Monday, June 7, 2010

Top Headhunter’s Resume Writing Secrets Revealed

First, a little background by way of a brief case study of how I improved how my candidates resumes were written.
The year was 2005 and I was recruiting for a top 15 Fortune client who was very specific about the resumes they accepted, and they had every right to be just that picky.
I’d won the opportunity to be among the very few external recruiters who was allowed this privilege and I received that opportunity because of my high standards of candidate referrals.
Yet, despite that reputation and all my years of experience, I was experiencing a higher rate of candidate rejection at the resume review stage than I was accustomed to. While the client was satisfied, I wasn’t… and I determined to improve.
How I Started Getting Three Times More Candidate Resumes Accepted For Interviews
The secret was the resume writing method that I developed. My criteria were that the resume had to be 100% honest and factual. I never, ever knowingly do anything to embellish my candidate’s resume and you shouldn’t do that to your resume either. That’s a recipe for disaster!
I’m not only an executive recruiter with over 40 years of experience, I also certify recruiters in the Adler method of interviewing. That means I have access to many, many internal corporate recruiting departments. I used some of those contacts along with my many years of experience to begin the development of my resume writing process. I conducted a survey among the top companies to see what they want in the resumes they review.
Simultaneously with that process, I started to incorporate selective marketing principles from direct, consumer-based marketing. That meant I had to study some of the top ad writers work and see what I could use in writing a resume that gets a higher rate of acceptance. After all your resume is your own personal marketing document.
The Resume Writing Method I Came Up With
When I put all that together, I came up with a better way to show my candidates how to write their own resumes in order to increase the odds of getting the interview.
Let me emphasize, my purpose and strategy was to share my resume strategies with my candidates so they could re-write their resume; not to write their resumes for them. My role was to approve or disapprove of the resume and offer advice during the re-write process. If my candidate was unwilling to re-write their resume, I refused to move them forward in the process.
Here’s my point. Actually there are only three fundamental reasons that you don’t receive an invitation to interview after you submit your resume.
1. Number One – the job may already be filled.
2. Number Two – you’ve sent your resume to a job that you aren’t qualified for.
3. Number Three – the job is a great match, but your resume didn’t convince the reader – in other word you have a resume failure.
How to Improve on Resume Failures
The key, “secret sauce” became how to “get inside the head” of the recruiters and hiring managers that were reviewing my candidate’s resumes. In other words, what is going through the mind of the reader when first reading the resume?
Using the information developed in the above step, I developed a 15 point resume strategy that I still use very effectively today. Obviously there isn’t enough space in this overview to provide all the details, but here is a quick summary of three key things I did.
First, I eliminated the Objective Statement. I never, ever for any reason include that on a resume and you shouldn’t either.
Second, I primarily use a two page resume template format that is simple, easy to read with plenty of white space. Occasionally, I’ll use a three page format, but I have strict criteria for that. I also conducted marketing tests and discovered that three pages didn’t hurt my acceptance rate, if I watched when I used it. I did find out that anything over three pages substantially increased the rejection rate. I highly recommend that you stick to a two page resume; but never more than three pages.
Third, I changed the first thing that appears on my candidates resumes. After the name and contact information I include a Summary section that uses my Power Accomplishment format and I tie that specifically to job requirements. There is more to it than that, but that is arguably the most important thing I changed. Think of it as the equivalent to a written elevator pitch.
You can learn to write a better resume and most people don’t need a professional resume writer. In fact, many, many of the resumes I changed had been written by these writers. They may be good at the written word, but no one understands better than an experienced working recruiter what really works best during the resume review because we are in a position to get the client direct feedback.
My recommendation is to learn how to write your own resume, but if feel you must use a professional resume writer, at least take the time to study what separates a great resume from a good resume and provide the writer with the proper information to write a great resume.
(c) 2009 by Carl Bradford who is both an Executive Recruiter and Trainer of Corporate Recruiters. I’ve developed a series of 15 free videos that explore all of the strategies referenced above and you can view these Free Videos on my new, special resume web site: You can also follow my weekly blog at:

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