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Tooling Up, tie
Credit: G. Grullón/Science

Notes From a Recruiter's Diary: A Plethora of CVs

I realize, as I scan my diary in search of ideas for my next Tooling Up column, that I've had a particular busy month. What, out of this crazy schedule, will it be helpful to share? Then it occurs to me: Show them what you did this afternoon--give them some of the raw data. So, this week you get to dip--more or less verbatim--into the equivalent of one recruiter's lab notebook and look at the entries made on a recent Saturday afternoon that he spent reading resumes!

Competition is tight and readers are right to be concerned. But the numbers sound scarier than they really are.

Recruiter's Log

Saturday, 2 March 2002

Page 1: Getting Organized ...

Received over 200 responses to a print advertisement that we ran for our ABC Biotech project. ... The stack of resumes is intimidating. I know that if I don't start looking at them soon, I will fall even further behind ...

Despite the fact the ad asked for resumes to be e-mailed in a defined format, of those 200-plus responses:

  • Only 85 arrived by e-mail in the preferred Word format; these can go directly into our database after review.
  • 22 arrived as ASCII text; these we'll have to save into the database as unadorned Word files.
  • 43 arrived in the regular mail; these we'll have to manually scan using Optical Character Recognition software before we can put them into the database.
  • 40 appear to have no relationship to this position or any other; these are tossed.
  • 20 arrived via fax and will be pulled out for later processing ... What a pain!
  • 21 appeared to fit the specs and will be assigned to recruiters for a telephone screening call.
  • 4 cover letters indicate they are referrals from another of our contacts--not from the ad; these are given priority.

I'll start with the e-mailed CVs, because they are the easiest to deal with. After that, I'll move on to the faxed copies. (Note to follow-up file: See if any software supplier has yet developed optical scanning software that works with faxes; also, incorporate advice in coming Next Wave column about the inappropriateness of the fax for CV distribution).

Page 2: Notes on Specific CVs

CV#1: Tried to stand out in the crowd by printing materials on mauve paper--when will people learn that print on colored paper can't be properly scanned? Note to follow-up file: Send an e-mail asking for an electronic version (as the ad requested).

CV#2: A perfect fit for the advertised position. Unfortunately, there are several typos on the cover letter. Resume looks good ... May have been written or reviewed by a third party, but not the cover letter. (If English is not native language, why not have letter read by a friend?) Bad judgement or questionable communication ability--pass CV onto recruiter with note of caution. Recruiter to make decision about calling this person.

CV#3: I've never seen anything like this before. This candidate, obviously looking to beef up credentials, listed the most inane things I've ever seen as "Accomplishments," including a line about "Local Car Pool Leader." Toss this one.

CV#4: An old-fashioned academic style CV, listing the spouse and names of children. So very hard to tell if this person fits our position. By the nature of the publications, it would appear so, but I would have much preferred to see that more directly in some specific notations about work experience and accomplishments. There is no cover letter attached; that would have been the perfect vehicle if the sender needed to stick with the academic CV.

CV#5: Personal note from me to the recruiter: "Looks like a potential fit for this job. Check into this person's real interests in California, however. Has always lived in the New York area." Unfortunately, stock cover letter refers to availability for "any position in the Northeast." Why respond at all when the ad clearly states California?

CV#6: Impressive cover letter on this one. It is addressed directly to me--makes a big impact when a respondent has cared enough to find the "person behind the ad." Isn't a good fit for this position; nevertheless, drop a personal e-mail note.

CV#7: A European format with photograph at the top. Certainly I don't mind checking out the photo to see the correspondent, although I wince when I think about the legal ramifications of how this CV "feature" could be misused. Ask recruiter to find a way to extract the photograph if we refer this candidate on to our client at ABC Biotech.

CV#8: Bingo! This one has the right experience, the right laboratories and publications, and just the right level of experience. And the cover letter is well written. It includes several points from the ad and refers to relevant experience on CV. Nice tie-in, straight from our ad to credentials. Refer to recruiter for immediate follow-up.

CV#9: Ad called for a Ph.D. microbiologist. This person has a BS in medical technology and emphasizes in the cover letter that microbiology was a part of the coursework. What a waste of time, both for me and for the sender. Toss.

CV#10: "Hobbies and Personal Interests" at the bottom of this one-pager. If you are going to skimp important facts and restrict yourself to one page, do you really want Wine Tasting or Camping and Hiking taking up valuable resume real estate. What does this stuff have to do with the ad? On top of that, the file is a PDF, so off it goes to the scanner--What a pain.

Page 3: Ideas and Key Points to Include in Future Next Wave Articles:

  • "Resume" and "CV" are often used interchangeably by writers and HR staff, but they are indeed different. For most scientific positions in industry, readers expect to get a CV and not a shortened resume format.
  • Remind Next Wave readers that professional HR staffers are busy people. They appreciate short, succinct communication. Lengthy cover letters that ramble into two or more pages are skimmed--one-pagers get read.
  • So many Next Wave readers express concern about the large numbers of CVs that typically show up after an ad is run. Competition is tight and readers are right to be concerned. But the numbers sound scarier than they really are--in actuality, nearly one in 10 applicants is selected for a telephone interview.
  • Remind readers that this isn't the time to use cosmetics in an effort to stick out in the crowd. Using colored paper, photographs, animated gimmicks, or other "cute" ideas might be OK for a marketing person, but it is not for a scientist.
  • In what must have seemed like a cool idea at the time, one respondent wrote in the cover letter that the CV was available on an online home page. No resume was enclosed! Readers need to know that HR people are not going to chase them down on the Web!
  • No one likes to push any one particular software package, but from here it looks as if Microsoft Word has a 90% market share for resumes. Anything else gets frowned upon because so many software companies have set up recruiting databases to automatically import or scan Word resumes.

As you can see, the afternoon wasn't a total waste. I've sorted through 210 applications and have a dozen or so solid prospects to move into our screening process. As for you--I hope you'll be able to learn from the mistakes of others.