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 or or his own site  Derek currently lives in the DC area.

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

By Derek Zeller

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. 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, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.