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Resume problems: Is it your fault?

(MoneyWatch) In response to my article, the "Number 1 thing that's wrong with your resume," I received the following email:

So, the biggest problem with job candidates' resumes is that "recruiters" are willfully ignorant; they don't have a clue about the fields of work of the people they're seeking to match up with employers, and they're not really interested in learning, either. Got it.

I have been complaining about recruiters for years, and will continue to do so until recruiters and hiring managers stop playing games -- like sending a candidate through 10 different interviews or not getting back to a candidate who has come in to interview.

But, job searchers need to deal with reality and not plan their job search around ideal circumstances. In an ideal world, you'd decide you want a new job, spend half a day looking around at companies you're interested in, send 3 emails to people from your LinkedIn account and they'd tell the hiring manager how fabulous you are, you'd have a brief interview and set a start date.

If you can avoid going through a recruiter, by all means do so. If you can talk with a hiring manager before submitting your resume or filling out an application, that's super. But, most of the time you're going to have to go through a recruiter and here is the reality you will face:

  • Unemployment is still very high. (If you see lower numbers it's because so many people have dropped out of the workforce altogether, not that they are happily working.)

  • Your friends on LinkedIn who have good jobs for good companies are tired of being hit up by people wanting to "network" which means, "find me a job," not be in a mutually beneficial relationship.

  • Recruiters can get literally hundreds of resumes submitted for a single job. They are in the business of rejecting candidates rather than recruiting candidates.

  • Managers feel like because unemployment is high, they can be picky, and so will reject people who they would have been thrilled to hire 5 years ago.

  • Because finances are tight, the in-house recruiters are often recruiting across the broad swaths of the company, which means they may be interviewing for warehouse employees one minute, market researchers the next, and planning on searching for someone new for accounting tomorrow. They cannot be experts in all areas because there simply isn't time.

So, that is what you are looking at. If you are submitting your resume through websites or emailing it to someone who doesn't have first hand knowledge of what you did, you need to assume that your resume will be scanned and put into a big resume management system. The recruiters will use key word searches to find the best matches for the position, based on the job description that the hiring manager wrote (or helped write).

You need to assume that a human will not see your resume unless it has the proper key words to be plucked out of database obscurity. Read the job description before you apply. If you have the requisite skills make sure your wording on your resume matches their wording, as that what they will be searching on.

Companies could certainly do a better job of handling candidates, but right now, it's a buyers' market so those of us who are selling need to make sure we're doing the best possible job of representing ourselves.

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