How to Get the Interview and Not Get “Deleted”

This is about your “digital first impression” and six ways to screw it up. Every recruiter has his pet peeves about resumes and I’m no exception. Like it or not, in this digital, email, on-line world, your first impression as a candidate is often the resume and cover letter you send. (OK, I admit, I don’t read cover letters much. I cut to the resume first. Sometimes I come back and read them, but the resume is what I’m interested in.)

I’m not going to write about all the strategies and methods of creating a resume and cover letter, I’m just going to tell you the things that will irk most recruiters (or at least this one) so you should avoid them. In no particular order:

• Size matters: Look at the whole first page of your resume. Would you want to read it or does it look like the fine print on your credit card statement? Don’t cram so much information into it or make the type font so small that people will strain their eyes to read it. I know, we can enlarge it, but it just shows you aren’t thinking about your reader.

• I won’t believe you can walk on water: A summary of your experience in terms of function, industry and accomplishments is fine, but skip the flowery descriptions. I see “hands-on”, “profit driven”, “strong leader”, “dynamic”, “visionary” in summaries all the time. I don’t read them because I know the candidate wrote them. I’ll decide how “dynamic” someone is when I interview them, not when I read their resume. Save the space for more accomplishments.

• Attendance doesn’t count: Companies don’t pay you just to do things; they pay you to accomplish things. Resumes that are long on responsibilities and short on accomplishments indicate someone who just ‘showed up’ and are not the top quartile talent that companies are looking for.

• Osmosis is not my strong suit: Probably the best way to get your resume tossed is to list the name of a company with no description of what it does. This is especially true of middle market companies. (Even if a company is a household name, include what your division, group, etc does!) The reader has no context from which to assess your accomplishments until they know what the company does and its relative size. I automatically toss these resumes. How can you present an executive to a client if they don’t demonstrate this simple piece of common sense?

• Chronological or functional? No contest here in my book, make it chronological. I want to know what you accomplished and where. If you just list a bunch of accomplishments and a list of jobs, I can’t tell where you did what. You may have the exact accomplishment I’m looking for, but if you’ve worked in different industries or different sized companies, I can’t tell how relevant the experience is.

• Goldilocks syndrome: Resumes can be too short or too long, and there is a “just right” length. In general, I find one page resumes to be too short to be meaningful, and they don’t “peak my interest”. I don’t want to ask you for more information. Give me what I need to assess your background against my requirements. Three page resumes or more are usually too long. There’s either too much detail or you’ve gone back beyond 10-15 years in your career. Put those older jobs under Prior Experience. The last 10 to 15 years of experience is usually the most relevant to what we’re looking for.

OK, I got that off my chest. These tips aren’t going to guarantee you get the job, but they should help keep you from being eliminated before the game starts.

When you land that next job, and start to build your team, check your hiring process first.

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For information on how to arrange for Hagerthy & Co’s complimentary Hiring Process Assessment go to  Mike Hagerthy is the founder of Hagerthy & Co, an executive search, training and consulting firm.