Are You Looking for Talent or Resumes? The Golden Rule for Recruiters from a Veteran Recruiter

by Dan Piontkowski
19 May 2015


If you are a recruiter, sourcer or other talent acquisition professional that graduated high school, went to college and graduated with your bachelor's degree in recruiting, and then went on headfirst into the recruiting industry, you can stop reading right now.

Still here? I thought so!

If you are a recruiting professional, odds are you didn’t go to college to study recruiting. In fact, that isn’t even a major offered at any university or college out there. Even more likely, you didn’t grow up thinking of becoming a recruiter. But here we are – professional recruiters.

How did we get here?

(This post was originally published here. Reposted on this blog with permission.)

We’ve all got our own story on how we found our passion in recruiting, our own unique path we took to find ourselves in the role we are in today.

The recruiting industry doesn’t have a college major that people can study to learn how to be a good recruiter, but thousands of new recruiters start each year. Unlike a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, there really isn’t a universally recognized stamp of approval that someone needs to achieve before they are recognized as having mastered the competencies required to be a recruiter. While each of us has our own unique story, we all share a common piece of the story – someone took a chance on us. Someone met us, had a professional connection to us, knew us and took a chance on us by hiring us into our first job recruiting.

How? Why?

We explored options, we looked at careers in various industries, we made the decision that we wanted to get into recruiting, and someone looked at us and said, “This person has no education certificate that says they know this skill or industry and no prior direct experience doing this, but I’m going to take a chance on them, teach them, mentor them and watch them grow.”

So why, oh why, oh why, oh why do we as recruiters look at a resume and say, “This candidate has an economics degree and not an accounting degree” and reject them for the position we are recruiting for?

We are doing the exact opposite of what someone did for us.

The recruiting world readily (and sometimes, proudly) admits that they spend a maximum of about thirty seconds on a resume before making a decision to move forward or decline it. We’re looking for keywords and very little else. If those keywords are found with our scanning eyes, we’ll read more and push it forward, but if it isn’t there, that resume is dead to us.

Are we really recruiting?

Or are we simply acting as a gatekeeper and keyword screener before letting the candidates pass through the gate to the next round? How many high potential, future leaders have we unknowingly let slip through the cracks because they didn’t know what the keyword was to put on their resume to make it through that first cut?

There's been times that we've seen an outstanding candidate on paper and said to ourselves, Wow, if only their resume said they led a team of two to five people I could give them a call for the position I am recruiting for.

Their resume also doesn't say that they know how to open a door, turn on a computer or use a phone - why? Because space is at a premium. With the one or two pages of white space a resume provides, every skill and trait the candidate has isn't going to be captured. It is our job as a recruiter to find those talented people that will have a positive impact in our organization, not to scan for keywords.

I fully recognize that while we can’t provide this level of talent scouting and chance-taking to everyone, we need to be willing to do it for someone.

So let’s hear the great stories of success!

Please, share a story or moment when you looked beyond the resume to the person that wrote it. For non-recruiters, share a story of when a recruiter looked past what was printed on your resume and took a chance on you.

The views expressed are my own and not that of my employer or other party.

Dan Piontkowski specializes in the attraction and hiring of military veterans. He served as a driving force in hiring for Fortune 500 companies and now works for Amazon.com.