What to Do When Recruiters Don’t Read Your Resume

A recruiter calls you up about a Java job, iOS developer position or some other hot, hard to fill IT role. But as you talk, it becomes clear that they’ve given your resume little more than a cursory glance. Sadly you’ve gotten one of the six second resume scans that’s often performed by recruiters wading through a pile of resumes with little time to read each one.

resumeOf course, you’d hope that they’d spend a little more effort with the resumes of people they’re calling, but that’s neither here nor there. Like it or not, recruiters are gatekeepers to the managers doing the hiring, so you have to keep your cool even when they’re unprepared.

“If you look at my resume online, you’d see I’m really into [artificial intelligence] and data mining,” says Yeunjin Kong, an Android developer and former Google employee. “But recruiters don’t look at my resume that closely. I think they should.” Alba Perez-Cuadrado Robles, another Android developer, makes a similar complaint, saying recruiters often approach her based on the mere fact “Android” is on her resume.

Resume Reading

While some recruiters may ask specific questions regarding projects you’ve worked on or positions you’ve held, those who ask broad questions around technologies may simply be checking off items from a job description, says David Chie, president and chief operating officer of recruiter Palo Alto Staffing Technology. “Skilled technology talent is in high demand and candidates need to remember they can choose who represents them” when it comes to recruiters, he observes.

If an engineer, software developer or other tech professional senses a recruiter hasn’t read their resume, Chie suggests asking if they have the document in front of them. “You will have to judge whether they have a valid reason [why it isn’t],” he says. “Remember, a recruiter is your advocate. They need to be engaged, responsive and thorough. If they aren’t interested in seeing your resume, then the question becomes are they wasting your time? And how can they possibly represent you properly to the client?”

In other words, if the recruiter doesn’t take the time to read your resume, the likelihood they’ll match you to the job will be slim.

But no matter how frustrating the situation may be, remember that most recruiters – whether they’re prepared right now or not – can be good contacts for you down the road. Don’t lose your cool. Keep the conversation business-like and try to get them to engage with your resume, even if it’s while you’re on the phone.

Also, ask questions. Even if they’re just fishing with a wide net, the assignment they’re working on may be a good fit for you. If that’s the case, the time you spend educating them will be well worth the effort.

Comments

  1. BY Unemployed DC Contractor says:

    Beware keyword searches (matching singular obscure words used once in your resume many, many years ago), and mass email blasts (not self addressed) based on those keywords.

    IMHO: this seems the majority. Quality begets quality. Recruiters are about on par with weatherpersons as far as accuracy.

  2. BY Walter Willis says:

    Can’t tell you how many times I have been contacted about a job where the description listed so many skills that I did not have on my resume, but I had one of them. Those just go in my trash pile, if they can’t take the time to view my resume, I won’t bother responding.

    • BY Job Seeker says:

      In my experience, most recruiters for IT jobs do not read the resume or look over it thoroughly. They harass you at your job if you have more than one keyword in your resume, and then waste your time asking questions that would have been answered if they had just scanned the document over with their eyes a few seconds.

  3. BY Jennifer says:

    I used to be a supply chain manager that managed IT equipment, inventory, shipping, receiving, purchasing, and my role was to minimize operational business interruption when technical work or deployments of new hardware were taking place. I had a layoff in the fall of 2011 and worked so many temp jobs, freelance jobs, and other unrelated work I lost track. I have been looking for work in supply chain since I new of the impending layoff in the fall of 2010.

    How many times I have been approached for a technical role. Because I have MS Sharepoint (along with other MS Office products), I get so many offers for developer positions. I send my supply chain resume and they still send it to the client. My PMP which was focused on Ops Management Projects (moves, acquisitions, downsizing, and relocations) opened me up for a wide range of solicitations from CNA, Network Admin, SAP and other database development roles, etc.

    Then I had recruiters call about a position that would insist a location over 8 hours away was “commutable” and I could make it in less than 30 minutes. These people from foreign call centers not even familiar with the local geography would try to argue with me. The best was the guy who insisted that Atlantic City NJ was about 20 minutes from Niagra Falls NY. I couldn’t stop laughing and hung up on him.

    I became so disgusted, one of the job clubs I was part of was probably tired of hearing me complain and said if I could do a better job listening and matching people, I should get a job as a recruiter. I started talking to folks, getting some information, and ultimately took a position a few months back as a recruiter. I have heard from the agency clients that they are so happy with the agency because other recruiters send so many resumes that are unqualified. One major pharma company said that they work with 4 agencies and 3 send over 30-40 resumes a week with 1 or 2 meeting minimum requirements. It’s making my life easy that most recruiters are looking at volume rather than quality.

    A new trend is for high volume agencies to add resumes to what is essentially an open recruiter board. They have people pay a monthly fee that ranges from $50 – $200 a month to have access to job listings and split the commission with the person who holds the job listing if they have a candidate. This opened up a world of opportunity for overseas call centers, and others without the appropriate background, training, or skills.

    I see the face of recruiting changing to some extent and it is a matter of developing a professional relationship and connecting with the right people.

    • BY DISGUSTED UNEMPLOYED HELP DESK SPECIALIST says:

      Totally agree! I have experienced the same things. Recruiters are the vampires of the job-hunting world.

    • BY same boat says:

      That reminds me of one instance when a recruiter called me and tried to convince me to apply for a bank management position, when my resume was all about software development, and never in the banking industry.

  4. BY Recruiter says:

    It’s a shame that a few bad recruiters give all of us a bad name or reputation.

    Unfortunately, this also happens to recruiters. I cannot count the amount of times consultants view my Dice job posting, see “Business Analyst” and automatically send their resume in. I don’t even think they bother to review the qualifications.

    • BY Outsourced Sam says:

      There are a lot more than ‘just a few’. Guess all the good recruiters must have taken the past few years off because I get them few and far between.

      • BY Kyle Lee says:

        We did, it was a multi-year vacation but we’re back now. Still looking for a change?

        • BY Richard says:

          I certainly am.

          My experience with recruiters over the past 4 months has been horrible. There’s always the recruiter that doesn’t know Java from JavaScript, and in small numbers, that’s just normal noise in the signal, but the current noise to signal ratio has been an unpleasant surprise.

          You asked Sam, but I’ve also been waiting to see if the good recruiters would come back from vacation anytime soon. Is there a way to get a hold of you on LinkedIn or your company web site or such?

  5. BY kan says:

    From my experience, hiring companies are just wasting money using recruiters. The ones I’ve dealt with don’t know much about IT, terminologies, they just match keywords. I see them more as aggressive sales people.

    One benefit they do provide is a connection to the hiring managers, and they can get you the interview, and to think they get 30% commission of your salary.

    • BY Kyle Lee says:

      30% is an inflated number especially in a market as competitive as New York.

      It is, in many cases, cheaper to pay a one time fee than to sign up for Dice AND Career Builder AND Monster AND a premium LinkedIn account AND post a job AND lose man hours recruiting for it when you can just outsource the search and save time and money. Or at least time.

      Job boards and postings are expensive, so if you’re going to spend the money, why not sign up with an agency who doesn’t charge you unless they find you someone?

  6. BY Kyle Lee says:

    I have had 10 year developers apply for entry level roles before. I’ve had COBOL programmers apply for Java openings too. I have also had recruiters send me messages about Java and Scala positions.

    There are some bad recruiters, just like there are some rude and inattentive job seekers. Try to keep an open mind, most of use do even after we make 50 calls a day and the first questions out of some people’s mouths are “Whats the rate?” “Whats the client?” “email me the job description.”

    • BY Experienced Consultant says:

      Well, I have been a contractor for over 15 years. I am not sure why you would take offend if first few questions involves rates and clients. I had 15-30 min conversations with recruiters only to find out at the end that the rate was $2x when my rate usually in $9x. I can’t afford to talk on the phone 15-30 min during business hours only only to learn that some bad recruiters think I am a perfect candidate for their entry level positions (and tried to talk me into considering their junior positions)..

      So, asking the vital questions and providing the answers will save both sides a lot of times. You will move on from unfruitful calls faster and focus on those with high potential. It’s win-win.

      • BY Kyle Lee says:

        So you have been a contractor for 15 years, probably received over 200 recruiting calls, and it still takes you a half of an hour to figure out that a position that someone is telling you about is a junior one?

        That sounds fishy to me.

        But to answer your curiosity, I’m not offended anymore because of how much it happens but when you put your resume on Dice for the entire recruiting industry to see I don’t know what you expect. I have never called someone as overqualified as having 15 years under his belt for a junior role though so I understand your frustration there.

        And I say again, anybody who wants to see how a “good” recruiter works, one who actually sees a career in the industry, is welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn.

        • BY Squirrel Face says:

          I think what EXPERIENCED CONSULTANT was talking about is my main complaint, and then you demonstrated that you aren’t aware of it. You assumed something like MR. EXPERIENCE CONSULTANT had 200 phone calls in the last 15 years… ???

          I took my phone # off of my resume and my public job profiles because around the beginning of the year, I was getting about 50 phone calls a day from recruiters leaving messages on my voice mail like: “Hi, I’m Ms. Recruiter, and I have a job you might like. Please call me for details.”

          And, I think a few companies got some robo-calling phones for Christmas, and learned how to use them pretty fast. Now that I’ve removed my phone # from my email signature and every place else, I still get about 20 voice mails a day, and at least that many in email — and I’m talking about for jobs that I’m not qualified for.

          After I realized that today, about 99% of recruiter are NON-technical, I’m thinking, how on Earth does this recruiter have time

          The average phone call with a new recruiter is 15-30 minutes, and nowadays, about 99% of them don’t have a technical background, so it can be very painful. This is where it’s human nature to say “Please, RECRUITER, give me something in writing that I can analyze at a time other than when I’m on the phone to you!!!”

          If the vast majority of modern-day recruiters were technical, us job hunters may have time to talk to the good recruiters. ;)

    • BY Tula says:

      What’s wrong with “email me the job description”? I honestly get a better feel for a job by reading the job description than talking with the recruiter – who may not have the technical background to understand it. And asking for the client is just common sense, since there’s no point wasting either party’s time if you’ve already been submitted to a particular client or have no desire to work for them. Yes, there are rude job seekers, but there are loads of “keyword hacks” who spam anyone with a keyword on their resume. I have to screen my calls now because of all the calls I get for opportunities that are completely unsuitable – most of those from foreign agencies. Really, the time of people on both sides is valuable, so all should make an effort not to waste any.

      • BY Kyle Lee says:

        There is nothing wrong with getting the description emailed to you. I’m saying that even though I get cut off multiple times a day by people who want literally nothing more out of their career than $5 per hour more than they were making last, I still approach everyone differently. I never just make a blanket assumption that every 10+ year Java developer cares only about money and nothing about the work.

        And the looming point of all of this is still that there are really awful experiences to be had on both ends, so blanket judgments are just as useless here as they are everywhere else in society.

        • BY Tula says:

          I agree. There are a lot of twits on both sides, which makes it harder for all of us. I’ve worked with a lot of terrific recruiters, but I’ve also experienced plenty of bad ones, especially in recent months. I’ve lost count of how many calls I’ve received for jobs that are only tangentially related to what I do or are junior-level when anyone reading even the first line of my resume can tell that I’m a senior level software engineer.

          The good recruiters are worth their weight in gold. They tend to build the best relationships with the client companies and know me and my skills well enough to properly present me to the clients. I just wish the spammer types would try to do the job properly instead of ruining it for the rest.

  7. BY Bill says:

    I get the argument that any connection with a recruiter is useful, I just don’t believe it to be true. It hasn’t been in my experience, at least.

    I worked briefly for a Salesforce consultant as a web developer. On this site and others I was very specific about my total amount of IT experience, the languages I’ve used, etc., Nevertheless, I got weekly calls and emails from various recruiters, many of whom were offshore, looking for Salesforce admins with 10+ years of experience. They saw keywords, I assume, and went from there without bothering to take the ten seconds required to see that I wasn’t a good match.

    If a recruiter is asking for a 30 minute conversation from me I expect them to take three minutes or so to peruse my qualifications rather than wasting my time. If they’ve got the time for the call, they’ve got the time to read a bulleted list and a couple of short blocks of text. If they don’t, then they certainly don’t have the time to find me a good position.

    Especially galling is when I get the emails or phone calls for a position that has nothing to do with my experience with a request that I pass it along to anyone else I know. Sure, pal, I’ll help you find prospects as soon as you send my resume around to other recruiters.

    The best recruiters with whom I’ve worked are people who’ve taken the time to at least glance over my resume and who subsequently took the time to establish a good working relationship. I don’t have any time for the other kind.

  8. BY CM says:

    I too wonder why hiring companies invest resources in recruiting firms. It makes one wonder why have an HR department?

    It just seems like logical business sense to use company resources (HR Department) to find qualified candidates instead of marking up the salary cost to the company just to pay the commission fees given to recruiting firms for finding candidates.

    I’m only assuming but I bet there is nothing more annoying for a job seeker than checking their email for potential job leads only to find impersonal contact from recruiters email blast phishing for candidates stemming from keyword search results.

    With so many recruiting firms positioning themselves trying to find candidates, and to include overseas recruiters, makes one wonder how are they still a viable resource. As a job seeker, I find it very frustrating, sometimes harassing, to constantly be contacted by recruiters who expect you to trust your career endeavors in their hands when they don’t even take the time to review your resume to ensure they match you with the appropriate leads.

    Maybe at one time recruiting firms were a good idea but I think it has outlived its usefulness.

    • BY Kyle Lee says:

      Well I’d say that argument applies to software consultants as well. Why not use your in-house developers? Because you don’t want to waste time having them learn or perform some task that somebody else can do better and faster and then leave. Companies are willing to pay for one-offs and that’s how most agency relationships are.

      HR departments have more to do than just recruit, and contingent agencies are not meant to fill every single role that a company has, just the ones that are too difficult or time consuming.

    • BY Sandeep says:

      The reality of the situation is that many companies have significantly reduced the size of their HR organizations. The outcome is that they rely on recruiters to find and bring in people; once selected the HR team then does the vetting and hiring process (and firing… :-( ).

      I expect to see more recruiter usage as things move forward.

    • BY Tula says:

      Recruiters are very useful, provided they actually do the job properly. I’ve been working as a contractor since 1992, so I’ve experienced a *lot* of recruiters. I’ve noted that when demand is high, a lot of new agencies spring up to try to cash in. These are the ones who spam blast everyone if you match one keyword that they’re looking for. I’ve also noticed that a lot of these seem to be put together by former H1Bs who are trying to get work to stay here in the US. These are some of the worst of the spammers. I have some who send me several unsuitable postings every day, despite my repeated requests to be removed from their database. They are spammers, nothing more. They send out as many emails as possible, hoping to land a few “fish.”

      I have a list of agencies who I’ve had good experiences with and who I will contact first when it’s time for my next contract gig. I figure if an agency managed to survive the early 2000s dot-com bust, then they’re probably a good bet. There are some who meet that criterion, but fail the ethics test. I’ve had more than one pull the whole “gee the client has to cut their budget, can you lower your rate?” thing after I’ve provisionally gotten the gig. I fell for it once in the early days of being a contractor, but I’ve been around long enough now to know when I’m being played. These kind of recruiters – the smarmy used-car salesman types – are the ones who really give the rest a bad name.

      By the way, if any recruiters here know of any good remote software development contracts available right now, please do get in touch :-)

      • BY James Wood says:

        “I’ve had more than one pull the whole “gee the client has to cut their budget, can you lower your rate?” thing after I’ve provisionally gotten the gig. I fell for it once in the early days of being a contractor, but I’ve been around long enough now to know when I’m being played. These kind of recruiters – the smarmy used-car salesman types – are the ones who really give the rest a bad name.”

        Feeling your pain there! Fast-Talking Used-Car types who are almost begging for you to take the gig NOW because they seemed to have suckered you in. Had one of those yesterday, but told him that I’d have to review my offers. I could tell he wasn’t happy that I didn’t bite at the number or entry level 6 mos H/D gig (I’m more into 802.11 security now). Humm..? Why would I lock myself into a 6mos gig @ peanuts? Perhaps 6wks if I’m bored, but… I’m not, so it’s time to find a better deal.

        Used-Car types … They are certainly the ones to avoid!

  9. BY Outsourced Sam says:

    Resumes are a waste of time. Most people run a search bot. If you pass that the recruiters usually laser in on one thing and then ask some silly question like.

    How many years have you used ‘x’.
    Oh I used it for 10 years haven’t used it the last two as it’s dated and we are moving onto the next version.

    Whoa, well we are looking for somebody with at least 10 years of current experience in x.

    They usually never fill the job or fill it with somebody that isn’t smart enough to move beyond having a one trick dog and pony show.

  10. BY Done hearing this says:

    I love narrow of a scope you all have. You were all clearly burned by a bad recruiter, but I bet you did no homework on the company or the individual. So who’s fault is it?

    NEWS FLASH

    People in IT write TERRIBLE RESUMES for the most part. You guys list every single technology that was involved in a project even if the guy sitting next to you was the only one doing it.

    If you have such a horrible time talking to recruiters why not just find a job yourselves?

    P.S.
    Anybody who has time during the work day to read this whole thing and post a novel of a comment is probably nobody worth recruiting anyway.

    • BY Squirrel Face says:

      For the past year I have been thinking how to fix this mess.

      And I finally decided: If only LinkedIn would verify (a) degrees and (b) employment background. That’d be a start. Can’t be that expensive. I see too many people lie on LinkedIn. I’ve been screened by quite a few of them. I guess companies just don’t verify anymore, to save a few bucks.

      So, Glassdoor provides some relief to a job hunter. I tend to post my bad experiences there when I have time, and warn of bad recruiters. But it’s simply too inefficient for a job hunter in this crazy job market.

    • BY Tula says:

      We list every technology because non-technical recruiters search or keywords and won’t even talk to you if they’re not on the resume.

  11. BY Kyle Lee says:

    I’d say that for every “bad recruiter” out there, there are 2 IT professionals who could do a better job selling his or herself.

    Oh and I’m happy to help :)

  12. BY Technical Recruiter says:

    Interesting article, and there are a lot of truths to both sides of the argument. As a local recruiter, I hear so many stories of recruiters ‘email blasting’ or telling a candidate they are ‘Perfect!’ for a job because of one buzz word on their resume…case in point: there is a difference between one who performs the day to day administration functions of a Sharepoint site, and a Sharepoint Admin that supports Sharepoint farms on an enterprise level from the server side. It’s important to understand the difference and as a non-technical individual working in a technical world it’s up to me to do the research, understand what my client is looking for, and to get an in-depth understanding of my candidate’s qualifications.

    That being said, we still have to ask questions that may seem general because technology is ever-changing and sometimes too much is assumed…for example if someone is using C# / .NET for Web Development utilizing the Razor or Entity Framework sometimes developers won’t add MVC to their resume because it’s assumed use is noted by the previous tools. That is not always the case and not all Hiring Managers are technical…so if MVC is required for the position then they want it to be shown throughout the resume. This could be the difference between getting an interview or not, so it’s my job to understand what we have even if it means asking fickle questions. Good recruiters won’t tell you that you’re a perfect fit, but rather will match up your experience to the position and ask good questions around your experience to see whether or not it could be a happy marriage.

    Best advice: Stick with local recruiters. They have a firm grip on the market and can have recommendations regarding commute, salary, and client feedback that is consistent and true more often than not.

    Other than that, you have to trust your gut. If a recruiter seems genuinely interested in what you do and your qualifications they’ll ask the right questions (even if some of them seem obvious). It’s a tricky path and it’s important to be diligent for both the recruiter and the candidate.

    Happy Hunting!

    • BY Richard says:

      Kudos. Regarding the MVC/Razor/Entity Framework element in your example, I had a discussion with a recruiting agency a few years ago where I didn’t quite understand that it was not obvious that MS SQL Server + SQL = T-SQL. It _does_ feel a little hinky sometimes when building a base resume as to how much technology to initially put in so it can be trimmed for the specific position.

  13. BY sbs says:

    The problem I see is that every job is now labeled as IT because the employee uses a computer. Just because you use a computer in your job does not make it an IT position. Just be cause a company is merging with another and they are modifying their IT programs does not mean that a clerk needs to be IT qualified. Just because the position involves quality assurance as to the data input does not necessarily relate it directly to IT. A data entry clerk position does not require an IT professional.

    I am sorry to say that miss understanding or rather miss use of technology is causing the high rate of unemployment . What happened to the human element of business? I am sorry but it is the HUMAN customer that buys or uses the product. I enjoyed interacting with my HUMAN customers. Technology has limitations.

  14. BY Rebecca Kieler says:

    Like it or not this is pretty much the way it work so learn to work it to your advantage. With 20 yr.s of recruiting background I went into career transition consulting over 10 yrs. ago. How can you make this work for you? First make the recruiter your friend. They are happy for your help. Who do you know who could fit the bill? Then and really first, is this a ‘Target Company’ for you? If so, you need to help the recruiter help you by asking good questions about what they need in the position you want to be in so you are considered for that and are prepared for it when it comes available and the recruiter who you have made friends with will remember you. If it is not on your target list find out if it should be. Stop hating the system and work it!

  15. BY James in the midwest says:

    I have had recruiters match a single skill on my resume to equate that with my wanting sales. If I wanted sales I would have structured my resume to reflect this. I have primarily been a field technician, and just because I happen to have good customer service skills does not mean I want a career with a insurance company!

    I have even had a potential job offer for what was explained to me as being a PC tech. It turned out to be Field Technician work. While I am qualified to do that work, it would be nice if the recruiters took more time to find out what the job entails and convey that to me. Less time and frustration in figuring out what the job details are.

  16. BY Leah Toth says:

    I have been a Recruiter for 15 years and I believe it all comes down to a persons work ethic and quite frankly, their level of intelligence. I would never and have never worked for a recruiting agency. These agencies hire basically anyone, unfortunately. Theyre also working in a highly competitive environment which causes people to sometimes act in an unprofessional, rushed and sloppy manner. I am grateful to use a great applicant tracking system at work. I make a point of carefully reviewing every single resume that comes in daily. Is this easy? No but it is my job. I do very well and have had success hiring in technology. Ive been doing it for many years. I get calls and emails too from recruiters wasting my time and its true these people give recruiters a bad name!
    But the same can be said for any type of role. You can get a great car salesperson when you buy your new car pr you can get a total, dishonest jerk.
    Please dont make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people. It just strengthens the unfair reputation that a few bozos create.

    • BY Tom Smith says:

      Leah, would you like to share the applicant tracking system that you are using at work?

  17. BY Tom Smith says:

    To add my two cents to this conversation, in my local market, I have a relationship with a handful of recruiters who I admire incredibly, for whom I would gladly fetch their dry cleaning, wash their car, take their kids to soccer practice…. they ALWAYS send me job descriptions that are 99% of what I am interested in. On the other hand, there is a local company here that is notorious for hiring fresh out of collage grads, who are clueless and they think they are the next Zuckerberg. Of course, they tend to ask questions like “How many years of SQL Sever experience do you have?” My answer 7yrs. Recruiter” Ok, how about TSQL experience? ” My answer 7yrs. Recruiter “Great, how about SQL expereince?” My answer “Listen, I have another conference call coming up, can you and I possibly chat later today?” :-) Fresh out of college kids are cheaper than an experienced recruiter… and God honest truth, that company’s email go to my trash folder and I tell ALL my peer developers to stay away from that company.

    A new trend that I am starting to see, is that a staffing company will send me a job description to a client. Let’s say I am looking for $65/hr. The client is paying the staffing company $90 max. The staffing company tells me “We have submitted you to the client”. However, they have a competitor candidate who is asking for $55/hr (better margin). The staffing company will submit the cheaper candidate, however, having still blocked me from being submitted by another staffing company.

    Yes, everyone wants to maximize their revenue, but I wonder how common is this in the staffing industry? And yes, when I found out about this particular company, all emails go to trash.

    • BY James Wood says:

      I love when they tell us that their max bill rate to the client is $YY, therefor they can only pay $XX. Sure one could always request the invoices for clarification, etc., down the road – or in the contract, but when they toss that out in a Used-Car salesman voice, that’s when I know they are desperate and to keep a close eye on them. Same goes for when they are new to me, tell me they want to meet for coffee prior to submission, then towards the end of the call tell me they don’t need to meet me now – i/e: auto-assume that I don’t want to meet them, too. … Shady many of them can be.

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