Why Recruiters and Résumés Don’t Mix

By Matt LeBlanc

Many years ago, before I really dove deep into the world of recruiting, I was under the impression that recruiters (and HR professionals in general) should be a go-to resource for résumé review. Boy, was I wrong.

If I was looking for a job right this second, I would run away from 99.9 percent of the résumé advice given by 99.9 percent of the recruiters out there. Why? Because they will guide you to put things on it that will make it easier for them to rule you out of the process and harder for you to get the attention you need.

Don't believe me? Go to just about any recruiter out there and they will tell you the following things.

"Make sure to put the dates on your education."


Putting a date on your education makes it easy to potentially figure out how old you are. And if someone can figure out your age, then you are easier to categorize and weed out.

"Put all of your work history on your résumé."


Putting all of your work history has the same effect that putting the dates of your education has. It makes it too easy to date you. (I always recommend going back only 10–15 years.)

"Put your references on your résumé."


This is one of the oldest recruiter tricks in the book: Instead of getting the contact of one potential candidate, you get four (the résumé writer + three references). If someone needs to see your references, make sure it's after a screening or interview.

"Your résumé cannot survive a typo or grammatical mistake."


If you are a top-notch performer in a very niche and in-high-demand field and have a misspelled word or two on your résumé, it will probably be overlooked. If you are a customer service person or something similar, it will probably hurt your chances. Fair? No. Reality? Yes.

"You should customize your résumé for every position you apply for."


If you follow the formula of knowing what you want to do, knowing what companies look for in that area, and sell yourself like crazy on paper, you shouldn't need to customize your résumé at all because it will already fit 90 percent of the positions out there. Why is that so important? Let's say that you and I are both hardworking professionals going after the same job. You go ahead and spend all of your time customizing your résumé and I spend my time making networking phone calls. I am not a betting man, but I would bet that I have three offers by the time you get your first call back. Remember: At its core, your résumé is nothing but a piece of junk mail and anyone with a little bit of networking know-how and a phone can run circles around you and your "customized résumé" any day of the week.

Unless a recruiter tells you something along the lines of "your résumé is a marketing document that should highlight relevant reasons why you should be hired" or "your résumé won't get you a job, you will" then they are feeding you a bunch of...well, you know what.

Until next time—good hunting and good luck! 

About the Author

Matt LeBlanc is a human resources professional based in Nashville, Tennessee, with expertise in full life cycle technical recruitment, sourcing, research, training, and workforce and career development. He writes about job search/career-related issues on "Recruiters Guide to the Universe" and recruiting/sourcing-related issues on "12recruiters." You can connect with Matt on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/mattleblanc and Twitter at www.twitter.com/matthewjleblanc.

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