What About The Recruiter Experience?

Nice_resume_Mr_Hendrix_but_are_you_experienced-Craig_Swanson-2004As recruiters, we talk a lot about the candidate experience and its importance.  And I don’t disagree with that – so I want to state upfront that this post isn’t going to disagree with the common knowledge that candidate experience counts, and we should all be committed to improving it. Now, that I’ve got that little disclaimer out of the way, I want to go on a little rant about a much more overlooked – but almost equally pervasive – problem in our industry: “The Recruiter Experience.” Contrary to popular belief, recruiters actually do have emotions, pet peeves, and some certain things that candidates do that can really piss us off during the process.  We’re just as human as you are (well, most of us anyway). That’s why I want to share some insight into what the recruiter experience looks like, and a few simple things recruiters would REALLY like candidates to do to help improve the experience on both sides of the proverbial desk. Deep breath. OK, ready, set, and here we go…

Recruiter Experience & The Resume

resumeI’m not going to be super specific on this point, but please know this – I HATE Adobe, and most recruiters I know disdain any file ending with a .pdf extension.  It’s a major pain to open in most systems, both for recruiters and our clients.  I need to be able to send the resume for review to managers who, at times, are only accessible on their phones. If you’ve ever tried to look at an Adobe file on a mobile device, you already know that they rarely open or render properly – which is probably not the way you want a hiring manager reviewing your resume. It’s not the way I want my clients looking at them, either. Yeah, I can convert the files to something more accessible, but that’s more work for me, and trust me, as a recruiter we’ve got enough of that as it is – and we’d be starting off our recruiting relationship on the wrong foot, frankly. So please – just stick with another file format. Second thing, unless you’re an artist or applying for some sort of design job, I don’t really need to see cutesy graphics on your resume or some sidebar format that you happen to think is pretty cool.  Spoiler alert: it’s not. In fact, I look at resumes all day, and the only thing that’s going to make you stand out is whether or not your resume fits the position I’m trying to fill. Finally, tell me what you actually did in your jobs – did you lead a team? Did you manage a project or P/L?  Skip the soft skills and spell out the stuff you’ve done – not what you’d like to do or think you’re good at.  There’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ resume, so it’s important that your resume represents what you’ve done as relates explicitly to the role I’m recruiting for. If you’re a JAVA developer, you’d better put it ALL OVER your resume; I’m not a mind reader and if I can’t find what I want on your resume almost immediately, you’re going in the “thanks but no thanks” pile.  Period.

Be Patient.

yodaThe job search is a marathon, not a sprint – you’ve heard that before, I’m sure, but I’d like to reiterate that patience is a virtue that you’d better bear in mind when working with a recruiter. Everyone in this business is busy, and even though our top priority is to fill our open roles, most of us are juggling multiple positions, processes, candidates, and clients.  So, if you’re a good fit for a job I’m working on, guess what: I’m going to connect with you. No, really. That’s our job – recruiters make hires for the companies we work for.  And when someone happens to apply for one of my positions who I think actually could result in that hire, you’ll hear back from me within 48 hours of your application (almost without exception). I may e-mail, I may call, but I usually do both.  The e-mail you get from me might well thank you for applying, but let you know you’re not a fit.  Which I think is fair. I know a lot of candidates are frustrated at the perceived lack of feedback or even communications from recruiters, but come on – if you’re a dishwasher applying for a database developer position, you already know you’re not a fit.  At this point, you probably shouldn’t bother applying, but since that doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for many applicants (spray and pray isn’t just limited to recruiters, you know), know this: If you’re not even remotely qualified for a position, then you’re not only wasting your time, but mine, too.  And you do not DESERVE a two page mea culpa as to why you aren’t a fit – you already know why if you bothered to read the requirements clearly outlined in the job description.  Seriously. So, if you do hear from me about next steps, you might be qualified, but you’re going to end up creating more animosity than advocacy if you do either of the two things I’m going to talk about next. 

You applied but…

wait-who-the-hell-are-you…when I call to introduce myself and my company, you have no idea who the hell I am.  C’mon, man.  Really?!?! You freakin’ applied to work at my company. That would indicate you had some interest in the position, and hopefully read the job description and know what we’re looking for – and since you’re hearing from me, you’re actually someone I want to talk to (see above). So why, when we do talk, do you seemingly have no recollection of the position, company or anything else about the application you took the time to fill out. This isn’t a definite deal breaker, but seriously – how seriously are you taking your job search, much less this opportunity?  Are you just applying to every job posting under the sun and spamming your resume all over the place? Yeah, they say recruiters are spam artists, but if you apply to a company without even bothering to read the job description or anything about the role, you’re more or less doing the same thing to a recruiter. Difference is, your spam won’t get you a job – only a strike against you for what’s probably a pretty good role or career move. Don’t be that guy.  Seriously. At least keep a list of where you’ve applied and maybe a cut and paste description of the company from the JD so you can have that handy to reference when a recruiter does call.  I don’t need you to give me a freaking corporate history or know every detail about our financials or business model, but give me at least something that says, “yeah, I would consider working here.” This brings me to my next professional pet peeve… You applied and… ooto…and you don’t call me back.  You don’t respond to my e-mails.  Why?  We haven’t even connected yet.  What have I done to offend you at this point?  Seriously?  There’s nothing more frustrating than the “black hole” for recruiters, either. You’re someone I WANT to talk to.  I keep reaching out to you, but you never get back to me, even though you were the one who originally applied for the role. What the hell is that all about? I’ve already talked about the virtue of patience.  I’m not patient, and neither are my hiring managers – I need to fill my positions, and guess what?  I’m measured on how quickly I can get that done – time to fill is one of the most important metrics in recruiting at most employers.  So, let’s make an agreement. DO NOT apply for a position with me and then leave for an extended holiday – which has happened to me (more than once, I might add).  If you’re not working, and you’re looking for jobs, that is your job.  Don’t fill out an application, click submit, and then drop off the face of the Earth. Even if it’s for a little vacation, this can be a definite deal breaker for me.  It tells me that you’re one of two things: arrogant or ignorant.  Either way, anyone who falls into either of these buckets is never going to meet any hiring manager I’m working with. Yeah, there’s that old cliche about the job search being like dating, but playing hard to get – AFTER you applied, at that – won’t endear you to any recruiter.  Being coy may work in a bar, but not when it comes to the employment game.  And as a side note: I take notes.  So pull this crap once, and even if you’re a great candidate, if you ever bother applying for another job with me, I’ll return the favor. Because no matter how good you are, you’re not good enough for me to waste more time on. Negotiation ScroogeOK, let me explain this to you as simply as I can – and be straight with you upfront: I don’t get paid any kind of bonus, win any sort of prizes or get any kickbacks or additional compensation if you accept an offer. So I’m not trying to hard sell you for my personal gain – the thing is, I’ve got a hard number in terms of salary that the position pays.  So let’s stop wasting each other’s time on the compensation game. Be honest about where you’re at, what you feel you’re worth, and what your expectations are in terms of both salary and overall package.  Realize that your current compensation is more or less your current market price – a kind of personal MSRP – and realize that there’s no way any employer is going to bump that number up by 30%. OK, there are a few occasions when that happens, but only in the rarest of conditions or most unusual of circumstances, and even then, only conditionally. But when those huge pay bumps do happen, that should be a red flag in the first place. Consider why the company would be willing to pay you so much more – it could be they just need your skillset for a project, and once that’s over, you’re back out on the market.  Or it could be either the job or company sucks so bad that no one else in the market wants to work there, and they’re desperate. Of course, not all recruiters are completely reputable when it comes to comp – they’ll keep you in process for as long as possible, and won’t tell you that “DOE” (compensation is dependant on experience) really means that they have maybe a few thousand dollars in wiggle room to get the deal done. I negotiate salary upfront and so should you.  Don’t wait until the end of the process or after our first conversation to reveal what you make or what you’re looking for, and I’ll return the courtesy.  If you’re making 100k and the position pays 90, then you’re either willing to take the cut or you aren’t. Sure, that decision is driven by numerous factors, and there are recruiters out there who shy away from candidates whose current comp is out of range because they fear either you won’t accept the ultimate offer, or are a flight risk since you could be making more somewhere else. But I’ve had many conversations – and hired many candidates – whose focus on the company culture, the projects or work they’ll be doing or the long term opportunities associated with a particular role is worth more to them than money. So while you shouldn’t hide your compensation history or expectations, if the numbers aren’t too far off, you should at least be receptive to hearing a little more about the role before completely writing it off. I hope you’ll join me next week for the second part of this post, where I’ll finish off the full cycle by discussing what recruiters really want from candidates when it comes to the interview, the offer process, and some final thoughts on the Recruiter Experience.  Stay tuned.’

Derek ZellerAbout the Author:
 Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliancy. Currently, he is the corporate manager for Advanced Resource Technology, Inc. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines and technologies. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, military and college recruiting strategies.

You can read his thoughts on RecruitingDaily.com or Recruitingblogs.com or his own site Derdiver.com.  Derek currently lives in the DC area.

Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.

  • Michael Wilson

    Well done! You covered key points of the recruiter experience dealing with candidates.

  • Zon

    A couple of days ago I received this job offer in my mailbox… , and sure I am looking for a job, but not at all costs. I took the information and specific company details, out of the letter. There is no need to expose that…

    The recruiter’s email :


    This is . I was reviewing your resume online and would like to talk to you regarding an exciting opportunity we have with one of our premier clients. Your experience looks like a good fit for the position and I wanted to know if you would be interested in exploring this opportunity.

    Since this is an urgent business requirement, I’d appreciate a prompt response on this.

    Job Details:

    Position title: Customer Support Representative I

    Duration: 4 Months Contract

    Hours: need to be flexible)

    Work Week: Monday to Friday

    Pay Rate: $11.10/ hr

    Job Description:

    Provides in-bound telephone customer support in environment and determining the nature of the call or inquiry. Duties may include processing complaints, filing supply requests for customers and centers, and preparing monthly reports.

    Additional duties may include developing action plan for customers, responding to and following up on customer requests, reviewing rates as needed, tracking shipments and orders, preparing reports. Distributing mail, filing, faxing, processing forms, typing, auditing documents and some data input. May also be required to answer inbound customer calls on an as-needed basis..

    Additional Job Details:

    Professionalism in attire is expected, please use your good judgment and observe the guidelines. VERY STRICT APPEARANCE GUIDELINES – Men’s hair should be neatly cut and should not extend below the upper half of the ear, nor below the top of the shirt collar in back. Hair should not cover any part of the eyes. Mustache must be neatly trimmed and should not extend below the corner of the mouth. Except for mustaches described above, employees are to be clean shaven. No beards or goatees are allows. Sideburns are to be neatly trimmed and should not extend below the corner of mouth. No piercing whatsoever (pierced ears for women ONLY are allowed, one earring per each ear). Women must wear neat and business-like hair with natural looking color. Appropriate jewelry may be worn such as a watch and ring. Tattoos must not be visible. All hair styles must be appropriate to a professional environment.

    You will be required to undergo a typing and navigation skills test as part of the selection process for this position. Must pass online type test with 30+ WPM net.

    Must complete Basic Microsoft Windows XP online navigation assessment with 80%.

    If you are interested, please reply back with a latest copy of your resume in WORD format. Even if you are not available, but if you know someone who would fit this job, please don’t hesitate to pass this email on to them.

    And this was my reply, before I knew it… I have to excuse myself for the bad grammar, it is that English is not my native language, as I was raised 3 lingual English was not one of them. I guess, I had a bad day, never done this before…

    Dear …

    Thank you so much for sending me an email. I appreciate the offer of showing interest in my skills.

    However I am not interested at all, and nor is it appealing to me. Due the following reasons ;

    The job description already starts with a huge list of how not to behave, how to be dress and more negative points,, It reminds you that either you are back in school , or boot camp. The list goes on and on… On top of that, the hours are pretty much flexible, but still I need to be flexible as well..

    Too try make a long story short… The whole content of the description sense of negative vibes.. there are only a few sentence , at the end of the advertisement… it reflects a hesitate tone.. iow.. after the turn off list..if. your still interested… then you can reply back and summit your resume…

    I have enormous respect for people who decide to still join the company, and perhaps are in a critical personal situation, where they have no choice but to work or do what they need to do…. and that is always an advantages for companies like these….

    recruiters text
    If you are interested, please reply back with a latest copy of your resume in WORD format. Even if you are not available, but if you know someone who would fit this job, please don’t hesitate to pass this email on to them.

    You state as well that you have a an : exciting opportunity for me, we have with one of our premier clients. Your experience looks like a good fit for the position and I wanted to know if you would be interested in exploring this opportunity.

    Oh really? How is it possible, that you do not reveal one specific detail… That is the moment to shine, and let them know that the company is grateful to have such valuable employers. And try to convince them to sign up. It just gives me more a sense of selfish, soulless company that only thinks in their best interest.

    I Still have not the foggiest idea, what makes the position an exciting opportunity, with one of your premier clients. Premier clients ? Sounds like they are a good company, and is doing good on the market, thanks to the great, and dedicated robot/ employers who make it all happen.

    Whatever it is, I am sure the clients in paying good, otherwise you would not refer to premier client…. and all the company has in return…. a rewarding, and thankful pay rate of $ 11.10/ hr

    Are you sure? Is it not a little bit daring the $ 0.10 on top of the $ 11.00 ? You sure you the company can miss it, and not get financial in trouble? If you really think that I would perhaps a good fit, why not pay for those extra skills ? And then a little bit further,(in the add) even dare to talk about additional tasks… very clever… additional/ extra…. but paying extra or additional more…no not really willing to, or is that covers the $ 0,10

    Extra skills, that I have develop a long the way. I was so lucky to receive a good education, and received after finally 4 years an BA Degree…. perhaps not much for others, but for me it’s worth it… after all, you hope or expect that a education will pay of at the end…………………………

    So as you understand… needless to say I kindly rejects the opportunity, where there is not even one positive factor, in the whole advertisement to convince me, to want to work for a company like this. Unfortunately , I indeed do not know any persons that I would recommend to you…

    I wish you good luck in finding the right candidate for the position, perhaps point out the positive aspects of the jobs. That even when the duties can be boring at times.. at least it is worth to go to your job, because it is such an amazing, fun and good company. Flexible towards there employers….

    Please do not take this personal, I am sure you do what you need to do… its just ironic… The title is Customer Service Representative, however there is not a customer , friendly vibe from the advertisement.

    Have a nice day, and weekend…………………………..

    • derdiver

      Man, great read! Believe it or not I get these as well. This rant was based on a corporate recruiters perspective and let me tell you that nothing aggravates me more than spammy emails. Love the reply! I never seem to hear back when I do this sort of thing did you?

      • Zon

        Hi derdiver,

        Thank you for the comment… No ofcourse I did not hearded anything back! I wonder if they even exist. Your letter seems like the same thing. It is frustrated.

        • derdiver

          NEVER! LOL I have even sent an email saying SURE I AM IN and nothing. To funny really. Thanks again for the post.

    • Creative 925

      this is a bogus email they sent you on a position that probably doesn’t even exist. it is a phishing email frankly and from an outsourced, non-english source. there are these companies that post suspect jobs online, when a person sends their response they get back to you with this stupid posting. these people are not actual recruiters, who knows who they really are. one way to see if it is legit, is to look at their email address and domain, then go to that website first to check out. often you will find it comes from some gmail address or such. when my sons receive such emails I tell them to mark as spam and delete.

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  • Bryce Pinkos

    Hey Derek, thanks for the great post. I just read pt. 2 and this is my second time reading pt. 1. My only question is about the PDF thing. I’ve heard from many that the PDF is the preferred file type for a resume, as people have different word processors or versions of them, and a PDF can be read on Mac or PC. So as not to offend any recruiters, do you think it’s a good idea to just send a version as a .DOCX and a replica as a .PDF? Thanks in advance for your input.

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