My conversation with a recruiter

Last week I met with a recruiter with more than 20 years of experience recruiting for technical roles and more recently, executive roles. Let's call her "Jan." Jan and I have known each other for about 10 years, and she refers job hunters whose resumes need help to my service.

Here are a few things that Jan shared that will interest job hunter:

1. If your resume is lousy, be prepared to lose out. Competition, as you know if you're in job search mode, is, well, competitive. Your resume, as your first impression, better impress or you'll not be considered. It's that simple.

2. Your resume must be focused on that job specifically. Jan looks for a resume that immediately conveys how the candidate has the skills, experience, and knowledge required. A "general resume" is trash. She determines your suitability with a mere 4-second scan. Yes, with 20 plus years of experience, four seconds is all it takes.

3. It's not your resume's appearance, necessarily, that grabs her attention. (We both agreed that the infographic resume is not the way to go.) It's the content and how it conveys your "brand." Anything less simply won't cut it. Forgo the glitz and focus on building your brand.

Jan spoke of one executive she had been chatting with regarding a plum opening. His attitude, she shared, was proving to be difficult. Not for her, as she has lots of potential candidates to choose from; rather, his attitude was preventing him from keeping him at the top of her list. She had pointed out to him his resume's flaws, but he had no desire to step up his game and get serious about promoting himself.

Here's one reason for investing in a resume that is outstanding. After a recruiter emails a candidate's resume (sometimes with the name and contact info removed, so as to safeguard the recruiter's livelihood), and speaking to her contact at the firm, the recruiter does not follow the resume as it gets emailed to the senior executive. The resume must speak for itself. And if it speaks more like Daffy Duck than with professionalism, that's the impression it will make on those who have been asked for their opinion.

(On the other hand, I prepared a resume for a headhunter's client once, and the candidate landed an interview. She blew the interview by swearing, which she had not done in her conversations with the headhunter or with me. )