I recently had the opportunity to listen a panel of recruiters sharing tips with an audience of job seekers. The panel included two internal recruiters (one with a large multi-national corporation, and one with a smaller, local corporation), and one external recruiter. The questions and discussion yielded some really good information, and a few surprises. Following are some of my notes and key take-aways from the meeting.

About resumes

Always send an electronic version of your resume (paper resumes are more difficult to track and manage). If you provide a hard copy, use light colored paper that reproduces well on a photocopier.

Formatting is less important (unless it relates to the job you are applying for). It is best to keep special formatting to a minimum.

Recruiters typically sort resumes into three categories: Yes, No, and Maybe. Here’s how to get your resume into the “Yes” stack:

  • A clear skills match. Write your resume to match the job requirements listed in the job ad. Yes, this requires customizing your resume for each application, but it pays off. If the position is for a “programmer,” use that term instead of “software engineer.” If the position is primarily responsible for database management, move that experience to the top of your resume. Write your resume so it’s impossible to miss the connection between your skills and the job requirements.
  • A clear benefit to the company. Focus your resume on the future (how you can help the company) rather than the past (what you did). Your resume should be a marketing document, not an obituary. Yes, you have to describe your past experience, but do so in a way that sells what you can offer in the future.
  • A connection. The best way to get your resume in the “Yes” stack is to send it through a connection. If you know someone in the organization, send it through them. If you don’t know someone in the organization, start networking. Even a casual contact with the recruiter at an event like this is enough to get your resume extra attention.

Here’s how to get your resume into the “No” stack:

  • More than 2 pages. The resume is an introduction, not a life history.
  • Spelling errors, or (I can’t believe people actually do this) hand-written corrections on the resume.
  • Special characters or unusual formatting (electronic resumes) that don’t translate on the recruiter’s system.
  • No clear skills match.

There are some key factors that recruiters are looking for to determine a potential match:

  • Where did you work? For how long?
  • What industry?
  • How big was the company?
  • What are your credentials?
  • What is your progression?

About cover letters

Surprisingly, only one of the three recruiters indicated that they ever look at cover letters. The one who does considers them to be very important. The ones who don’t look at them say it doesn’t hurt your chances, but just doesn’t add much value for them.

If you do include a cover letter, it should be brief (about two paragraphs) and provide information not included in your resume. Don’t simply rehash your resume in the cover letter. That wastes the recruiter’s time.

About interviews

Sell yourself. If you can’t or won’t sell yourself, the recruiter can’t sell you either.

The receptionist has a lot do do with first impressions. When you arrive, treat the receptionist like one of the interviewers. You never know…

Be alive and be vibrant. Shake hands. Smile. Make eye contact.

Be focused. People don’t do what they want to do or get where they want to be because they never decide what it is. Know what you want.

Know and be able to articulate your strengths. Don’t be afraid to sell, sell, sell. Be confident.

Never use “we” when describing your accomplishments. Interviewers don’t want to know what your team or group did; they want to know what your contribution was. Never give philosophical or theoretical responses to questions. Be specific about your accomplishments, strengths, etc.

Know something about the company. Not just “about” the company, but be aware of current news and issues. There is no excuse for not doing at least a basic Google search on the company and/or industry.

Be persistent. Be consistent. Be prepared. Be passionate.

About follow up

Get a business card (or at least a name) of every person you meet. Send them a “Thank You” note. One of the recruiters said he gets so few thank you notes that writing one makes you stand out. Handwritten is better.

Be persistent in following up with the recruiter and interviewer. Don’t be afraid to send an email or make a phone call.


Well, that’s all my notes. There was so much more good stuff, I could not write it all down. Hope some of these ideas help you along your journey.