Why Recruiters and Resumes Don’t Mix

Many years ago, before I really dove deep into the world of recruiting I was under the impression that recruiters (and HR professionals in general) should be a go-to resource for résumé review. Boy was I wrong.

If I was looking for a job right this second I would run away from 99.9% of the résumé advice given by 99.9% of the recruiters out there. Why? Because they will guide you to put things on it that will make it easier for them to rule you out of the process and harder for you to get the attention you need.

Don’t believe me? Go and have just about any recruiter out there and they will tell you the following things:

“Make sure to put the dates on your education.” WRONG! Putting a date on your education makes it easy to potentially figure out how old you are and if someone can figure out your age then you are easier to categorize and weed out.

“Put all of your work history on your résumé.” WRONG AGAIN! Putting all of your work history has the same effect that putting the dates of your education – it makes it too easy to date you (I always recommend going back only 10 -15 years).

“Put your references on your résumé.” COMPLETELY WRONG! This is one of the oldest recruiter tricks in the book – instead of getting the contact of one potential candidate, you get four (the résumé writer + three references). If someone need’s to see your references make sure it’s after a screening or interview.

“Your résumé cannot survive a typo or grammatical mistake.” MOSTLY WRONG! If you are a top-notch performer in a very niche and in-high-demand field and have a misspelled word or two on your résumé it will probably be overlooked; if you are a customer service person it will probably hurt your chances. Fair? No. Reality? Yes.

“You should customize your résumé for every position you apply for.” WRONG 90% OF THE TIME. If you follow the formula of knowing what you want to do, knowing what companies look for in that area, and sell yourself like crazy on paper you shouldn’t need to customize your résumé at all because it will already fit 90% of the positions out there. Why is that so important? Consider the following:

  • You go ahead and spend all of your time customizing your résumé and I will spend my time making networking phone calls. I am not a betting man but I would bet on the fact the fact that I have three offers by the time you get your first call back.
  • Remember – at its core your resume is nothing but a piece of junk mail and anyone with a little bit of networking know how and a phone can run circles around you and your ‘customized résumé’ any day of the week.

Unless a recruiter tells you something along the lines of “your resume is a marketing document that should highlight relevant reasons why you should be hired” or “your résumé won’t get you a job, you will” then they are feeding you a bunch of… well, you know what.

Until next time – good hunting and good luck!


12 responses to “Why Recruiters and Resumes Don’t Mix

  1. Thanks for the advice. I will be removing dates right away.

  2. Charlie Davenport

    Totally in agreement.. and that is based on nearly 60,000 hours of recruiting experience ….

  3. Janice (Jan) Summers

    I really enjoyed your discussion. My background is in quality assurance of requirements, and writing (both technical and creative). I also have experience writing resumes for a private resume firm.
    In my career search in Richmond, I have been asked by recruiters to incorporate all of my experience even if it expands the resume to four pages for a clients review. If someone has a four page resume, they must either be very important or over fifty…another way for companies to screen candidates through age discrimination.
    I have also been asked by hiring companies to provide dates of schooling on their applications. Now, with a two-page resume and my experience quite sufficient to get the job would a company want these dates. Of course, to weed me out of their candidate mailbox through age discrimination.

    Janice Summers

  4. Amen, I couldn’t have said it better, spot on, bravo! I am going to reprint in my blog and link back to you with your permission.

  5. But, I have known recruiters or employers to weed you out because you do not have dates on resumes, how do you get around it?

    • Do not send your resume to HR network to find out who the hiring manager is and send it directly to them. Better yet network your way to meeting them to ask about the position but do not ask for the job. If you impress them enough they will ask you for your resume.

  6. Matt, thanks for the article! I am in total agreement with your recommendations, but sometimes have a hard time convincing my candidates of your sage advice. I am a HUGE fan of networking, networking, networking…and the resume being the follow up “marketing piece” AFTER an initial dialogue!

  7. Excellent Advise, totally agree

  8. Wow. I thought us Recruiters were a great source of resume advice but judging by some of the advice you mention you have heard from Recruiters, maybe not.
    I do need to contest a couple things…
    Typos: In some cases it is a deal breaker as it shows a lack of attention to detail and for the Accounting profession that is HUGE. Given that you do not know when it is and when it isn’t a big red flag, then better safe then sorry.
    All jobs on resume: Even if it has no content and is buried way in the back like a last page that they never scroll to. Again, the bigger red flag is leaving if off as if there is something to hide or be ashamed of.

    Even if it might help someone get ruled in at first, if I know it has a big change to hurt them later after they have put lots of time and effort into the process and cannot undo what has been done, it is not worth it.

    • Saundra,
      I agree on the typo’s for positions that require an eye for detail as there are many.
      I would agree for all work history if you are going for a management position as it shows that you worked your way up to it in some cases. The other case is the Peter Principle which is more prevelant.

  9. You forgot to mention the age old “YOU NEED TO PUT A OBJECTIVE”
    Well Duh!!! The objective is to land the job.
    It is a waste of space and ink to put an objective on a resume.
    As a hiring manger what I want to see on your resume is accomplishments.
    What did you do why did you do it how did you do it what was the results.
    Also how did you save time and how did you save or make money.

    To reiterate your past job descriptions will get your resume placed in the circular file! I know from the job title what your job was. I want to know how you did it.

    It is not the hiring managers that want to see dates we don’t even look at them. We want to see what you have done how does it fit in with our game plan and can you do the work now and in the future.

  10. I would have to say that out of all the comments so far on your article, the comments made by Angie Horn and Joseph V. Mullin have hit the bulls-eye directly in the center. My question to all parties concerned though is should a job seeker try to practice the art of ‘marketing’ oneself with 140 characters or less (i.e., using Twitter-like messaging) for each accomplishment?

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