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Are Headhunters Calling You... or Ignoring You?

Ex-recruiter reveals secrets to gaining headhunter's attention

In my former life as a recruiter (also affectionately referred to as "headhunter") I received hundreds of resumes a week from all parts of the country. The statement that a person's resume gets a 15 second read is not far from the truth. In fact, 15 seconds is a generous assumption. In reality, a resume must capture the recruiter's attention in the first five seconds to avoid the round file.

Candidates can greatly improve their chance of catching the recruiter's attention by following three simple rules: use the correct format, include plenty of quantifiable accomplishments and sprinkle liberally with appropriate keywords.

The first rule, use of correct format, is crucial. There is one, and only one, proper resume format for recruiters - chronological. Recruiters' do not have time or patience to figure out the complexities of a functional resume. To recruiters, time is money. A second danger of using a functional resume is that recruiters automatically assume the candidate is attempting to hide something. This is a universal assumption.

No job seeker on earth is able to hide unpleasant facts within a functional resume. Recruiters are trained from the start to pick up on any possible "red flags" that identify the job seeker as an undesirable candidate.

The second rule, use of quantifiable accomplishments, is essential in helping the recruiter see you as money in his pocket. Remember this point - you will only capture a headhunter's attention when he sees you in terms of commission potential. Since recruiters earn their fee by providing better candidates than their competition, your resume should shout "ACCOMPLISHMENTS."

Quantifiable accomplishments are most convincing when connected to bottom-line results: revenue earned, money saved, market share increased, costs cut or time saved. This type of information gives the recruiter selling points to market you to their clients and put you in front of employers quicker.

The third rule, liberal use of keywords, is important not only in the short term, but also leads to future opportunity. At any given time a recruiter may have 10 to 100 specific positions to fill. Recruiters categorize their positions by qualifications identified by keywords. When reading resumes the recruiter scans for those keywords. The recruiter may be so tuned into finding specific words that he is oblivious to anything else in the resume except keywords.

The best way to make sure your resume is filled with keywords is to scour job postings of target positions and identify keywords of qualifications. Find the most commonly used keywords in 12 or more target postings and use those words as the language of your resume.

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