Think of recruiters as your professional matchmakers—they have the power to put you in touch with the job that could change your life (or at least move your career to the next step). As such, you want to impress these people, and wow them with how qualified you are for the next big opportunity.
First, let’s look at who these recruiters are. Who are you trying to impress here? Knowing your audience is key. As I mentioned before, they’re your career matchmaker—but they’re also shrewd analysts of behavior, researchers, data devotees, and seasoned sales and marketing professionals. They use all these tools to put the right bodies in the right jobs.
So how do you reach these guys? Putting together a stellar application package is your first step. Let’s talk about 10 ways you can set up your resume and cover letter for success with the people who can put it in the right place at the right time.
1. Use a hook.
When recruiters are reading resumes, you have seconds, not minutes, to make a great first impression. Also, it’s nice to think that your resume is being read by someone sitting quietly at a desk, giving it his or her fullest attention. But as we all know, sometimes the hectic reality of everyday life gets in the way of that. This person might very well be reading your stuff on the go, or while trying to multitask. You need to grab attention fast. Use the summary on your resume to the best advantage—make sure you’re including your elevator pitch that highlights why you’d be a great fit for the job. If you bury the information deep in your resume or experience bullets, the reader might never make it that far, shutting down your opportunity.
2. Be specific.
This is where your resume objective or summary statement really comes in handy. Think of it as your headline. If you’re looking for a management position, don’t just say, “seeking a management position.” Add keywords that can help the recruiter guide you to the job that’s right for you. Instead, try, “experienced sales and marketing professional seeking a management role with an innovative tech startup.” This gives the recruiter some material to work with, when trying to fill particular roles. It saves their time and yours from trying to make you fit in a role you don’t even really want.
3. Include information about why you’re seeking a new job.
This can go in your cover letter, where you’re setting your narrative. If you’ve outgrown your role, frame it as “looking for a growth opportunity.” If you were laid off or fired, spin it as “looking for new opportunities.” Again, recruiters need info fast, and if they can’t figure out what you’re working on now (or were working on most recently) and why you’re looking for a new gig, then they might not put the time into looking more deeply at your application package.
4. Show off your tech experience.
Make sure you’re putting your tech skills and expertise up front on your resume, possibly by using a combination resume format that puts a summary and your skills up front, followed by the standard reverse-chronological job experience bullets. Just about all industries these days are looking for people who can roll with new technology. Make sure you’re up on the tech trends in your field, and learning them as necessary. That way, you can list these programs or processes proudly, front and center on your resume for recruiters and employers to see.
5. Numbers matter.
Wherever possible on your resume, include concrete stats about what you produced or achieved. Produced 12 sales reports per year for the entire company. Met annual sales goals of $100,000 for the past four years. Again, you want to give the recruiter concrete information they can take and apply to the job description, or use to sell you to the hiring manager.
6. Include context about your current employer.
No need to wax rhapsodic about your current (or most recent) company’s role in healing the world’s problems. A quick one-liner about what the company is, what it does, how it is sized, etc. can give the recruiter very important context. You can included this when you list your experience bullets. Example:
The Edge Company (global corporation specializing in widget production, development, and sales), 2014 - 2017
7. Talk about your colleagues.
This is your resume, so you don’t need to go into specifics about your buddy Jill in Accounting. But recruiters are tasked with finding a new team member for a company, and they need to know that they’re not going to send the company someone who may be a whiz with data, but can’t work with (or get along with others). Make sure your resume includes notes like, liaised with the marketing manager to develop annual marketing plans and budgets, or collaborated with the Sales Operations team to present annual strategy, goals, and progress. Show that you play well with others, without letting it dominate your resume.
8. Brag about yourself.
Definitely play up your achievements. If you’ve received honors or recognition at work, make sure your resume includes a section for those. A resume that is basically, “I’m the best, deal with it” on line after line will make a recruiter’s eyes glaze over, but you want to make sure you’re getting credit for the awesome things you’ve done—and for which you’ve gotten recognition.
9. Explain gaps.
Recruiters know what it looks like when you’re hiding information. If you do have gaps, try to give context in the cover letter. I was out of the workforce for a temporary personal matter, but am excited about bringing my expertise to this new role. Be honest—the recruiter can help you smooth gaps, but he or she can’t do anything if you offer no context.
Recruiter Pet Peeves
And now that you know what recruiters want to see, don’t forget to make sure you’re avoiding the things that could get you an eyeroll/automatic pass from the next recruiter who reads your stuff.
Not Including Contact Information
This seems like a no-brainer, but just make sure you’re proofreading to ensure that you’re including at least a phone number or an email (with a professional-sounding handle, please!) on the resume and cover letter you’ve worked so hard to produce.
Going Overboard on Buzzwords
Recruiters know all the usual suspects—remember, they’re reading hundreds of resumes and cover letters. Avoid jargon in your resume, and opt instead for strong action words that show your strengths and achievements.
Make sure your formatting is consistent throughout your resume, and that the document looks like a sleek, finished product. If it looks like several different docs copied and pasted into one, you might not get the attention you want.
Resumes that Don’t Include Experience
Your skills are a major, major part of your applicant package, and it’s great that you want to emphasize them. But don’t do that at the expense of your experience, even if you don’t have much of that yet. The recruiter needs to have a full picture of you as an employee, and skills without job history won’t do that.
Unprofessional Email Addresses (See #1)
If GoGoGirl88 has been your go-to email address since you got one, it’s time to upgrade to Name@emaildomain.com. The recruiter is looking for someone who can bring maturity and intelligence to the role they’re trying to fill, and if they can’t even get past your ridiculous email handle, it’s not likely they’ll see you as the seasoned candidate you want to be.
Remember, the recruiter is one of your best allies in your job hunt. If you put the time and effort into your resume and cover letter to get them on your side, you’ve already helped get your foot in that door. Good luck, and don’t forget to hug your local recruiter! (But only in the most respectful, professional of ways.)
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