Get Hired: Set Yourself Up for Success with Recruiters

On Thursday, February 19, the Opus College of Business hosted Career Insights: What Recruiters Want to help those searching for their first job or their next challenge find out how to best present themselves to recruiters. Our panel, moderated by Joe Reardon '78, '93 M.I.M., a 20-year veteran of the finance and accounting industry, featured Melanie Martz,senior recruiter for Green Tree Financial, Raelyn Trende, director of talent acquisition and HR planning and prioritization for Target and Bryan Vos, a recruiter who’s worked for agencies and corporations, as well as Minnesota-based firm Skywater.

Here’s is a round-up of some of their best advice.

Q: When it comes to resumes, what’s the review process really like?

Raelyn Trende: Target gets millions of resumes every year. Internal candidates always go to the top of the list, followed by those that come by referral. As an external candidate, you need to meet the exact requirements of the job or your resume often doesn’t make it through initial screening. We’ve done reviews with our recruiters and we’ve found that external resumes get about a five second look each just due to the sheer volume we receive. So you need to really tailor your resume to the job and company – use the words that are used in the job posting and prove you’re a good fit.

Melanie Martz: It’s more of a subjective process at Green Tree because we’re not as big of a corporation. Hiring managers will often ask the recruiters to send them a broad range of resumes, more not less, because they want to read through them and be involved in the selection of candidates. The critical thing is to let it be known through your resume that you can solve their problems – they are hiring because of a need, so as a candidate you should always keep this in mind and be showing how you’re the answer.

Bryan Vos: As a recruiter, I want to see where you’re working now, or where you’re going to school. It should be clear where you’ve worked and what your history is. For the companies where you’ve worked, include a one sentence explanation that says what industry the company is in, how big they are, where they are in the market.

Q: What’s your resume advice for someone who’s trying to change careers or industries?

Trende: Your resume might not be enough – you definitely need to show that you have transferrable skills/experience but networking might be more important. Do you know anyone at the company you want to work for? Can you get an introduction? Are there alumni you can connect with who could help you? Don’t be afraid to use email or LinkedIn – most recruiters will answer cold contacts, even if it’s to say that they can’t help right now or don’t have time. Often, you might get a lead to someone else who can help you or you’ll get a response that will help you in your search.

Q: Should you put everything on your resume or can you omit jobs that don’t seem relevant?

Vos: I really like to see everything so I get a sense of someone’s complete story. Accounting for time is key – for things in the distant past or that don’t seem to have a lot of relevance, make an entry for them that isn’t full-blown – but you should include all of it. Someone might see something that you don’t consider relevant but they do.

Martz: I like to see at least 10-15 years depending on how long someone has been working. You can also provide a list of all previous employers without giving the years.

Reardon: When people try to include only 10 years or leave stuff off it’s often because they don’t want the recruiter to know how old they are. But if you get an interview they’re going to see you and know roughly how old you are, so don’t make it into a negative. Also, you don’t have to keep your resume to one page anymore – two pages is fine.

Q: Does anyone read cover letters?

Trende: We don’t read them at Target – the volume is too high.

Martz: I’ll read the cover letter if someone is relocating, if there’s a gap in employment or the person is making a career change. But it’s definitely second. Letters should be three paragraphs, max.

Q: How do you demonstrate that you have passion for a job or for a company during an interview?

Martz: You should know key things about the company as a whole, not just the job. How does the company make money? How do they operate? Be more strategic, do some reading, look for recent news. Have three to four sentences you can say about the company if asked.

Reardon: If you want to convey passion and interest, check your body posture – sit up straight, be fully present, make eye contact, have a firm handshake.

Q: What are some things you absolutely should or should not do in an interview?

Trende: Don’t be overly confident or arrogant, don’t be late – show that you respect the recruiter’s time – and don’t go on too long in your answers. You should be succinct.

Vos: You should dress for success – business attire isn’t optional in an interview situation. A handshake is important. Seventy percent of a first impression is made before you even open your mouth or say anything so the very first impression – how you dress, how you stand, how you greet – is big.

Martz: When you’re answering questions, think about transitions. At the end of some of your responses, say something like, “Does that answer your question?” as a way of stopping yourself from rambling.

Q: If you’re given a job offer, when is it reasonable to come back with a counter offer?

Trende: Whenever I’m interviewing candidates, I’m trying to get a sense of what’s important to them, what they need, before I would make an offer. Three-quarters of the time, there is no counter offer from candidates. If I get a counter-offer, I sometimes wonder what I missed in the interview process.

A recruiter is your advocate. They’re trying to find out if you’re the right fit for the job and the company and if it’s the right fit for you. Be your true self and be honest about what you’re looking for. It’s not great to have surprises or something coming out of left field.

Martz: If you counter offer, you need to be able to say what’s changed for you. It’s not unheard of, but if you’re going to come back and ask for something, you need to have a reason – don’t just counter to counter.

Q: How important are end-of-interview questions?

Mart: I like the question, “Is there anything that would preclude me from advancing in your search?”

Trende: I disagree. I don’t like this question because I often wouldn’t have an answer at that point – I haven’t been able to check in with the other people the candidate has interviewed with. If you’re going to ask something, just make sure it actually relates to we discussed or it’s a question you honestly have – don’t ask just to ask.

Reardon:  A good wrap-up question might be, “Is there anything we haven’t talked about or that isn’t on my resume that we should cover?”

Q: How should candidates handle the question, “What’s your greatest weakness?”

Reardon: You want to make sure you turn the weakness into a strength – spin it into a positive. You would state your weakness but then follow right away with something like, “However, that’s why I’m interested in this position, because I want to X, Y and Z.” Show how you’re going to overcome it.

Also be prepared for a question like, “What would your current manager say about you?” A way to answer is, “One of the things I’ve heard in performance reviews is X and this is how I addressed it…”

Vos: You always want to be focused on the positive. Even when you’re asked to say something negative, make sure there’s a positive side. For example, sometimes a candidate will answer this with something like, “I take on too much” and what I write down, what I hear, is “hard worker”.

Q: If you don’t get the job, is it OK to follow-up with the recruiter?

Trende: Recruiters for large companies like Target are not going to give you feedback. They can’t for legal reasons and because of time.

Martz: In some cases, the recruiter might stay in touch with you. I recently had the experience of having two top candidates for a job. One of them was an internal candidate and they were offered the position but I still wanted to keep in touch with the other person. I knew I wanted to hire her but had to find the right opening or opportunity.

You can always ask a recruiter, “Am I a candidate for future positions?” or “Is there someone I can stay connected with in case positions open up?” It never hurts to ask.