More than Rhythm: A Recruiter’s Notes on Resumes

Most of us as staffing professionals today will provide an offering of detailed advice on how to craft your resume — solicited or otherwise. At least part of the myriad recommendations is the suggested use of bulleted information summarizing accomplishments or skills. This may not be the best advice.

If bullets are valid, the implicit assertion is that we recruiters don’t want to crawl through the weeds in order to find the information necessary to make a decision; we want it presented “front and center” so as to make our jobs easier. There is an argument for that, given today’s hyperactive space, the intense competition, and the high volume expectation of rapid resume review, but I think we lose something of value when we pursue that approach.

Just like beautiful music requires the perfect balance of melody, rhythm, and beat, the resume with beat alone is incomplete; we need to experience the full beauty of the applicant’s relevant skills. The disparate and abbreviated beat separated from music’s melody and rhythm don’t give us anything close to the full flavor of its beauty. Likewise, bullets on a page are insufficient to make a determination of someone’s value or worth. We need to “listen” to the full beauty of the document. I think bullets serve poorly as a representation of the difficult and sometimes arcane spaces within which job-seekers have found success. Reducing these accomplishments to a bullet does nobody a favor, and focuses on the beat at the expense of the music.

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Recruiting is hard. Finding talent on the merits of keywords from bulleted resumes might be a way to thrust talent in the direction of a client, but clarity, and therefore success, resides in the detail. Clients expect staffing firms to do the hard work and understand the nuance that accompanies successful outcomes, promoting the tools that were used, the relationships that were established in support of goals, AND the peripheral details.

Clients provide job descriptions (JD’s) that are typically overburdened with nuance citing specific skills, tools, education, process, experience, etc. It’s their right, and even if unrealistic, they believe in that expectation. It’s hard enough to find talent that matches 50% of these desired traits, let alone 80%, from bulleted accounts.

If we submit candidates whose merits are based on bullets, we risk creating music on beat alone. Clients want us to know the details and submit candidates whose experiences match their JD as closely as possible. If we take that risk based on bullets and fail, how long after that can we expect our clients to continue trusting our expertise in talent mining?

If the recruiter finds a resume with a bulleted summary that matches some of the expectations but omits the details, then he or she needs to contact the job seeker and do that work anyway. Why not obviate the hard work on the part of the recruiter to mine that buried information, and recommend that the job seeker present those details up front? The increasingly effective resume-mining tools will still find talent based on key words, but now the recruiter has what’s necessary in order to make an informed decision.

Let’s stop separating the beat from the music and recommend that job seekers include the details necessary to make a resume worth listening to.

Dan Stewart

Dan Stewart
Dan Stewart is senior vice president at Excyl, a staffing firm based in Troy, Mich.

Dan Stewart

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