A strong relationship with executive recruiters is a key part of an executive career management strategy, although for many catching their attention seems like a daunting task. But, there are a number of steps job seekers can take to greatly increase their chances of success. In this two-part series, I will share the most effective ways I have come to learn as a professional career advisor and executive search consultant. Here in part one, I focus on 8 tips to catch a recruiter’s attention via your email, cover letter, and resume.
#1: Match Job Criteria
The best way to catch executive recruiters’ attention is very simple—match the job’s requirements. To the extent that you do, a recruiter will be motivated to be in touch. There is rarely any wiggle room when it comes to required professional experience. Either, you have the professional qualifications or you don’t.
Experience is easy to determine, for instance, that you have X number of years or Y title in Z industry. There’s going to be plenty of candidates who meet these exact qualifications. What’s important is for candidates to clearly and succinctly communicate how they match these requirements.
#2: Confirm Core Competencies
Core competencies are often not precise or clear cut and are open to interpretation. There are many different ways one can be a leader or innovator for example. It is here where candidates have a critical opportunity to catch a recruiter’s attention. This is most efficiently achieved by offering direct comparisons to assuage any doubt and by seeding the resume, email, and cover letter with the words used in the position description combined with adjectives to subtly convey the type, for instance, of decision making style, e.g. collegial, top-down, team.
#3: Fit Gets the Job
Everyone that is considered for a position by retained executive recruiters meets the basic qualifications and core competencies. What distinguishes the final slate of candidates is fit. Fit in terms of values, beliefs, leadership style, communication, problem solving, decision-making, innovation, motivation and interpersonal relations. The easier you make it for executive recruiters to understand if you are a good fit on these variables, the greater the probability that you will be seriously considered for a position. You do that and create a subtle image of who you are with the words you use in your written communications and interviews.
Understanding and communicating your executive brand is the key to differentiating yourself as well as matching your personal drivers with the right career and business opportunities. Knowing your personal brand allows you to clearly and succinctly communicate in written and verbal communications the intangible qualities, motivations, and personal drivers that allow you to stand out from other applicants. Your branding message allows you to quickly convey an image of who you are and clearly set you apart from other candidates.
#4: Keep it Simple
If your words are carefully chosen, fewer words can be more effective than lots of words on your resume, introductory email and cover letter. A candidate’s job is to make it easy for executive recruiters to quickly scan within 6-10 seconds and then, if qualified, to go on to read your written documents. If you do not make it easy for recruiters to quickly understand in 6-10 seconds your work history, why would you expect them to take their time to read every word of a dense resume or cover letter to determine if you match the requirements?
And, understand that it is not the recruiter’s job to put pieces of information together to form a picture of your life or what you are qualified to do. That’s your job.
#5: Customize Your Written Documents to the Position
Gone are the days when candidates only have a single resume to submit to all jobs.
Today, all written communication needs to be edited with the intention of drawing the reader’s attention to specific key words that demonstrate the candidate’s qualifications. Failing to customize your resume, introductory email and cover letter reduces your chances of being noticed and considered for a position. And, it conveys the image that you’re not going to be an employee that will pay attention to detail, does what it takes to get the job done, or, go the extra mile.
#6: Show Not Tell
Too many candidates make the mistake of using the bullets on their resume to describe what they do rather than how well they’ve done it. Metrics are more effective than words in conveying how well you’ve performed your job. When readers initially scan a resume, the reader’s eye is naturally drawn to $, %, #, and numbers. You want to use these symbols and numbers rather than words to describe your accomplishments.
#7: Let Your Experience Speak for Itself…More Information Isn’t Always Better
With the advent of professional resume writers who are not familiar with what recruiters need, some resumes are now being styled to be visually very dense with lots and lots of words above the professional experience section that should be the primary focus of a resume. It’s simply too much information to take in at a glance. It also suggests that your experience isn’t strong enough to stand on its own and that you’re a jack-of-all-trades. It creates an image of a person who is unable to focus or distinguish what’s important from unimportant. It’s not a good impression for a senior executive.
This visual overload only serves to use up precious moments of the already incredibly short 6-10 seconds that the average reader spends scanning a resume before making a decision if the person is qualified for a specific job. These types of resumes generally do not create a positive impression for executive recruiters; recruiters typically do not even read anything above professional experience section. Instead, this resume style often conveys desperation rather than confidence. Instead, make your professional experience front and center.
#8: Focus Executive Recruiters' Attention on What they Need to Know
Job seekers are better served to create resumes that focus the recruiter’s attention on information that allow recruiters to determine if you have the required experience and core competencies—title, key words, companies, timeframe, accomplishments and educational degree.
Once your professional documents are ready, the next step is drafting your communications to executive recruiters. For my advice on how to properly reach out to a consultant and what to expect, continue on to Part Two.