Ex-recruiter reveals secrets to gaining headhunter's attention
In my former life as a recruiter (also affectionately referred to
as "headhunter") I received hundreds of resumes a week from all
parts of the country. The statement that a person's resume gets
a 15 second read is not far from the truth. In fact, 15 seconds
is a generous assumption. In reality, a resume must capture the
recruiter's attention in the first five seconds to avoid the
round file. Candidates can greatly improve their chance of
catching the recruiter's attention by following three simple
rules: use the correct format, include plenty of quantifiable
accomplishments and sprinkle liberally with appropriate keywords.
The first rule, use of correct format, is crucial. There is one,
and only one, proper resume format for recruiters--chronological.
Recruiter's do not have time or patience to figure out the
complexities of a functional resume. To recruiters, time is
money. A second danger of using a functional resume is that
recruiters automatically assume the candidate is attempting to
hide something. This is a universal assumption. No job seeker
on earth is able to hide unpleasant facts within a functional
resume. Recruiters are trained from the start to pick up on any
possible "red flags" that identify the job seeker as an
The second rule, use of quantifiable accomplishments, is essential in helping the recruiter see you as money in his pocket. Remember this point--you will only capture a headhunter's attention when he sees you in terms of commission potential. Since recruiters earn their fee by providing better candidates than their competition, your resume should shout "ACCOMPLISHMENTS." Quantifiable accomplishments are most convincing when connected to bottom-line results: revenue earned, money saved, market share increased, costs cut or time saved. This type of information gives the recruiter selling points to market you to their clients and put you in front of employers quicker.
The third rule, liberal use of keywords, is important not only in
the short term, but also leads to future opportunity. At any
given time a recruiter may have 10 to 100 specific positions to
fill. Recruiters categorize their positions by qualifications
identified by keywords. When reading resumes the recruiter scans
for those keywords. The recruiter may be so tuned into finding
specific words that he is oblivious to anything else in the
resume except keywords.
The best way to make sure your resume is filled with keywords is
to scour job postings of target positions and identify keywords
of qualifications. Find the most commonly used keywords in 12 or
more target postings and use those words as the language of your
resume. For future use, recruiters save resumes in
candidate-tracking databases to sort later by keywords. If your
resume does not have the correct keywords, it may never be seen
by human eyes. Correct choice of words means that your resume will get recruiter attention every time he queries by keywords contained in your resume.
Once your resume is showcased in the proper format, packed with
quantifiable accomplishments and strong keywords, be sure to
follow proper etiquette in contacting recruiters and headhunters.
The most effective initial contact is through email. Recruiters
spend 80% of their time proactively calling prospective candidates and employers. They do not appreciate spending phone time with unsolicited callers. Once a recruiter has your resume he will call you if he is interested in you. It does no good to call him up asking if they he has received your resume. You risk ticking him off permanently.
When emailing your resume to recruiters it's best to send it as
both a Word attachment as well as in ASCII (plain text) format in
the body of the email. This allows the recruiter to access your
information in the quickest manner in order to contact you
Recruiters and headhunters can be a tremendous resource to your
job search efforts. They are privy to a great number of
opportunities in the hidden job market. They are experts at
presenting candidates' best selling points. They also act as
go-between for candidate and employer, allowing the candidate to
learn important employer feedback. Designing your resume with
recruiters in mind is an important first step toward building
relationships with influential recruiters who have the power to
introduce you to your next boss.
-Deborah Walker, CCMC
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