Deborah Walker
Deborah Walker

Are recruiters not calling you?

Five reasons why and how to get the phone ringing.

June 21, 2012
by Deborah Walker

You’ve been hoping for a new job, but your phone has been silent. No recruiters have been calling, no job offers have come; it’s so quiet you can almost hear the crickets outside. Perhaps you should reassess.

Does this sound like your job search efforts?

  • You’ve sent out hundreds of résumés to countless job postings, but received little or no response.
  • You’ve left dozens of voicemail messages for recruiters explaining why you are a perfect fit—and they have never returned your call.
  • You’ve tweaked your résumé so many times that you no longer recognize it.

If this describes your situation, you are not alone. Many talented, qualified job seekers get ignored by recruiters and hiring managers simply because their résumé has one or more of the following problems.

1. Your résumé highlights your lack of industry experience

Most recruiters are looking for a point-by-point candidate match when screening résumés. Industry background usually ranks high on the list of qualifying issues. If you don’t have experience in that industry, your résumé is going straight into the circular file—unless you can give them a compelling reason to keep your résumé in the stack.

If you lack specific industry experience, but you know you have the basic skills for the job, try highlighting your transferable skills instead. Job seekers who lack industry experience can make it past the résumé screener by proving their ability with skills they have that transfer from one industry to another. Examples of transferable skills include expertise gained in sales, customer service, finance, accounting, negotiation, cross-functional communications, and team building. Look at the skills they need, and then figure out how your background is a match.

2. Your résumé shouts “Overqualified!”

Nothing scares off a recruiter faster than a candidate who is obviously overqualified for the job. The two main concerns are:

  • That the candidate would soon get bored and leave at his or her earliest convenience, and
  • That the candidate would be too expensive to hire.
Even worse is the assumption that the overqualified candidate is on a downward career slope—a has-been with all his best years behind him.

There are, however, many valid reasons job seekers wish to downsize to jobs with fewer responsibilities. Whatever your reasons, tailor your résumé to fit your current career objective. This means that you’ll need to play down your prior responsibilities, list only relevant education (don’t list a Ph.D. if you are applying for a midlevel management position), and emphasize tactical experience over strategic planning when appropriate.

3. Your résumé is crammed with information, but not the right kind

Pity the poor recruiter who must get through 200 applicant résumés before lunchtime. If your résumé is in the pile, it will get a quick scan and be passed over if the recruiter can’t find what he or she is looking for in less than 30 seconds. If you have a résumé that is disorganized or full of dense blocks of text, how will the recruiter learn anything about you?

You’ll catch the recruiter’s attention if you have a clear, easy-to-read résumé that highlights your skills and accomplishments, even at a glance. The first rule of résumé effectiveness is relevancy, so edit out the past data and redundant facts that aren’t relevant to your current career path. Fill your résumé only with the skills needed for that particular position, and you’ll go a long way toward getting a recruiter’s attention.

4. Your résumé has too little information

While the “strong, silent type” may be attractive in men, it just plain flops in a résumé. A résumé that looks more like an outline doesn’t give the reader enough to work with. Recruiters don’t want to guess what you did at your last job. You need to include enough information to give prospective employers a vision of the possibilities, if they choose to hire you.

If you struggle with what to include in your résumé, use job descriptions to help you understand what recruiters will want to find in your résumé. Then review your previous jobs to determine what skills you have that will be a good match.

5. Your résumé doesn’t include accomplishments

If you haven’t thought lately about how your employer has benefited from having you as an employee, it’s a sure bet that your résumé is lacking in accomplishments. Remember, as a job seeker you are selling your talents, and you are competing with many others who have the same qualifications as you. Accomplishments give recruiters a reason to choose you over others for the interview short list.

Give screeners ample reason to select you for an interview. Highlight how you have saved time, increased efficiency, cut costs, and increased client satisfaction. After all, if you don’t tell them, nobody else will!

If you use this five-point checklist to restructure your résumé, you’ll soon hear back from recruiters who appreciate qualified, articulate, and confident candidates. The time you spend enhancing your résumé can shave off months of fruitless labor and frustrating effort in your job search.

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Deborah Walker is a Certified Career Management Coach. See more career tips and sample résumés here. You can reach her at 360-260-4965.