When I worked as a Human Resources Recruiter, one of the things I always got the biggest laugh at was how often applicants would call within minutes of submitting an application for one of our open positions. I mean, I was good – but I wasn’t that good! Several years ago, when the job market was as competitive and limited as it was, it was not uncommon for a simple HR Records Assistant job to garner more than 500 resumes. Chances are, if you applied to that job the first day it was posted, and the day I decided to make calls for interviews, then you were one of the lucky ones who stood a chance of an interview. For everyone else, sadly, their resumes got lost in the shuffle. And – of course, they did! No one can sift through 500 resumes, especially when that individual is recruiting for approximately 150 other open positions at any given time. 

I worked as a Recruiter for about ten years and while I was great at my job and loved what I did, it wasn’t like I was born with a keen eye on a good resume or knew all of the tricks of the trade. It took time, and trial and error before I got the hang of it. In roles I’ve had since, my experience as a Recruiter has helped me land positions with decent pay, great benefits, flexibility and overall, an environment that makes me eager to get to work each day. If that sounds like the kind of life you’re looking for, here are my tips for what recruiters are looking for:

1. Only Include Relevant Experience

Listen, writing a resume sucks. It’s boring, tedious and more often than not, you’re confused as to what exactly you should list on your resume. Often times, this leads to a common, rookie mistake where applicants flood their resume with every role they’ve ever had. When you’re applying for a job, all that recruiter wants to see is your relevant experience. It’s great that you worked in mental health for seven years as a children’s aide, but what experience is relevant to applying for a finance position? It’s vital to include relevant internships, employment responsibilities, volunteer work and educational background when applying for a job. We can appreciate that you carry such a diverse background experience, but at the end of the day, hiring managers need to know you can get the job at hand done efficiently. My recommendation, as much of a hassle as it is, is to tailor your resume to include relevant experience dependent upon the job you’re applying for. If you had a job as a county clerk right out of high school, omit it from your resume, especially if those responsibilities have nothing to do with the role you’re applying for.

2. Take the Time to Format Your Resume

I do not want to read a resume thatlookslikethis. It may seem funny that I even include something like that on this list, but I’ve actually received resumes that are formatted like the disastrous example above. Bullet points were always a fan favorite of mine because it helped me understand you and your experience swiftly. As I said, I may have 500 applications to sort through, and if I’m reading a resume that is four pages, typed back to back, with superfluous jargon, typos, and blocks of paragraph after paragraph, I’m not going to continue examining it. Your resume is my first impression of you, and if I’m seeing how little effort you’re putting into this – then you’ve already shown me what little effort you’ll put into your job. It’s a fair assumption.

3. Do Not Call For a Status Update (immediately)

While there are some colleagues of mine who say that they hate when applicants call to find out the status of an application, I think that it shows initiative. But, you need to understand the time and place to do it. If you submit an application, do not call the recruiter immediately after. Recruiters are not just sitting on their computer waiting for a bleep to come across that a new resume has been submitted. They’re networking at events, speaking at local colleges, organizing job fairs, conducting interviews, dealing with walk-in applicants, reviewing resumes, conducting phone screenings, background checks and providing updates to fellow staff members as to where they are in the hiring process. When you call ten minutes after applying for a job (which has happened to me more times than I can count), it comes across as unprofessional. 

If you do choose to reach out to a recruiter about a status of your application, I recommend doing so around the 1-2 week mark. This allows them an opportunity to review resumes, and by this point, will probably be ready to start conducting formal interviews. It’s always a possibility you’re the perfect candidate for this position, but wait for the appropriate time to reach out for an update. 

4. Do Not Hound the Recruiter

So, it should go without saying that calling anyone in an excessive fashion works against you, but it’s something that needs to be said. I have had hundreds of applicants over the years who called me every single day asking for a status of their application for days, weeks, sometimes months after the position has been open. Likewise, I’ve had applicants walk into my office every single week, or multiple times a week inquiring about their application. I’d worked for various companies as a recruiter, and some offered different processes than others. For companies that had to wait on the hiring manager, unfortunately, there would be nothing I could do if they took their time with a resume. What this ultimately turns into, though, is a buddy-buddy relationship with the recruiter, which is the last thing you want to do. I’ve had many applicants come in, call me by my first name, joke around about the hiring process, tell me to hire them and make inappropriate remarks because they thought they would help their chances of landing a job. At the end of the day, you’re applying for a job in which you will have to remain and act professionally, in a sometimes, stressful environment. I’ve had people stop me on my way out of a convenient store, track me down at job fairs, call me continually, reach out through staffing agencies and once – even found my personal e-mail. Do not hound, stalk, and joke around with your recruiter. Remain professional at all times.

5. Do Your Research on a Company

My advice is to find at least one talking point about the company you’re applying to. You can do this five minutes before your interview even because at the end of the day, all I’m going to care about is that you took the time to try and get prepared. Every company website will offer a personalized glimpse into what makes their company unique. Whether this includes international locations, mottos, or charity events, choose one that you can relate to and offer additional insight on if the recruiter asks you on your interview. For example, I once went on an interview where the company recently branched off into international territory. When my interview was coming to a close, I brought this up stating that I thought it showed excellent leadership for companies to be continually expanding, offering the opportunity to offer their services to a wider population (and why that was necessary). I landed the job. What this does is show the recruiter that you care about the outcome of this interview. If you weren’t interested in the company or position, then why would you be applying to it? Doing this one, seemingly small effort can lead to amazing end-results.

6. Be Yourself on the Interview

I know that interviews are stressful situations, but they really shouldn’t be. The recruiter isn’t meeting you with a preconceived notion in their head; they’re genuinely interested in meeting you. Despite its’ formality, an interview is just a meet and greet. And, the best part about an interview is that it’s not just one-sided; you’re interviewing us, too! Don’t try and impress us with fancy words or say what you think we want to hear. When we ask you what you think your biggest weakness is, be honest with us and tell us. We’re all human, meaning we’re all imperfect so when you say you’re impervious to flaws, it’s a downright lie. For me, my biggest weakness was – and often is – the ability to not be a perfectionist. I struggle with time management and I tell that to the person interviewing me, however, I follow it up with constructive tools I’m using to fix it. I struggle with time management, but lately, I’ve been making lists of my priorities that day and I’m finding that by getting done the ones that will take less time, I’m better able to adapt to my flaw. Here, it shows me that I’m aware of what my issue is and I’m attempting to fix it with sound reasoning. 

The reason for this question is because we want to see not only what your flaws are, but we want to know how you’ll react to certain situations within the workplace. If you see something wrong, will you address it? How will you go about it? The list goes on and on (and on). 

7. Always Be Armed With A Question for Your Interviewer

  1. What do you enjoy most about working here?
  2. What upcoming projects are you excited about?
  3. What is something unique to your company that I won’t be able to find elsewhere?

These are just a few examples of the questions I’ve been asked over the years that have left me eager to call the applicant back with a job offer. At the end of the day, people get jobs because of money and benefits. While they are not terrible questions to ask, that information is usually better suited for a second interview. These questions show that you’re highlighting the company’s accomplishments and their leadership. It allows the recruiter to tell you why this is the company you should work for. In essence, now we have to sell to you! Sneaky, huh?

8. Follow-up With an E-mail

Wait a few hours before you send this, but don’t forget to do it the same day. Just take the time to thank everyone who was in your interview and that you look forward to hearing from them soon. It is not a second opportunity to dive into your experience. Surprisingly, not a lot of people do this and it helps make you stand out amongst other applicants. 

9. If You Don’t Hear Back, You Don’t Hear Back

The hiring process takes time, especially if the recruiter is conducting other interviews, a background check and calling your references. If there were applicants I was excited to push forward with, then I didn’t wait around just so I could lose them to another company. Many recruiters are like this, too. When I say, “if you don’t hear back, you don’t hear back” it means that you need to let it go if that recruiter decided to go with another applicant. Many times, surprisingly, I’ve been questioned as to why I didn’t hire an applicant. Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is that people aren’t selected for a job because they found someone else who was more qualified. It’s not personal.

10. Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

Listen, if I’m calling you in for an interview, it’s because I think you have experience that will benefit our company. It’s absolutely okay to brag about yourself a little. Have you achieved something no one else at your company has? Did you raise a certain amount of money for a charity? Did you conduct volunteer work that helped you learn an invaluable lesson? Tell me! This is your time to sell yourself and let me in on the little secrets that make you unique. What can you (and only you) bring to our company that makes you an asset?

11. Identify Your Goals – And Tell Me

It was a toss-up between this and a post about dressing professionally for your interview. Even though most people do this already (I’ve met people who don’t), coming to an interview with an outline of your future career goals helps me to understand where you see yourself down the line. While there’s nothing wrong with using a company as a stepping stone, neither of us want to be in this cycle over and over again. We all carry dreams about where we see ourselves in a year. Be sure to tell me that during your interview. I once interviewed an applicant who didn’t have much experience and ended up getting hired because she told me that she worked hard to get herself to where she is and was motivated to learn all she could about the field. In this interview, she told me that while she may not have had the experience, a company finds success based upon the kind of people that they hire. She inspired me when she said that she has the drive, the passion and the goals to be successful in life, but she needs to start somewhere. At the end of the day, she landed the job. Outline your goals and relay them. Your experience counts for a lot, but at the end of the day, spreadsheets and processes can be taught – but the will and drive to better yourself is unmeasurable.

12. Don’t Lose Hope. Keep Applying!

My mother always used to say that finding a job is like having a full-time job and there’s so much truth in that. It takes time to format your resume and cover letter and sometimes, go on job interview after job interview until you find the one. It can be disheartening to have one or two interviews only to have that role be given to someone else. And, it can be even more frustrating when you apply for jobs and never hear back. The right job is out there, especially with the job market being as prevalent and prominent as it is at the moment. Keep plugging away and hopefully, these tips will help you land your next job!




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