the very least, making lateral moves. Most employers will not admit to consciously doing this, mind you; but they do. They want to know with as much certainty as possible that the candidates have "been there and done that." They want people with track records that mirror the exact challenges and expectations of their opening, particularly if they're working with a third party recruiter to fill the position. The employer feels they're paying big bucks for the recruiter to minimize their risk; therefore they should deliver candidates that are tailor-made for their role.

As an independent recruiter, it is my job to provide the client with the candidate solution they want. Every client knows the type of person they're looking for, even if they're not always able to describe them in great detail before we begin the search. They may need to evaluate a couple candidates before they can put into words their exact preferences, particularly when it's a new position. Keep in mind the candidate solution our firm provides is the one defined by the client, and in my opinion it's not always the one that may be the best long-term employment solution.

As I discussed in a previous article (Remember: You're hiring them to work for you, not to date you), many hiring managers allow their own personal biases to influence they way they evaluate candidates (often referred to as "gut instincts") resulting in bad hiring decisions. My job is to provide the client with candidates that have a documented track record of success. The majority of companies we work with want candidates either from their own industry or industries that are a close parallel. Drilling down even further, they want to know that the candidate's daily, weekly and monthly activities overlap with the expectations of the new position. This is why having a thorough, well-defined resume is imperative for today's job seeker looking to advance their career.

I believe the criticism that most resumes are long-winded, over-inflated exaggerations of unspectacular accomplishments is completely unwarranted. Coming from someone who looks at thousands of resumes a month, the average person is more likely to sell themselves short, thereby limiting their potential opportunities than they are to misrepresent themselves on paper.
About the Author
Thad Greer is an Executive Headhunter with Priority Recruiting Solutions, Inc. http://www.priorityrecruiting.com, a nationwide executive search firm headquartered in South Florida. His blog, "Confessions from a Serial Recruiter", http://serialrecruiter.blogspot.com serves as a resource for employers and job seekers alike.
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