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by KRIS MAHER | March 10, 2009


A few weeks ago, Jim Kissel, a recruiter with Management RecruitersInternational, received a resume with an unusual work history. According tothe document, the candidate, who had stressed her reputation for accuracyin a cover letter, had held one job from 1998 to 2013.

An irritated Mr. Kissel considered calling the person to chide her forsloppiness. But he resisted the temptation -- mainly, he says, because shedidn't have anywhere near the right experience for the position he wastrying to fill anyway.

As resumes pile up in the current woeful job market, so do suchboneheaded missteps. From the inexperienced college graduates, who might beexpected to slip up in their dealings with recruiters, to more seasonedexecutives who should know better, recruiters say they are frequentlyshocked at the number of candidates who make a poor first impression. Eveninitially promising candidates sometimes blow it after being sent oninterviews, causing recruiters embarrassment and hurting their chances ofworking with those recruiters again.

"We go through a process to tell people how not to self-destruct," says Mr. Kissel, who is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "Sometimes people don't pay attention."

You can't avoid every mistake, and recruiters do make allowances undercertain circumstances. But you can lessen the odds of self-destructing --and keep your resume out of the trash pile -- by making sure you avoid someof their big pet peeves. Here are a few tips:

Drop the gimmicks. Don't sendpresents, trinkets, theater tickets, candy, shoes or whatever else youdream up with your resume in hopes of getting noticed. It will probablybackfire.

Just ask the candidate who sent Smooch Reynolds, chief executive ofRepovich-Reynolds Group, a Pasadena, Calif., executive search firm, alittle stuffed buffalo along with his resume. "Is this how you want to bethought of as a player in the industry?" Ms. Reynolds asks. It didn't helpthat the candidate was "a nonstarter" during a phone interview, sheadds.

A far better, and simpler, approach is to show "what competitiveadvantages as a professional you bring to a recruiter's prospectiveclient," Ms. Reynolds says. Consider how you can help a recruiter sell youto a client. Do your research to make sure that a recruiter's specialtymatches your field as closely as possible before initiating contact.

Don't keep secrets. Thomas Ward,principal of Resource Staffing Consultants, a Green Bay, Wis., firm thatplaces architects, says he had a conversation with a potential candidaterecently who refused to tell him why she wanted to leave her currentemployer. Other candidates, he notes, sometimes refuse to divulge salaryrequirements.

"People like that drive you nuts," Mr. Ward says. "They play the mostcommon pieces of information so close to the vest." Also high on Mr. Ward'slist of turnoffs: candidates who send resumes to clients on their own -- orscatter them across the Internet. If you hope to work with a recruiter,keep track of where your resumes are and where you are sending them, andkeep the recruiter in the loop.

Listen to a recruiter's tips about a company. Recruiters usually coachcandidates about a company's culture or what to expect in an interview. Yetmany candidates think they know better, complains Jonathan Spatt, presidentof Hospitality Executive Search Inc., in Boston.

Mr. Spatt says one of his candidates flew from California to interviewfor a job as vice president of operations at a Texas hotel company,sporting a flowered shirt and sandals and not wearing socks. "Although weprepped him to wear a suit and tie and wingtips, he thought he knew more,"says Mr. Spatt. The candidate wasn't hired.

Don't hedge about openings. If arecruiter calls with an opportunity, don't wait until your name has beensubmitted to the client to decide you're not interested. You risk earningthe recruiter's resentment. "I would much rather have someone turn me downright away," says Buffy Filippell, president of TeamWork Consulting Inc., aShaker Heights, Ohio, recruiting firm specializing in the sports industry.Figure out where your career is headed and what positions would interestyou ahead of time, she says.

Don't expect a recruiter to be keen to help you land a job right away.Remember that recruiters work for companies, not candidates. And yet,recruiters can often help over the long term.

When Julie Quick relocated to Florida two years ago and had no jobprospects in the state, she contacted Mr. Kissel after discovering hismarketing expertise on the MRI Web site. "I approached him strictly as anetworking opportunity," she says.

The two hit it off in an initial phone conversation, and during the nextyear, Mr. Kissel put her in touch with several contacts. When an openingcame up for a director of strategic marketing at First Marketing in PompanoBeach, Fla., he submitted Ms. Quick's name, and she landed theposition.

After about a year on the job, she worked with Mr. Kissel again in May-- this time when she hired two candidates he presented forbusiness-development director positions. "I've always had a greatrelationship with him," she says.


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