What Recruiters Want & What Drives Them Crazy

You know you’re the right person for the job, but you still have to convince a roomful of people of that – and it starts with the recruiter.

Unless your r‚sum‚ can pass the quick and long review of the recruiter no one will know what they are missing by not hiring you.

In our final quarterly installment of Q&A with nurse recruiters, we ask them what they like to see in a r‚sum‚, and what will land your hard work in the trash pile.

Our panelists:

Nicholas Piazza is senior human resources consultant with MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, Md.

Lisa Mauri Thomas is dean of education at Brown College in Minneapolis. She is also a r‚sum‚ writer and job search strategist. She is the author of the book Landing Your Perfect Nursing Jobhttp://lisamaurithomas.com


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ADVANCE: When you first look at a r‚sum‚, what do you look for? What is your process of reviewing a r‚sum‚ or application?

Piazza: I look for a neat, concise and short presentation of information. As recruiters, we receive numerous applications/ r‚sum‚s and we look for key words, phrases and qualifications and do a quick scan to ensure that the candidate is appropriate and qualified for the position applied to.

Thomas: I get a very quick, two-second, first impression, which is mainly geared to understanding (or trying to) how the candidate’s information is organized and I make very quick assessments such as “neat/polished/crisp” versus “sloppy/poorly formatted/typos.” Then my eyes zoom to their work history/job titles/dates as well as their education/certifications as those credentials are key for what I’m hiring for. If that information is clear to understand and the information makes sense for the position applied for (not always the case!) I briefly scan the job duties and then the candidate’s profile information up top (where I like to see that the candidate’s goals, talents and experience mesh with what position I am seeking to fill). If that quick, 10-20 second review gives me the sense that this may indeed be a viable candidate, I then add that person’s name to my potential candidate pool until I am ready to select the top five with whom to conduct a phone screening interview and from there, the top three to interview in person.

ADVANCE: What can make a candidate stand out on a r‚sum‚?

Piazza: A neat and concise r‚sum‚ with key qualifications and experiences highlighted.

Thomas: Clarity and professionalism. It must be clear to me right away that the candidate meets the minimum qualifications and whose educational and work pathways have reasonably led them to apply for the position in question. And I want to get the sense that if hired, this candidate would represent my organization well across all interactions; that they would be someone others will want to work with or seek out for assistance and expertise each day. To take it a step further, I love feeling a connection to the candidate because it seems they customized their r‚sum‚ just for me and my needs around the position to be filled. Conversely, I sometimes shake my head and wonder what in the world prompted a candidate to apply for a role I need to fill when I cannot begin to see/make the connection between what they have sent me and what they are applying for. I receive more of those than you might think!


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ADVANCE: What are the most common mistakes people make on a r‚sum‚?

Piazza: Employment dates are not accurate or do not match what is on the application itself. Spelling errors.

Thomas: R‚sum‚s are often too vague or too wordy. I can appreciate that it may seem hard to find that “sweet spot” in the middle but the best bet is to make sure that whatever is listed in the job posting in terms of required and desired qualifications is clearly spelled out on the r‚sum‚. Don’t expect me to assume something that isn’t there, or “naturally make the leap” that experience X prepared you for job Y. Also, I hire for positions where years of industry experience and educational/credential minimum requirements are set in stone, no wiggle room; those elements are either true/in place or they are not. If I cannot see those essential pieces on a r‚sum‚ right away, I move on to someone else’s r‚sum‚. R‚sum‚ content needs to be highly relevant to the position in question; it needs to make sense at a glance why the candidate applied for the job.


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ADVANCE: What is your biggest pet peeve candidates do on online r‚sum‚s and applications?

Piazza: Sending a cover letter along with the r‚sum‚, but the cover letter is addressed to another organization. Filling out an application, but not attaching a r‚sum‚. Not listing former managers or supervisors as reference, but listing colleagues.

Thomas: Interestingly, I find that in my sideline work as a consultant to job seekers as a job search strategist, job seekers are quick to look at r‚sum‚ /cover letter/job search tips online and yet the basic pieces of information they read about that are readily available and for free are not well-followed. Fortunately, it has become harder for a candidate to take what I call a “spray and pray” approach where they can quickly apply for 50 openings with a generic r‚sum‚ and cover letter and hope they somehow find a welcome target. That said, candidates still need to make sure their materials are well aligned with and customized to the positions they seek.

Linda Jones is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact: ljones@advanceweb.com,

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