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Recruiter Pet Peeves – Are You Guilty?

You might be pulling your hair out wondering why you can’t get a response to your resume. Or why interviews go nowhere. Well, your recruiter doesn’t wonder. Some egregious behaviors drive headhunters and hiring managers nuts – not to mention sabotage your job search.

“In the beginning of my career I gave everyone the benefit of doubt,” says Ron Reuven, a New York financial planner who has hired hundreds of people. “But when someone lists things that are not relevant on their resume, or doesn’t pay attention to getting a professional e-mail address, that tells me a lot about a person.”

Technology Is Your Friend. Don’t Use It To Make Enemies

Adrienne Graham heads the finance diversity recruitment firm Hues Consulting & Management. She’s a big fan of social media – if used strategically and appropriately. Nothing ticks her off more than people who, instead of providing a resume and cover letter, instruct her to check out their profile on a social media site, especially a Facebook page. “I believe in using social media to brand yourself, but it does not replace a resume which shows me what you’ve accomplished in your career,” Graham says. Similarly, the online video resumes she recently received for an administrative assistant position mean a swift press of the “Delete” button.

Ruthanne Feinberg, who heads the HR practice at Glocap Search, seconds Graham’s feelings on social networking. She can’t stand when candidates send a hiring manager a friend invitation on a social media site during the interview process. “It is not appropriate,” Feinberg says. “Don’t even get me started on sending friend requests on Facebook.”

Reuven bristles when candidates list Microsoft Office as a skill. “In this day and age Word and Excel are not exactly a unique skill,” he says. “If you’re working on a farm it’s not necessary, but if you’re working in corporate America, it’s a basic requirement.”

Reuven is also quick to eliminate candidates who have grossly inappropriate e-mail addresses – those with handles like “loverboy” or “sexymama6969.” “I’ve seen some of the craziest e-mail addresses,” he says. “I cannot believe people don’t realize that is not professional.”

Interview Faux Pas

While it may seem obvious, recruiters list gum chewing, tardiness and cell phone answering during interviews as commonly observed no-nos.

So is being combative with the interviewer, says Bill Liguori, partner at Leadership Capital Group. “We don’t normally put people through to the interview who are constantly challenging the person asking questions,” Liguori says, explaining the habit as a defense mechanism in situations where the candidate doesn’t know how to respond. “It’s the ‘if you don’t have an answer, challenge the question’ syndrome,'” he says.

Recruiter Carolyn Dougherty tires of candidates repeatedly billing themselves as “strategic” – and failing to qualify it. “Their intentions are good and they’re trying to sound impressive, but it doesn’t help them at all,” she says. Instead, candidates need to qualify their accomplishments with specific examples of how they saved or made their employers money. “What is the bottom line – were you strategic because the CEO wanted it done, or because you decided ‘strategic’ is a great word and you need to use it a lot in your interview?” Dougherty says. “You’re competing with so many people these days you really need to be on your toes.”

More generally, several recruiters complained about candidates’ inability to articulate their accomplishments and goals. “It’s shouldn’t take 20 minutes to walk me through your resume,” Feinberg says. “There is an art to getting to the point. Answer the question being asked, then stop talking. Let me be in the driver’s seat in an interview.”

Resume Madness

Feinberg has a revulsion to e-mailed resumes with non-traditional fonts and backgrounds. “I can’t stand that,” she says. “Don’t try to be different or cute with columns and small text. I want the information to be easy to find. Unless you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer, send your resume as a plain Word document or PDF.”

Catherine Palmiere, president of Adam Personnel, says she can’t stand it when candidates write “to present” on their resume and are no longer working at the firm. “It makes you question what else they are hiding,” Palmiere says. “Of course you always have more advantages when you are employed and looking for a job, but let’s face it – a lot of people today are unemployed and they are still getting interviews and jobs.”

It also irks Palmiere when candidates write their resumes in the third-person. “It shouldn’t be an obituary about your life,” she says. “Writing in the third-person makes it look like you’re making yourself sound more important than you are.”

General Annoyances

Liguori says there is a saying in the recruiting industry: candidates are like fresh fish – they spoil after five days.

“Candidates tend to be highly engaged at the start of the process, but after a few weeks they get bored, they don’t want to travel to interviews, and their window of availability gets smaller. They need to realize they are the candidate and they have to maintain interest and flexibility.”

On the flip side, Feinberg gets irritated with hyper-aggressive candidates who send an e-mail and follow up with a phone call three minutes later. “It’s too much,” she says. “Following up and showing enthusiasm are great, but be mindful that just because you’re anxious to get a job doesn’t mean that the position is all that the other party is thinking about.”

Another deal-breaker: e-mails that start with, “Since I haven’t heard from you …” “That puts anyone on the defensive right away,” Feinberg says. “Practicing patience is important.”

Comments (12)

  1. All these brilliant intellectuals mentioned in this article, have ever used a approach other the cookie cutter approach. It requires no intelligence to identify candidates for a position based on similar position.he/she had in the past.
    If this is the inteliigence these guys bring to the table then these positions can be very easily outsourced

  2. Reuven bristles when candidates list Microsoft Office as a skill. “In this day and age Word and Excel are not exactly a unique skill,” he says. “If you’re working on a farm it’s not necessary, but if you’re working in corporate America, it’s a basic requirement.”

    If this is the case, then, I would like him to explain why almost EVERY job ad from employers explicitly specifies profficiency in MS Office applications as a requirement.

  3. Bob,

    My thoughts exactly. Thanks for bringing that up.

    It’s true, of course, that MS Office is much more of a “basic requirement” than a distinguishing skill – and resumes are supposed to showcase the latter, with little or none of the former.

    But it’s equally true that the standard (indeed, unanimous) resume-writing advice is to look up a bunch of job postings in the specialty and seniority level you want to target, find skills and other keywords that recur often in those postings, and include those words in your resume – indeed, repeat them again and again on each resume in order to run up your ATS score.

    So, you are right, there is a disconnect between Reuven’s feeling about MS Office and what his clients (assuming at least some of his clients post job openings somewhere) consistently ask candidates to show on their resumes.

    -Jon Jacobs, eFinancialCareers News staff

  4. Thank you, Jon.

    Let me also make a couple of additional points to follow up on what you and I have said in response to Reuven’s statement.

    1. There is a difference between basic profficiency in Excel (which most companies expect) and the ability to command higher-level functions, such as using VBA to write macros. The latter skill can serve as a source of the competitive advantage and often helps to differentiate a candidate from the rest of the field.

    2. MS Office is not limited to Word and Excel only. It also includes PowerPoint and Access applications, profficiency in which is highly prized by many employers.

    Therefore, personally, I would suggest that candidates do include in their resumes references to their profficency in MS Office applications.

  5. I just want to say that advanced knowledge of MS Office, and specifically Excel, with all its different functions and VBA coding, truly is a skill.

  6. Here are my pet peeves done by corporate and agency recruiters:
    1. They post the same job on dozens of websites.
    2. They fail to put the specific requirements they seek in the posting.
    3. When they get dozens of resumes for qualified and overqualified candidates for a single opening, they forget to take the job posting down.
    4. For the candidates that are rejected for the jobs, they don’t have the courtesy to let them know sooner rather than later. How much time does it take to send a blind carbon copy email to those they are rejecting?
    5. They fail to let it be known that only resumes sent through proper channels will be accepted and only candidates selected for interviews will be called. That can be put in the job posting.

  7. I would agree that in this day and age, proficiency in MS Office should be considered a basic requirement. Notwithstanding, even an indepth knowledge of any particular word processing software doesn’t provide the user with the ability to articulate thought process. Likewise, a resume that has been polished, created in “today’s format” resume, i.e., complete with all the current buzz words, doesn’t preclude good old fashioned know how, and the hard earned badge of experience.

  8. Any search on the dos and don’ts of job hunting returns the same advice written above. A position-relevant resume, a professional-sounding email address, really? Just as the experts are aghast that anyone would commit such mistakes, so too are the majority of this article’s readers. With all due respect, more insightful advice would be appreciated.

    Rather than listing these unlikely mistakes, can you give specific examples of what people have done to really knock your socks off? What makes the difference between a “thank you for your interest, but we regret to inform you…” and a “we want you…” letter? Nobody knows the answer to every question, so what is an effective approach to answering a question to which you don’t know the answer?

    I graduated a year ago, so I don’t have the professional experiences that prove my strategic ability that interviewers want. They have even disregarded my collegiate accomplishments as not real-life enough. How can I, along with all the other disgruntled college grads with budding ambitions, market the value of my potential in a strategic way, of course?

    Finally, elaborate on how to learn “the art of getting to the point”.

  9. Bob and Jon,

    I agree with both of you. And as I understand we are to list all of the computer software skills we’ve obtained throughout our careers. Or is it just assumed that we have these skills be each prospective employer who views our Resumes?

  10. After job hunting for 2 years since Macquarie Bank, USA shut down its US Mortgage Division, reformatting my resume hundreds of times, trying to be specific about my accomplishments and experience and abilities, (including IT and software proficiency), I give up!! The bottom line is: most of the time the jobs you are applying for aren’t really there. They are being advertised for Federal Compliance regulations to keep the companies out of trouble with EEO. If they are real jobs, the chances of your resume, no matter how experienced and knowlegeable you are in the field, being read at all are slim to none, with an interview either by phone or in person even slimmer. When I have managed to get an interview, I am looking across a desk at someone barely out of college who sees me as washed up due to my age and a threat to their position due to my experience and expertise. If you are over 30, forget finding a job unless you have a personal relationship with the hiring manager or someone who is politically connected to the hiring process.

  11. I agree with Joshua regarding lack of response to resumes. I think companies and recruiters are doing a very, very poor job responding to candidates. But these same companies and recruiters expect you to be professional!

  12. It seems like many of the people that made comments on this article have listed MS office as a skill on their resume. that could only mean 1 of 2 things. either you are very young and are looking for a low level job. 2, you really believe it is a skill. Rather than argue the point, I would just suggest that instead of listing MS office as a skill, you can just say that you computer proficient somewhere in the resume without clearly stating that you believe it is a skill. you can either put it somewhere in the job description of your prior jobs or in your letter accompanying the resume. either way IT SHOULD NOT BE LISTED AS A SKILL. it is a neccessity, just like thinking is. this should not be insulting, but rather a new bit of free information and advice. good luck

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