How much would you love to work for Amazon, or eBay, or Google? You might be a perfect fit for the job, but there’s a lot of competition. These large companies often use recruiting systems to wade through the sometimes hundreds or thousands of applicants. The more you know about this process, the better your chances of making it to an interview and hopefully, a job.
I had the opportunity to speak to Steve Linder, partner at Workplace Group, a recruitment outsourcing agency, and Amy Hunt, a career recruiter who has worked for several different companies and recruiting agencies, mostly recently for Duct Tape. They had some amazing tips and advice about how to look good to a recruiter and make it through the process from application to interview. In fact, they had so much that I can’t fit it all into one blog post, so expect at least one more.
Despite all the expertise that I was able to tap into, both Amy and Steve said that processes can vary from company to company, and some recruiters may consider some information (such as employment dates or past salary) more important than others. However, many of these tips will be useful even if you’re applying to the Kwik-E-Mart down the street, and any peek behind-the-scenes is going to be helpful if you’re working to get a foot in the door.
This first post will be entirely about your résumé. It’s the absolute most important item in your arsenal. It’s the first thing a recruiter (the first human to see your application) will look at. If it doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications, the accompanying cover letter won’t even see the light of day. There are a few essential things to know when preparing your résumé for a recruiter.
- Your résumé is your one chance to prove you’ve got what it takes to do the job and do it well. A recruiter may not look at your cover letter at all, even if he/she sends your application to the next step, to the hiring manager. “As a recruiter, I don’t have time to read cover letters,” says Hunt. “I need to get to the meat.”
- “Every résumé does get reviewed,” Hunt says. The recruiter may use pre-screening questions on the application, looking for and weeding out some basic qualifications, such as “what is your degree in,” “what are your salary expectations,” and “what were you making in your last job.” However, even if your application “fails” the pre-screen, a recruiter may still open your application to see why and if you may still be a fit for the position.
- Your résumé and application should be completely accurate and honest. Any inconsistencies will immediately send your application to the trash pile. “Honesty is the best policy,” Linder says. “Disclosure means everything. Forgetting about a violation, a conviction, is going to be problematic. Misrepresenting dates of employment is going to be problematic.”
- Showing relevant experience in your résumé is very important. If you don’t have the experience necessary for the job, no amount of fancy wording is going to get you pass the recruiter. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements for the job, you have no business applying for it.
- In your résumé, use the same language used in the job posting. “Using words in your résumé that match the words in the job posting is probably a really smart thing to do,” Linder says. “Using creative, colorful language when applying to these systems isn’t going to be all that helpful.” You want to make it easy for a recruiter to see that you’re a good candidate for the position. Be clear and specific, and show that you have relevant experience to offer the company.
- Long résumés are okay. “The whole ‘keeping it to one page’ is only true for current graduates,” Hunt says. “It’s totally ok if your résumé is two pages. It’s totally ok if your résumé is three pages if you’re some super technical engineering technology guru.” If you have extensive experience, include it all. Take the time and space to make sure your experience matches the job description, assuming you’ve done all those things. “It’s been drilled into everyone’s head that they should be one page, and I just want to go around and smack all of the professors for saying that. Stop telling people that.”
- With the exception of the length rule, most of the standard résumé rules apply. Formatting doesn’t matter so much, but making sure it is clear and concise, easy to read and to the point, and includes dates of employment (month and year) will encourage a recruiter to send your résumé to the next step.
- Gaps between jobs on your résumé aren’t such a big deal. Times are hard, and recruiters get that. Hunt says, “What have you been doing, that’s probably the big thing. What have you been doing between the gap? Were you sitting around watching television and collecting unemployment, or were you taking classes, job searching, interviewing?” Showing that you were productive during a break between jobs is far better than otherwise. If you’ve been at a place for less than three years, consider adding the reason for leaving on your résumé. The fewer questions a recruiter or hiring manager has with your application, the better.
Check back next week for a few more important nuggets I heard. If you’re in the job market, you’re not going to want to miss them.