The Resume Experiment (2 of 5) – First Impressions/Reactions

One of the reasons I wanted to have the two groups participate is because one group prepares resumes for a living, and the other group is a resume gatekeeper. It was interesting to see how the recruiter responses differed from resume writers.

Recruiters, the gatekeepers, are accustomed to seeing lots of resumes. How many? I’ve had recruiters tell me they get hundreds of resumes a day. Unsolicited resumes. Resumes that don’t have anything to do with their niche specialty, or current opportunities. To them this is noise. Wonder why you don’t get a reply back? Or the phone call you are waiting for? Because they already have a full-time job … where are they going to fit in the time to personally respond to 200+ unsolicited non-matches each day?? (I know, its harsh, and I don’t like it either. Maybe there is another way. But its the reality – and I first experienced it last year in my job search when I was “working with” 30 recruiters.)

Part I – Recruiters

So these three recruiters that participated are playing the “nice guy” friend. That is, they see a resume that needs work and they actually help our John Doe. Reactions where similar by each of them:

Carl Chapman - Executive Restaurant RecruiterCarl Chapman’s reaction can be read in full on his blog (its quite comprehensive). The title of his post tells you what his initial impression was: “Ripping up the most important resume in the world – your own” … from his blog:

The first thing that catches me is how dull and unattractive to the eye the resume is. It is just too, too plain. No one is going to spend much time looking at the meat of the resume if the initial presentation doesn’t grab the reader’s attention. I would have filed the thing in the circular file and fired off a “can’t help” email to the potential candidate. – You must make your resume visually appealing enough that the reader will take time to dig in enough to see if you have a skill set that they need.

Daniel Sweet - FRACATDaniel Sweet of FRACAT (Free Resume And Career Toolbox) had a similar first impression – his title is “The Red Ink Flows Like Blood: JibberJobber Resume Massacre” … regarding how he looks at a new resume:

When I first get a resume, I do what I like to call an “HR Glance” at it. That is, I assume that I don’t know much about the position that I’m recruiting for….

Some of you may think that this observation is unkind. And you may be right. However, having my livelihood dependent on HR people from time to time, I also know that it is accurate.

So, let me tell you what is going through the average, low-end, not very long out of school, corporate HR type when they look at this resume: “Uhhhhhhh…..dunno” followed by the “delete” key and the next resume.

A more astute HR person or recruiter will see a generic resume that says: “I Don’t Know What I Want To Do With My Life. Would You Please Figure It Out For Me?”

Steve Levy - The Recruiting EdgeSteve Levy of The Recruiting Edge has similar initial impressions. His post is titled The Great Resume Massacre (Dr. Evil laugh). What I like about Steve’s feedback is that he walks us through his thought process, and its a little different. Can you assume that all processes are the same? You have one chance to get past the first test – do everything “right” so that you make it through to the next step! From Steve’s post:

Don’t know why but I always read resumes from back to front. Don’t assume they follow a “how to read resumes” book. Your customer may be quirky, but he is still your customer.

Contact info at the end? [Jason: I’ll talk about formatting in a later post, but this is a good catch – you can be creative and break whatever rules you want, but if you aren’t getting results (aka, interviews) then fall back in line with “best practices”]

The phrases strategic business partner and available upon request do the same thing to me – I wonder if the person uttering these really can walk and chew gum at the same time. Uh oh. I’ve had the opportunity to deliver a first impression, and that impression is going to put me right into the garbage can 🙁

Why are the skills at the end of the resume? Why isn’t there a summary at the top, a place where you highlight your skills and accomplishments in 1-2 short paragraphs? [Jason: Again, I’ll talk about formatting later but this is first-impression time… and John Doe is blowing it.]

Why do I share the recruiter perspective here? Because this is who you send your resume to. I imagine the HR response would be pretty much the same. Know your audience. Write to your audience. Dazzle your audience. DO NOT forget that there is a person on the other end of the e-mail, and part of their routine is to decide what to do with each of the 200+ resumes they get each day. What are you going to do to have your resume pass the smell test?

One parting thought… One of these three recruiters wrote this to me:

By the end of the post, I felt like I had beat up on the guy so much that it was inappropriate.

We’re not here to tease, or make John Doe feel like crap. Its not about beating you up. Its about helping you understand what the guy on the other end of the e-mail is thinking so that you can move forward.

Part II – Resume Writers (here’s a current post by Louise Fletcher on hiring a professional)

Alison Doyle - Job Search Expert at About.comHere are Alison Doyle’s initial thoughts:

What type of job is he looking for? That’s my first question, because his experience is a little scattered.

As far as the resume, from my perspective it needs a total overhaul.

If there’s a way to work in some strategic level responsibilities and up it a notch, that would help – billing support, copy writing, etc. sound like a lower level position.

Also, I’m wondering if there is a way to merge the company Y/Z lists to address the perspective (at first glance) that he’s job hopping.

What he needs to do is focus on customer service i.e. in his position descriptions.

My first thought in looking at the resume, was that it wasn’t clear to me what type of position the resume writer was seeking. He has lots of good experience, but it’s in a lot of different areas. The resume needs to be targeted and focused on the career field/positions that he is interested.

Barbara Safani - Career SolversFrom Barbara Safani:

The candidate is communicating tasks rather than accomplishments.

The candidate’s current resume does nothing to distinguish him from his competition. Lots of people have skill sets similar to this candidate. What makes him different? Imagine you are buying a new product…let’s say it’s a dishwasher…every brand has its own pitch…some dishwashers save water, some are better for the environment, some are faster, some are quieter…you get the picture. The consumer buys one of the dishwashers based on the product benefits, not its features…they all wash the dishes…the consumer needs to decide which dishwasher provides the most benefits to them.

It’s hard for the audience to get a quick read on all this candidate has to offer. Most people look at the top third of the first page of the resume. This candidate has a lot of great information on page two that needs to be incorporated into page one to give the reader a more comprehensive view of his competencies.

I have no doubt that this candidate is great at what he does. But he needs to find ways to showcase his value over and over again throughout the document in order to get the phone to ring.

Billie Sucher - Career Transition ServicesFrom Billie Sucher:

This resume does not need a tune-up; it needs a major overhaul. I would not be doing your friend / contact any favors by saying his resume was great; the workplace will teach him differently. I am all about helping someone get what they want, need, etc. in a fair, reasonable, professional, and caring manner…

Louise Kursmark - Expert Resume and Career Services for ExecutivesFrom Louise Kursmark:

His resume is completely lacking in the details and specific accomplishments that are essential to attract attention.

From Jason, regarding professional resume writers. The comments from the last post were interesting, including those that have absolutely no faith in resume writers. I understand… I’ve heard this from recruiters, regular people, etc. I think a real, qualified resume expert is worth their weight in gold – especially considering their entire focus is to develop a professional document that helps you get into interviews. I’ve said it before, if I had professional resume help I would have had a job a long time ago (alas, JibberJobber would not have gotten this far, so thank goodness my resume sucked)!

Jason’s Final Thoughts

You can ignore the first impressions, but I’ve heard the person looking at your resume will spend less than 10 seconds before they make a decision (save/toss).

Please think about what 10-second impression your resume is giving the decision-maker – if you don’t get past them you don’t get to see the hiring manager (yes, there are exceptions to this – that’s for another series!).

The Resume Experiment Series

Post IIntroduction
Post II – First Impressions/Reactions (today’s post)
Post III – Formatting (Wednesday)
Post IV – Content (Thursday)
Post V – Wrap-Up (Friday)

Checkout the job searchJobCentral.

14 thoughts on “The Resume Experiment (2 of 5) – First Impressions/Reactions”

  1. Just to make sure that people don’t think I lack substance, Jason’s quote of me is just the first thought. I wouldn’t have spent any time on this particular resume because it is SO BAD.

    When I did spend some time on it, my thoughts are very similar to Dan’s and Steve’s.

    And not to be particularly cruel, but the guy is not a high level candidate. His desire to have a director or VP job is more than likely a pipe dream. Unless he finds a very small company that needs whatever talents he can convince them he has if he is lucky enough to garner an interview. -Carl

  2. Carl – good point. I am just pulling bits and pieces of each communication from each expert as it applies to the daily topic. As we roll this out over the next three days there will be other stuff that I write on, but today’s was just on the initial impression and reaction.

  3. The reason I read from the back is that most resumes are top heavy – you know, good from far, far from good. By the time most people writing their resume get to the end, they’re thinking TGID…Thank God I’m Done; recruiters will offer a slightly different acronym – TGIF…This Gruel is Fluff.

    In the end, the resume is not so much about resume style as it is about content. I frankly could care less about everything I wrote if the content answers my basic questions: What has this person accomplished? Are their accomplishments measureable? Do they reasonably/fully understand the problems associated with the function and the industry vertical? Are they committed to improvement (participation in associations, etc.)?

    I can overlook lots of things – spelling/grammar included – if these questions are answered.

    Jessica, can you ask this person who helped him with his resume? Ooops, sorry, Jason…

  4. One of yoru recruiters wanted metrics. Great. Now what about that confidentiality agreement I had to sign to get the previous job that I would not reveal:
    * my salary
    * company business information, ex. sales
    * other “insider” information, ex. what processes were improved, etc.

    And if I do put down that the product was worth X million and sales and my former employer comes after me then what? Please don’t say that would never happen, because someone I used to work with had this very problem.

    What do you do with metrics that you might be able to quantify, but that are meaningless without context? 1 million in sales at some company beats 100 billion in another. Percents aren’t always computable without other info.

    Also, what do you do when you worked at a company that went bankrupt and out of business, and your areas were among the few that were being done well at the company? or what do you do was acquired and everyone was laid off but the acquiring company kept the corporate name and changed everything? How do you quantify or describe these companies?

  5. Terrific idea, Jason!

    I believe there’s big-time truth in your comment:

    “You can ignore the first impressions, but I’ve heard the person looking at your resume will spend less than 10 seconds before they make a decision (save/toss).”

    10 seconds might even be pushin’ it! Candidates have to give recruiters a reason to stay longer than 10 seconds. If they stick around for all 5 days of your experiment, they just might figure out how to do that!


  6. This post is for anonymous, who wrote in earlier. Company sales figures are just one type of metric. The reason for using metrics is to show how you impacted change. If you automated a system and widdled a 4 hour process down to a 2 hour process, you have reduced the time spent on that process by 50%. It you started out with 10 clients in 2003 and grew your client base to 30 accounts by 2006, you tripled your client base in 3 years. Recruiters need to see what successes you have achieved with previous employers to determine how those successes might translate to another company.

    Regarding your question on how to show accomplishments within the context of a failing business, I can tell you that this absolutely can be done. I recently worked with several marketing and creative professionals who were let go because the product line they worked on was terminated. Even though the product was not successful, these candidates had numerous accomplishments to showcase including statistics on new market share they captured, examples of innovative low-cost marketing techniques, development of more cost effective product display units, and improved project management processs, just to name a few. A job seeker who has worked on a product line that fails can be of enormous benefit to a competing company because the candidate has gained valuable insight from a previous employer’s mistakes.

    All job seekers have quantifiable accomplishments. Take some time to think about the problems you solved for your previous employers and how you helped save them time and money and you will be taking a giant leap forward in your job search.

  7. Barbara, I agree very much with what you said in response to Anon. However, his/her questions remind me of something my dad taught me a long time ago… “When you don’t want to do something, any excuse will do.”

  8. Thank you Barbara S! So are you saying that qualitative accomplishments can be used too? (I don’t want the same legal problems my former colleague had!) What do you think about taking quotes from performance reviews or “promotion justification” memos? If using those do you need to get permission from the person who wrote it? Do you need to put the name or can you use the title of the person? Does it look silly to list company awards, i.e. “teamwork” awards, etc? Do you have any suggestions for the other sticky wickets I wrote about?

    Retaurant Recruiter, my mother taught me as soon as I could talk “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

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