Great Candidate, Lousy Résumé

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Aug 25, 2011

If you have been an agency recruiter for any length of time, you have likely come across a candidate who has great skills and experience, but his résumé leaves a lot to be desired. I remember a time when I was an HR Director working with an external recruiter to find an IT candidate. Over the phone, the recruiter sang his praises, but when I received the résumé I was in shock.

The candidate had a photo on the résumé that looked more like a mug shot. In addition, all of the websites he worked on were highlighted in blue with links all over the page in 14-point font. There were so many bullets in a row that I felt like I had been shot by the end of the first page; and oh, by the way, there were seven pages. His title was Senior Manger of Information Technology. Need I say more?

The candidate may have been excellent at what he did; he certainly was said to have the right skills, but his résumé was a fright, and I told the recruiter I could not present it to the hiring managers in its current condition. We hired someone else, but I have always wondered, now that I am a professional résumé writer, if the result would have been different.

As a recruiter dealing with a highly skilled candidate who has a lousy résumé, how you handle this dilemma can mean the difference between a placement fee and a rejection notification. There are differing views on this topic.

  • Some recruiters believe that any alteration to the candidate’s current résumé is deceptive. They reason that a candidate who needs résumé help may not be the best choice for the job even if he or she fits the profile.
  • Other recruiters send their candidate back to the drawing board. They make suggestions and hope the candidate will come back to them in a timely manner with a revised résumé that is vastly improved.

While this can work in some instances, it may also lead to delays in the process. The early bird gets the worm when it comes to third party recruiting. Often, the candidate comes back with a résumé that is hardly any better than the original.

  • Some recruiters make changes on the résumé themselves. If you are a good writer and discuss it with the candidate first, this can be an effective plan. Many times a candidate just needs a little repositioning. However, certain recruiters frown upon this practice and see it as a conflict of interest.
  • One strategy that can be effective is to refer candidates to a résumé writing service that can provide quick turnaround time and do quality work. This method is especially valuable for helping very senior level candidates position themselves better.

I work with numerous recruiters throughout the United States who really like this approach. It keeps them from having any ethical conflict and simultaneously helps their candidate shine in the eyes of the hiring manager.

While each situation is unique, submitting a résumé that does not convey the proper message, and contains even minor errors, does not reflect well upon you as a recruiter. Visual presentation, powerful action-oriented content, and accuracy are all important aspects when assessing a candidate’s résumé.

Each recruiter must weigh and balance the pros and cons of one approach over another. There is no one right way to handle this situation. Consider your professional position and the needs of both your clients and your candidates.

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