Listen to What Two Recruiters Say About Resumes


Everyone’s resume could use an update, and Dice is filled with advice on how to improve yours. Here’s some more advice, this time from Kathy Alberts and Sondra Card, two tech recruiters who led a session at Silicon Valley Code Camp entitled “Powerful Resume and Cover Letter Writing.”

I asked Alberts and Card for to tell me some key elements that should be on every resume. Here’s their advice:

  • Scannability – Visually needs to be clear and well-formatted with headlines and spacing. Recruiters see tons of resumes, so it’s important that they can pick up the basics in five seconds.
    Highlighted accomplishments – Whatever you’re really proud of, let them know.
  • Education – If you went to a really good school, present that prominently.
  • List chronologically – Need to show most recent projects first and show time.
  • Manage the gaps – If you took time off, that’s okay, but you’ll need to explain it. Show that you did something during the time — like a side project or took courses to maintain your education.
  • Have a third party edit it – Make sure there are no typos, weird spacing, grammatical errors, etc. Simple mistakes can put you in the “Don’t” file very quickly.
  • A resume is a communication tool – Too much information is not good communication. Half the resumes Card sees are a jumble: They’re not prioritized and the individual is trying to summarize 12 years of experience in half a page. Remember your resume is designed to communicate your value, not tell your life story.

No Responses to “Listen to What Two Recruiters Say About Resumes”

  1. Fred Bosick

    Do you know what is so terrible about this presentation? These “recruiters” admit to just pattern matching. They are “grep” with lipstick. Do they even know what grep is? Doesn’t seem necessary for them to perform their jobs.

    And miilions of people get hired, or not, because of this “algorithm”. Is it worth asking whether they know this term?

    Stanford, MIT, Cornell, Baylor, Ruby, Javascript, SAP, IBM, Wesleyan, Oracle, Lisp, ITIL3, 6-Sigma…

    Do I get an interview?

  2. This article sums up why I don’t use recruiters at all anymore. I have multiple filters that marks all your messages read and sticks them into a neat folder inside Gmail. I have found that going directly to companies and networking seems to be the best approach because of the time people are willing to invest to ACTUALLY READ RESUME’S! It’s really a shame that so many of the big recruiting firms are “working in bulk” these days.

    Sorry guys but my resume is technical as I am a technical person. There’s a lot of very important experience on there and some of the key words might not match exactly what your job description says. I wish matching people to technical jobs was easier but it’s not. Asking candidates to rewrite their resume’s to match job descriptions is just plain dishonest and when I pick up on that when I am interviewing a candidate I get SUPER suspicious.

    It’s not the words that are important and matching your checklist of skill set’s that is important. It’s finding that candidate that can think outside the box, learn new technologies and can react to never seen before problems that’s important. If your just pattern matching you can be replaced with software.

  3. The previous two posts have it right! Robert has an excellent point about creative thinking. I believe creativity is the most important qualification for most tech employees. We are presented with new problems and high pressure situations every day. HOW we react to those situations, and how quickly we learn to adapt, is much more important than if we went to Stanford.

    It disheartens me to see these “recruiters” saying what we all don’t want to acknowledge, but secretly know is true: Getting hired is about saying the right words, “BS”ing the right recruiter, and playing major politics. It’s unfortunate some of the best candidates don’t get hired because their resume is “not in the correct format”.

    What a joke, and a sad state of affairs for the IT industry when recruiters like this are determining hiring policies. I think I am going to become a recruiter for the HR industry, because if the same holds true, I don’t need any knowledge about it to recruit people for it!

  4. Well, Robert’s absolutely right about the fact that the best way to get into a company is to network. Whether recruiting firms do that or not is really beside the point. If you have direct contacts inside a company, you’ve got an advantage.

    BUT: There’s some things that aren’t right in this thread. First, recruiters don’t determine hiring policies. Their job is to find people who might be a good fit based on the requirements set by the hiring managers and the company’s overall policies. Their job is tactical, not strategic.

    Getting hired isn’t about BS-ing recruiters, or anyone else. It’s about demonstrating that you’ve got the skills to do the work and the personality to fit in with the company in general and the people you’ll work with specifically. You have to prove your technical skills before you get into an interview with the hiring manager. There’s nothing wrong with organizing your skills to highlight the ones they’re looking for — when you’ve actually got them. Pointing out what’s obvious to you, but isn’t so clear to a bunch of people who don’t know you, or isn’t dishonest.

    You can say “too bad” because you arrange your resume the way you want to, as opposed to the way HR or a recruiter wants it. It is too bad — because they’re not going to spend lots of time time trying to puzzle it out. If you’re designing an interface, do you say “too bad” once you know the user requirements? Why would you walk away from a format that the people you’re trying to connect with like?

    Of course, recruiters match. What are they supposed to do? If they get 400 resumes, how do they identify the serious candidates? Maybe you ARE the best, but if you figure your talent will just shine through, sorry — it won’t. You HAVE to point it out. You HAVE to connect the dots. The people who do that are the ones who get in the door. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to deal with it.

    Besides, it’s only natural that the people who do understand — and respect — their processes and their approach are the ones they connect with. That’s not sucking up, it’s understanding the dynamics of the relationship you’re trying to build.

  5. Walter Miller

    I found in countless hours or job coaching, taking workshops in presentation, focusing on resume writing, and the use of job boards for exposure mean very little. Its all about networking and who you know, appearance, and age.

    It seems with so many people out of work that there is a whole industry which rose to take advantage such as Job Consultants and Job Recruiters.

    Job Consultants charge a fee for various workshops on resume writing and presentation.

    Job Recruiters are so worried to make their commission that they wind up shot gunning you all over the place.

    I tried going door to door in an industrial park only to find out most have eliminated their receptionist and have a sign in the do indicating to visit their website or they are not hiring. Paper resumes are pretty much a thing of the past for one is forced into an on-line pre-formatted template which you have to fill out. Each company has its own template and set of questions (I wish there was standardization). Many companies no longer have a Human Resource department and outsource the filtering of resumes through third parties. Most of the time this is done with computer key word search and if you hit a certain percentage you are passed on otherwise your resume is destroyed (not kept for other jobs that may open up so re-applying is necessary) .

    Also while illegal there is a lot of age and sex bias going on. I was told by a company while my skills are excellent however I was over 45 years old and considered a more costly medical insurance risk by their carrier. A Quality Assurance Job I applied for indicated they were looking for someone with 5 years or more of Quality Assurance. I applied was interviewed and while they were impressed told me I did not have all the skill requirements they were looking for. A sexy 28 year old woman I know who was looking for a job with no college education and only factory assembly experience applied for the job and got it saying they would train her in what she needed to know.

    So the bottom line to all of this is that when the job market is tight and many individuals are out of a job. They all have advice on how one should present oneself. There is not a standard. They are all just view points. Most jobs are found by networking and the remainders are done with algorithms as Mr Bosick suggested.

  6. Nothing new here. I am just glad I am still a janitor because it my first job comming out of high school. It makes it easy to list my CompTIA certifications and show that I am worth saving from toilet cleaning hell.

  7. Typical recruiter point of view considering most of them don’t even know the field they are recruiting for. Makes me wonder how they got their job and I’m jobless. But I digress..
    After reading some of your comments I’ll have to strongly agree with gentleman named Walter Miller. After looking for a job for a longer than I would like, I decided to go back to school for an MBA. I found the most profound thing the professor said the first day of my first class was that “If you are 40 and over you are more than likely being age discriminated against by employers because you are a medical risk”. “What… Really!!”, was my first thought, as I don’t consider myself that old being 42 and not to mention I’m as healthy as an ox. I thought the 40 year-old’s were the ones with the good experience and knowledge that companies wanted as you don’t have to do much training for them? I guess not.
    Ironically I am looking for Q/A job as well. But maybe that’s why I didn’t even get a sniff for jobs that I was well qualified for.
    It’s very loud and clear to me now, it’s not even Networking that gets you in the company, it’s just out right Who You Know!.