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How Recruiters See Your Resume

If your job search has been frustratingly long, this could be part of the explanation. This video from Business Insider shows what parts of your resume matter most to recruiters. The outlook is grim. The video is short and although it is a great source of information, it does not give explicit details as to WHY recruiters look at certain information on your resume. Highlights from the video show:

Recruiters view your resume for an average of only 6 Seconds

This isn’t nearly long enough to read your summary, check your highlighted skills, and review the bullet points which show the great results of your hard work for your previous and most recent employers. And that’s exactly the point…the best parts of your resume which show your transferrable skills are overlooked. Previous averages were reported at roughly 10 seconds. The resume you’ve spent hours crafting is now being glanced for about half the time as reported just a few years ago.

Recruiters first look at your name

Concerns of being overlooked due to an unusual or ethnic name are confirmed by the fact that recruiters often make assumptions about someone based on their name . This information can be used in order to discriminate against jobseekers. The article from the above link shows obvious racism as Jose’s resume is ignored, while Joe’s resume gets offers for interviews. Although the excuse given for this practice is to promote a more homogenous company culture, it’s plain and simple racism. Also, if the employer is only interested in hiring males (this is common in the tech industry), candidates with female names are disqualified. Yes, that’s sexism.

The second thing recruiters look at is your Current Company/Position

If  you are underemployed, you are unlikely to get a call for an interview for any position above your current position’s compensation or responsibility level. Even if you have a great track record and have worked in your target position—even though the recession has forced many people to take “lower” positions than they held in the past, you will probably be overlooked. Employers worry that a currently underemployed person will need significantly more training and resources than a candidate who is working in that position.

Anyone who is trying to move up to a position with more responsibility and a higher level of compensation will usually not be considered. This tactic is used in order to hire those with a current and proven track record with the target position’s title and responsibilities. Recruiters are not concerned with helping you advance your career. They are looking for the best fit for the employer’s requirements. If the recruiter spends too much time on the first round of interviews, they aren’t making optimal use of their time. That six-second scanning time shows that they prefer not to waste time. Likewise, if a recruiter sends too many less-than-perfect prospective hires to an employer for an interview, the employer will feel that recruiter is wasting their time, and they will lose the contract to recruit for that employer.

If it seems that this “perfect” candidate would be a rare find, you’re right. Most current job postings have such a laundry list of nearly impossible requirements that recruiters and Human Resource workers call this a “purple squirrel”. During a recession, employers have the upper hand, since there are more applicants available per position—and the wish list of requirements reaches the point of absurdity. Rather than hire a very good candidate, the employer holds out for that elusive, “perfect” candidate that may only exist in their dreams. Many job postings remain unfilled for years, and will likely stay that way due to unreasonable expectations.

The third thing recruiters look at is your Start & End Date

If you are unemployed, you are even less likely to be contacted than someone who is underemployed. If the top (most recent) position does not show an end date of “present”, you will be considered “out of date” and the employer will think you need more training to be ready for work, especially if your ending date is more than six months ago.

Previous Company/Position and Start & End Date

The recruiter is looking for someone with a stable work history and preferably an “upward trajectory”. This means that the previous position should be slightly less or equally prestigious to the current position. If the previous position is significantly lower than the current position, the current position would ideally have lasted at least one year. Having a more recent position with fewer responsibilities and lower pay than the last position means that you are “worth” less now than in the past. This is essentially the definition of being underemployed. This is especially bad news for victims of the recession who have found it necessary to take a less prestigious position than in the past.

Gaps in employment are also revealed by comparing current and previous start and end dates. Although start and end dates are typically listed in “month/year” instead of “month/day/year”, it is acceptable to list the year and not the month, but it’s often thought that a candidate is trying to hide a large gap. A gap of 6 months is usually instantly dismissed.

The last stop for recruiters: The Education section

Checking the graduation date is often a way recruiters can guess the applicant’s age. Yes, that’s ageism. It is common and acceptable for applicants to leave the date off the resume if the degree is more than 10 years old. When given a choice, recruiters usually contact a candidate with a degree completion date within the last 10 years. Even older employees can add a more recent degree or certification. By adding the date to a recent credential, you have a “fresh” date to add and proof that you are continuing your education.

And if you made it this far in the weeding-out process…

If the recruiter is still interested in you, he or she will check out your LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, the first thing they check is your picture. Again, it’s often used to disqualify based on age, ethnicity, perceived “attractiveness”, or any other unethical and/or illegal criteria. Fortunately, most recruiters are more interested in making sure the applicant has a professional-looking photo. This shows attention to detail and culture fit.

Keep in mind…

The video deals in averages. Individual recruiters may differ in their approach and reasons. Only 2 dozen recruiters’ responses to the survey were used. But these averages unfortunately fit with many articles and opinions  from industry professionals.

The previous list can give one a bad outlook on recruiters. This isn’t even including the many fake job postings recruiters post online in order to collect information about jobseekers with a certain skill set which may come in handy in the future.

The frequent racism, sexism, discrimination against the unemployed and underemployed, and ageism isn’t due to recruiters who decided to be mean and downright unethical.

These unethical tactics and the “impossible” job posting requirements which necessitates the search for the purple squirrel are not actually the fault of the recruiter. They’re following nearly unachievable orders from the employer. It’s true that recruiters often post false job postings online, but that is done in order to have a batch of highly qualified people available in order to fill an order from an employer more quickly than if it was done honestly.

The silver lining

Recruiters are just one of many avenues to find a job. Third-party recruiters are the ones most likely to engage in these recruiting tactics. The polled recruiters made no distinction between company recruiters and third-party reciters, but their techniques vary. It’s not because they’re mean; it’s because, as previously stated, there is a necessity to operate that way. The order from the employer may be a request to weed out candidates on criteria that the employer knows would cause a legal hassle.

Connecting with decision makers at your target employer is still the best way to get your dream job and further your career. When you meet the right people, you get the best chance to make a great impression. Instead of having only 6 seconds to impress a recruiter (which is nearly impossible), you can have several minutes to have a real conversation, to let someone know why you are the ideal candidate. There is so much focus on the “perfect” resume, but when a job search is done the right way, it’s you, not your resume (see: How to Get a Great Job with a Bad Resume) that makes the impression on which a hiring decision is made.

For help with your job search/career search, contact CrossRoads at 317-842-8881 today!