These Recruiter Insights Will Give Your Search a Lift

“Do well in school, work hard, and always try your best. Success will take care of itself.” It was the advice my mom had given my three sisters and me, and it’s the advice I now give to my two young daughters. They are great rules to live by, both traditional and effective. However, in this New Economy, some new rules also apply.

As a senior partner in a national recruiting firm, I’ve seen the average technical job seeker morph in the past three years from a sought-after commodity into a talented candidate facing ever-shrinking demand. Why? It’s no secret that the tech community has been hit from many angles, including the dot-com implosion, the telecommunications fallout, Sept. 11, and a sluggish economy. The question, it seems, isn’t whether there’s a problem but what to do about it.

Many candidates whom I could have placed in new positions within minutes only a year ago call me daily. Unfortunately, I may not have a single position they’d match. My advice to them, which follows, is applicable to all job seekers, even those who aren’t in the information-technology field.

Resume writing. Yes, having a good resume seems obvious. However, I receive poorly written resumes daily from exceptional candidates. Most likely they’ve had the good fortune of finding great jobs in the past without having a good resume or with no resume at all. If you suspect that you’re one of them, here are a few quick tips on resumes.

  • There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on a resume-writing service. Simply use Microsoft Word’s resume template, or a similar one from any word-processing software. What’s important is what’s in the resume.
  • Always have a short objective, and keep your resume under one page if you have less than five years’ experience, two pages if you have six to10 years’, and three pages when you have more than 10 years’ experience or a Ph.D. and need to include papers you’ve authored.
  • Include a list of skills — a line that states all of the fabulous acronyms that define your technical skills. Why? Recruiters focus on keywords. We love acronyms, strange as it may seem, and use them daily in our searches. If you have J2ee skills, for example, and list Java, JSP and EJB, but not J2ee on your resume, an inexperienced recruiter searching on the keyword J2ee may miss your resume.
  • Keep it basic, especially in the beginning of the hiring process. Most companies have many gatekeepers who see resumes before hiring managers. If you’re sending your resume to a recruiter, that’s an additional person to impress before it reaches the person who could hire you — who, by the way, also is the person most likely to understand what you do. Therefore, make sure to explain all your positions in a way that a junior human-resources assistant can understand. For example, it’s nice to have a good summary on the top of your resume, such as:

    Summary: Software engineer with seven years of professional experience with object-oriented design including C, C++ and Java.

    The more user-friendly your resume and the better you sell yourself in the beginning of the hiring process, the more likely you are to make it to the end.

Sending your resume. Where your resume goes and how often it goes there is almost as important as what’s in it. Some key points:

  • Should you post your resume on job boards in this economy? The answer is yes.


    Sorry, I don’t mean to scream, but I have to use caps to make that point. Every day, new job hunters post their resumes on the job boards, pushing your resume down the list, away from a recruiter’s inspecting eyes. You may be the perfect person for the job, but no one will see your resume if it isn’t in the top 10. I can vouch for the fact that recruiters simply can’t search through hundreds of resumes on the boards every day. Instead, we look at the most current resumes first and hope that one is a close fit. Stay at the top of the list for any relevant keyword search by jumping on those job boards and making a quick change to your resume every morning. This has been effective for some candidates, and I hope it brings results for you.

  • Join a newsgroup or e-mail list related to your field. Online communities are invaluable when looking for job leads. Never underestimate the power of a group of peers rallied simply to assist others with common goals. Perfect your resume, and if you aren’t working, post it to every group that’s associated with your skills and background. Many of these e-mails get forwarded to recruiters and hiring managers who need new employees but haven’t posted job openings.
  • Follow the money. If your industry isn’t doing well, try fitting your skills to employers in an industry that’s growing. For example, mortgage-finance companies always boom when the economy slows, and with explosive growth comes the need for new hires. One of them could be you.

Following up. If you can make yourself known without being annoying, your first paycheck may not be far away.

  • Stay organized. Many candidates keep a spreadsheet list of all the companies they’ve sent resumes to (whether they submitted the resume or a recruiter sent it), their e-mail and phone numbers, and the dates the resume was submitted. This will assist you during your follow-up phase.
  • When following up using e-mail, be sure to forward the initial e-mail that you sent to the company and your resume.
  • When calling to follow up, don’t leave a voice-mail message. If you do, any calls after that border on “job stalking.” Instead, keep trying until the person you’re calling answers. Once you have him or her on the line, explain in one minute or less why you’re the person for the job.

    “Hi, I’m Susan. I sent you a resume for the “X” position two days ago. The position seems like a perfect fit for my background because I have “X” years in the field you requested, as well as “X” years specializing in the exact technology you were looking for in the ad. Would you like me to resend you my resume? I’m open on Monday between 2 and 4 p.m. to come down and interview or have an extensive phone interview. Is that good for you?”

My mom’s advice still stands: All your hard work in the past will pull you through even the toughest times personally and professionally. How do you get that across to a hiring manager? Be yourself, and listen to the employer’s needs and to the job requirements. Listen instead of talking as much as possible while interviewing. Success will then take care of itself.

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