The Top Secrets of Corporate Recruiters

Candidates are often befuddled by the corporate recruiting process. Especially when they make a conscious effort to play by the rules, only to discover they weren’t even considered for an opening because their resume fell into a black hole.

What to do? “Candidates have to be bold and take some risks,” says Lou Adler, founder of The Adler Group, an Irvine, Calif., company that trains and advises corporate recruiters. “Otherwise, your resume will get lost in the abyss that is corporate recruiting.”

So, to understand some of the realities of corporate recruiting, here are some of its secrets.

Secret No. 1: The Most Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets the Job

Companies hire candidates for their personality and cultural fit — not for their skills, advises Abby Kohut, a New York-based recruiter, speaker and author of 101 Job Search Secrets. In fact, Kohut says successful IT candidates usually satisfy only about 75 percent of the technical requirements.

“Companies hire the least risky candidate with a great attitude and passion for technology,” says Kohut. “So focus on the requirements in the top third of the job description and spend the rest of your time explaining why you’re a good fit for the culture.”

Secret No. 2: Go Around Human Resources

Although recruiters often discourage candidates from contacting line managers, the successful candidates usually network their way into the company.  “No matter what recruiters tell you, it’s okay to go around human resources and contact the line manager,” Kohut says.

Secret No. 3:  Recruiters Ignore Confidential Resumes

When recruiters are inundated with resumes, they don’t need to spend valuable time tracking down and scrutinizing mysterious candidates.

Secret No. 4: Don’t be Afraid to Submit Your Resume via Fax or Certified Mail

Although IT professionals might scoff at the idea of using vintage communication, recruiters say sending your resume via snail mail or fax can often reach your target audience.

Secret No. 5: They Read Resumes from the Bottom Up

Some recruiters read resumes from the bottom up to evaluate a candidate’s career progression, so make sure your resume conveys a compelling story from either direction.

Secret No. 6: Only 50 Percent of Openings are Posted

Recruiters frequently source and fill unadvertised job openings, so it pays to build relationships proactively.

Secret No. 7: Recruiters Look for Reasons to Exclude Candidates

Recruiters look for reasons to exclude candidates from the hiring process, not include them,” says Freeman. “So be careful what you say during interviews, because you don’t want to cast a shadow on the wall.”

Secret No. 8: They Prefer Fresh Applicants

Theoretically, recruiters search the database before posting a position, but kulling stale resumes can be unproductive. To make sure you don’t fall off the radar, refresh your posted resume every week and reapply to suitable positions.

Secret No. 9: Recruiters Vet Candidates on the Internet

It’s not a rumor. Recruiters check-out candidates on the Internet and float their names by the current IT staff to avoid an avalanche of adverse references down the road.

Secret No. 10: They Can Say No, But They Can’t Say Yes

Recruiters can’t say yes, but they can screen out unsuitable applicants. So treat them with respect and don’t under-estimate their ability to get you in front of a hiring manager.

19 Responses to “The Top Secrets of Corporate Recruiters”

  1. Marcus Griffen

    Companies are not hiring people who have been out of work for over 6 months, no matter what there qualification are. I wish dice would do an indepth story about the average IT worker by job search. In fact better still Dice should select an IT worker, perhaps and unemployed poster to this site, and using the techniques/advise given by dice blogger see if this person can get a job. Follow that persons progress and report on it. Now, that would be a story.

  2. Frae the blog:

    Secret No. 5: They Read Resumes from the Bottom Up

    Some recruiters read resumes from the bottom up to evaluate a candidate’s career progression, so make sure your resume conveys a compelling story from either direction.

    My comments/questions: so, where to place education? In the middle? What if your resume is read by a person who reads top/down?

    Like Max said; it seems getting your resume beyond first base is a roll of the dice.

    • Sorry I’m late to the party. I’m sure it won’t go over well, but I am a recruiter. I’ve been in workforce development for 10 years. Here is some advice. Be sure to write a resume specifically for each position if possible. In regard to education: if your education is more relevant to the position you’re applying for than your experience, or if you’ve just graduated, put it at the top. If your experience is more relevant put it at the end. Hope this helps.

  3. In secrete #8 you should have run your own advice through spell check:

    “…but kulling stale resumes can,,,” The correct word for this is “culling”, not “kulling”.

  4. Robert Murillo

    No wonder we are falling behind from other countries in the technical aspect; just look at everything you buy and you will see it is made in China, Malaysia, India, and other countries. What happen to the U.S. of A ingenuity? I have more than 40 years experience in the technical field and have worked for the largest companies in this country and the trends I have seen, as far as people is concerned, is that technical people are, for the most part, thinkers and not social people but when it comes to solve problems they are the best. So, what does a company want? people who solve problems and with good ideas or social people who gather drinking coffee talking about sports? If I am a CEO, I would go for the brainy people instead of social-able people. Being at this point retired, I don’t care much about looking for jobs but now and then I get contacted regarding “contracts” with a job description which make me laugh. Now, I can see the trend of what it was in the technical arena and what it is now and no wonder our youth can care a less going to college and take a technical curriculum and so we continue falling behind technically and scholastically across the board.

  5. This is a great article. I’m glad you wrote this. This helps job seekers know what the “rules of the game” are. And it is a game that these recruiters play – a very unfair game.

    Recruiters actually count on applicants NOT knowing how to “play the game” so it makes it look like they are doing their jobs.

    • BTW as a hiring manager, this is one game that I personally find unethical and offensive. It’s for that reason that I at least scan the “secondary pile” of resumes for a rec.

      I do usually find gold and it always leaves me wondering “so why are these recruiters here when they are not doing their job?” I sure wish they had performance metrics I could contribute to…

  6. I have never in my life gotten a job from being selected by a company’s H.R. team to move onto an interview with them or the hiring manager. But then again I never ever went THROUGH H.R. either. How difficult do you think it is find the name of the hiring manager, or for that matter, the company doing the hiring? PuhLEEZ! You can go the old-fashioned way and talk to your local public librarian who will let you look through the big stack of corporation doing business in your area or state. Those books might actually be online but I haven’t used them in a while, mostly pre-internet. FYI, check next time you are at the library, talk to the REFERENCE librarian. She’ll know what I’m talking about (because I can’t remember the name of those reference books), and she’ll certainly know if they are ‘online’ now or not.
    Companies are listed by the type of business they are, and their address/phone numbers are, too. But of course you can do a google search (bing is worthless as I’m sure you all (except Microsoft) know) for type of business, area of country, and that should bring up a list of web addresses. Then you can check what the various sites have listed under ‘career opportunities’ (etc) for job openings. But be aware that not all job openings are listed, because it might be a ‘confidential hire’ (they hire THEN they fire the current incumbent, which is how some marriage partners get replaced, too, sadly). Once you have an idea of the company that is hiring, then you find out who is working for that company (do a linkedin search, for one thing), and who the hiring manager might be. If that is too tedious then just do it the old fashioned way, call the company receptionist and tell her you want to send an email thank you to ‘[fill in the blank] manager’ but, drat!, you don’t have his card, would she please give you his name? and when you have it ask how they do their emails there, “Is it first name, dot, last name?” with any luck s/he will give you the manager’s email. It’s not always ‘quite’ that easy, but more often then not, IT IS. Receptionists and Reference Librarians love to help, that’s why they have those jobs. Okay, once in a while a receptionist is ‘protective’ of her ‘peeps’ but not usually. The ‘admin asst’ (what used to be called ‘secretary’ … a rose by any other name as twere) is the one who is the ‘boulder’ between you and the Manager. Today in tech there’s usually a ‘group’ admin so s/he may just put your right through if s/he is busy. Then you can get to talk directly to the Manager, keeping it short and to the point: I hear you have an opening for such and such, and I’d like to talk to you for two minutes to see if my skills match your needs… if they say ‘no time’ say I totally understand, I’ll email you my resume, if you prefer. At that point, knowing the manager is busy, you end the call, don’t waste his or her time. Then if they gave you their email address followup by emailing your resume with a short two-paragraph 5-6 line ‘cover’ letter with a list of your contact points: linkedin, twitter, email, smartphone, website (if you have one), and if you are a blogger, you should have ALREADY written a short 2-3 paragraph post that you wrote SPECIFICALLY for that job/company, including that link in bold darkblue 16 pt type in the center of the email… read up on the company, find the manager on linkedin or google, and write that short [blog] post to address something of interest to the MANAGER. This ALWAYS works. Of course it works for ME, I don’t know what your skills are, frankly. Age? Age doesn’t matter if you are vital, vigorous, healthy, confident, intelligent, and have current skills. It helps if you know how to communicate well, too. But skills and communication can be learned. If you are a kid, emphasize your focus, work ethic, integrity and ability to stand in the gap and complete what you start. You can point out that you are young and willing to learn. As proof, point them at a website you built from hand or using all flash or all javascript, at your github page, your industry-related blog, etc. You do have those, right? ? Better to have than to not have. If you are ‘old’ (like me), see what I just said for the kids, but point out that have failed enough to know how not to be shaken by your failures, and you can have a blog post on a spectacular ‘fail’ in which you were involved, and the ‘think out side the box’ method you and your team (collaboration is always better than ‘lone wolfing it’ for companies these days) turn it around and ended up with a ‘strengthened under fire’ SUCCESS. (Forgive the runon sentence, I have no time to edit my comments, I’m writing two books and have three blogs, AND a startup, so back to that work. P.S. if you don’t have a four-page website touting yourself and spotlighting solutions to problems that you worked out, etc. why not? You can easily learn to build a website in two days at, come up with a logo design for your site by googling ‘free logo design’ as there are a bazillion of those sites out there where you can make your own logo online and save to your desktop or dropbox, etc. If you want to work, there’s no excuse NOT to have a job. Ignore what the media says, there’s a TON of work out there, even if you have to make companies want YOU above anyone else. Don’t bother retorting that “I don’t have any experience, I am too young, or I am too old, no one wants me”. If they don’t want you because you are ‘too young’, go VOLUNTEER somewhere and GET experience, but believe me you can find work in this climate. If it is paying 55,000 and you want 120,000, but you haven’t worked in a year, TAKE THE 55,000. You start there and move up or work there for a year and MOVE ON, because in a year you’ll have that experience. If you are 55 or 65, for gawd’s sake become a consultant and make 100-125/hr, YOU ARE the expert, remember? Don’t tell me you’ve been looking for a year or two, because I’ll tell you “you mean you’ve been living on unemployment for a year, or savings, or just goofing off” because the work is THERE AND THERE AND OVER THERE TOO. If you have to move, MOVE.