What recruiters say about resumes

Several hundred recruiters / headhunters were interviewed to find out what they are saying about resumes. The recruiters were from varied specialties and industries throughout the US and Canada, (Engineering, Information Technology, Sales and Marketing, Executive, Biotech, Healthcare, Administrative, Finance, etc.). The project aimed to find out what are the recruiter's likes and dislikes in a resume they receive, and what is going to get a resume read by them. Some of the "Pet Peeves" will be obvious, while others might surprise a job seeker.

Top Recruiter Pet Peeves about Resumes

  • Burying or Not Including Important Information in the Resume
  • Gaps in Employment
  • Objectives or Meaningless Introductions
  • Employer or Industry Information Not Included
  • Personal Info Not Relevant to the Job

To gain experience in an area, you need to start out somewhere, and recruiters understand this. Nevertheless, recruiters are buried up to their eyeballs in resumes. Recruiters do not have time to sort through hundreds of resumes that are in no way a match for the requirements they are trying to fill. When someone submits an obviously unqualified resume, the person receiving it resents them wasting their time. It also delays the consideration of other applicants who ARE qualified.

All recruiters receive unsolicited resumes. If you are from the same profession or industry as a job posting, and do not fit that particular job, your background may fit other current or future jobs that will be worked on by that recruiter. Sending your information to them makes sense; however, don't try to pretend that you are qualified for a job when you are not.

  • Long Paragraphs

Recruiters want a resume's details to be short, concise and to the point. No recruiter has the time to read long paragraphs, which look like a narrative out of War and Peace. In today's world, recruiters and hiring managers want/need bullets, quick access to information and experience, not drawn out sentences to describe job responsibilities. Usually, a candidate only has 20 seconds to grab a recruiter's attention.

Make sure you quickly get to the "meat" of what you are trying to communicate about yourself. Your resume should be easy for the reader to "scan" your text for your skills and accomplishments. Consider using blunt, paraphrased bullet-points, and appropriate amount of "white space" to help guide your reader. Understand that a resume is only to get you in the door. If you get a call on your resume, it has done its job!! It is now up to you to "connect" with the person you are interviewing with.

from J. Michael Worthington, Jr.
Adopted, with permission, from the Resume Doctor

Frequently Asked Questions about resumes

Q: What information should I put in my resume?

A: A resume is a short account of one's career and qualifications. An effective resume should be a clearly written, concise document which presents your work experience, skills, accomplishments, education and relevant personal data. A well-written resume should emphasize your abilities and achievements and specific responsibilities. Keep in mind the business needs of prospective employers.

Q: Should I put a job objective on my resume?

A: Job objectives can limit your options, unless you create a new resume for each position for which you apply.

Q: How long should my resume be?

A: A one-page resume is preferred, though a two-page resume can be just as effective.

Q: What's the difference between a chronological and a functional resume?

A: A chronological resume outlines your work experience by dates; a functional resume outlines your background by broad-based areas of responsibility. Your choice of the format to use depends on how you want your skills to be highlighted. It is possible to combine the best features of both types of resume.

Q: What kind of paper should I use?

A: A heavy-weight white bond is optimal. If you send some resumes by Fax, the type won't be as clear on a colored background.

Covering letters


Cover letters are often used in relation to the career search and to situations where you need to introduce your qualifications and clearly state your purpose for writing. Frequently, when you are applying for a new course program or attempting to enter a specialized school or post-graduate academic program, you will have to prepare a number of documents that present your credentials and use a cover letter to introduce yourself. When replying to an ad from the newspaper or magazine, your letter should be specific and targeted directly at the company and the skills required in the position. More general cover letters, called broadcast letters, are sometimes used to search for a suitable position in a company that has not openly advertised an open position. Other, less commonly used cover letters may be needed when appealing to a college administrator for permission to enter a program or to overstep regulations because of special circumstances.

When companies are hiring, they generally like to buy results, such as: increased sales, decreased costs, and special expertise. To show that you would be able to increase profits, you will need to state your accomplishments and problem-solving abilities. To demonstrate your special skills, use examples of accomplishments that reflect your value in less direct ways.

General Considerations

  • Sell your accomplishments and your relevant experience
  • If possible, go back five to ten years
  • Limit your letter to no more than two, uncrowded pages
  • Omit personal data
  • Omit salary
  • Omit employment dates
  • Omit references
  • Include your resume (when it has been requested)

Care and Cautions

Carelessness can be costly when you're job searching. If you misspell an executive's name, or use an incorrect title, you're unwittingly telling an employer something about yourself. An easy way to confirm the spelling of a person's name is to simply pick up the telephone and call the company. A receptionist will be pleased to supply the information. Overlooked sources of basic information about many companies can be found from the telephone book, or at the public library.

If you will be mailing a cover letter and resume by regular post, be certain to use bond quality paper in a pastel color that would not be inappropriate for the kind of position.

The Targeted Letter

The customized, targeted letter is aimed at a particular company and individual you have identified as a prime employment target. The content of your letter should reflect knowledge of the company and its specific needs.

The Ad Response Letter

Often, an employer will receive hundreds of responses to a single classified ad. Those responses must then be screened and divided into two piles: yes or no. Unless your letter is first sorted into the yes pile, you won't stand a chance. To make the employer's job easier, make certain that your opening paragraph addresses and satisfies the basic job requirements printed in the ad.

When you've completed a letter, step back and let a friend read it. Some things that may seem obvious to you, can seem less clear to a more objective reader. Re-write the letter as many times as it takes, until you're sure that a reader will say, "Now this is someone I'd like to meet."

Cover Letters That Count!

Employers are receiving more cover letters and resumes than ever before. May's release of new college grads into the job market will even further the clutter. To set your self apart from the job-hunting pack, you'll need to have an effective cover letter. The cover letter is your first opportunity to impress an employer. It is the first thing they read and, if it's not good, it may be the only thing the employer reads at all.

Getting Started

First, take time to look at some cover letter examples. CareerLab has a library of sample cover letters. Similarly, About.com has a cover letter guide that will walk you through the writing process. Each site contains good examples of basic letters, however, you'll really need to personalize yours to catch the employer's eye.

Next, jot down some notes on what you want to include in your letter. Match your skills with the skills the employer is asking for in the job description. Always address your cover letter to a specific person. If there isn't a contact person listed in the ad, look online for the name and job title of the person responsible for hiring but also call the company and verify that person is still in that position.

Nuts and Bolts

Writing your cover letter may be easier if you divide it into three sections: The first paragraph states why you are writing. The next explains why you are ideal for the position. And the final paragraph closes by stating how you plan to follow-up.

In the first section, indicate how you learned about the opening and mention the job title. The middle paragraph should relate your skills and abilities to the qualifications listed in the job posting. Address how you meet those qualifications with direct examples from your resume. Be open and clear about what you have to offer the prospective employer.

Throughout the entire letter, use clear and simple sentences so the reader doesn't have to decipher what you're trying to say. Keep paragraphs short so they are easy to skim. Proof read. Then proof read again. Even a small typo can look like a glaring error and may reflect on your ability to perform accurate work. Read your letter out loud. Does it make sense? Ask someone else to review it for you. Sometimes it's hard to catch our own mistakes.

Finally, let the employer know how you plan to follow-up. Be direct and indicate that you will call to set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time. If the job ad specifically says not to call, thank the employer for his or her consideration and let them know you look forward to hearing from them.

Looking Good

Once you have written the letter, then you will need to make it look good. The visual appearance of your cover letter is just as important as that of your resume. Consider using bullets or bold fonts to draw attention to the skills you wish to highlight.

Print your cover letter on standard size laser bond paper that matches your resume paper. Use conservative colors like white or beige. Brightly colored paper will not get you the type of attention you want. Use one-inch margins and balance your paragraphs on the page. Most importantly, don't forget to sign your letter. If you are sending a cover letter via email, cut and paste it into the body of an email message since many people are leery of opening attachments.

A well-written cover letter is worth the time investment. It's the first tool an employer will use to decide whether to interview you or not. So, make your cover letters count!

-Lee Marc, Co-Founder of ResumeRabbit.com

Cover Letter/Message To Employer

For hiring managers, choosing between two candidates with comparable resumes often comes down to the content of their cover letters. Though tailored letters should be written specifically for each position you're applying to, following these fundamentals can increase your chances of securing interviews.

First Steps

Research before you write: The more you know about the employer's needs, the more compelling your letter can be. Determine your unique selling points: Set yourself apart. List the top five reasons why you're an excellent candidate.

Constructing the Letter

  • Heading/Date/Inside Address: Use a standard, business-letter format that matches your resume.
  • Salutation: Always address a specific person if possible; use "Dear Hiring Manager" if not.
  • Opening Paragraph: Clearly indicate the position you're applying for, how you were referred to the opportunity and why you're an excellent candidate for the job.
  • Body: Demonstrate how your credentials, experience and track record will benefit the hiring company.
  • Closing Paragraph: Provide a call to action for the hiring manager; restate you strong interest in an interview.
  • Complimentary Close and Signature: End with a professional close such as "Best regards," "Sincerely" or "Respectfully."