The recruiter’s moral dilemma


Guest post by Tonia Steciuk, Marketing Manager of our Main Sponsor, yu:talent

The recruiter’s moral dilemma: re-write that CV or keep your hands clean?

While most recruiters believe that the interview is the most critical element in the hiring process, it’s actually the CV that gets candidates through the door in the first place. But here comes the catch: sometimes a valuable candidate is accompanied by a bad CV. How involved should you get with cleaning up a candidate’s CV and monetizing its value?

To write or not to write that Curriculum Vitae

Let’s imagine the following scenario: You have a horrid amount of CVs, some good, some bad, some trying to pull the wool over your eyes, hiding so-so candidates. But in that bottomless pit of poorly presented CVs, sometimes you can find a hidden gem. It could be badly written, full of typos or just missing basic common sense – however a brilliant career and vast experience still shine through. Intrigued and curious at the same time, you decide to meet this potential candidate, to check the facts.

Interview day comes and you meet the “bad CV candidate”. Facts are cross-checked, chronology and logic are reinstated – the candidate is worthy but just not great at writing resumes. And there lies the moral dilemma: What kind of obligation has a recruiter to help a candidate? Do you help the candidate to write the CV or do you consider this involvement a “Do not enter” zone? There are probably loads of recruiters struggling with this predicament, so the question remains open for debate.

Would the most ethical approach be to advise the candidate on revising the CV, hoping for a successful application? Or, is a better approach to revise, re-write or even reformat your candidate’s resume?

Formatting candidates’ resumesyutalenttrans200x71dsw

Pat Turner, CEO at EMPLOYMENT MARKETPLACE, started a topic via LinkedIn. The discussion, called “Do you revise, re-write or reformat your candidate resumes?” had impressive results. According to his research, 33% of recruiters revise and/or re-write resumes; 20% include a form cover or skill summary written by recruiters; 7% submit the resume as it is; and 40% of recruiters encourage candidates to re-write the CV before submitting it.

It looks like it’s a close tie between optimizing a candidate’s CV and just giving advice and tips. Therefore, the moral debate is between the recruiters who feel responsible for the quality of their candidate’s CV and the recruiters who believe that writing a CV, along with presenting yourself, is actually as important as a job skill.

Drilling down deeper, a candidate’s CV reflects on the recruiter and the recruiting company which he/she represents. Consequently, some recruiters prefer to check for spelling and grammatical errors, to format the text and even to make the content of the CV attractive.

What do recruiters think?

According to Neil Shah, Executive Recruiter at HeadFarmer LLC interference with the content of the CV should be minimal. “I find it easier to reformat in a way that I think it looks good. That also depends on my relationship with the candidate”.

However, Charlie Stoops, Business Development Manager, considers that a recruiter should not edit candidate resumes beyond slight, immaterial cosmetic adjustments. When I needed more detailed experience, significant grammar or syntax improvements or more involved formatting changes from candidates, I always asked them to do it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because they knew much better than I did how to present the technical information. And secondly and more importantly, it demonstrated interest in the position, professionalism, and a commitment to me as an advisor through the recruitment process (as opposed to a transactional admin). If they were not willing to demonstrate that commitment to me and to the position, I really didn’t want to work with them.”

Daniel Cheetham, Talent Acquisition at Insight – Microsoft Technologies, gives a more consultative approach in the resume makeover process: If, and only if, the candidate possesses the skills necessary to be successful in the respective position, but doesn’t have them listed on the resume, this is a great time to build credibility and a relationship with the candidate while fine-tuning their resume. If there are glaring grammatical or formatting errors, they should be brought up with the candidate directly, as it is more than likely a reflection of the candidate’s attention to detail and must be addressed accordingly.”

While the majority opinion veers towards the no – revision approach, more recruiters seem to be inclined to offer counselling. James Parker, Data scientist Head-hunter at Networkers International PLC declares that, according to Quora,  the purpose of advice and counselling is solely to help a candidate understand the most appropriate way to communicate their skills effectively. With regards to reformatting, I will, if necessary and client-dependent, just help with the look and feel of the resume, without making changes to the actual content. From my experience, the majority of hiring managers (but not all) don’t have time or don’t like to read resumes in huge detail. If therefore it is too text heavy, I will break up the text with bullet points to aid the visualisation of the document and allow ease of reading (again client dependent). We always remove contact details and, unless instructed otherwise by the client, add our agency branding. To me it is important that my client receives the document completed by my candidate, not me”.

In conclusion, recruiters tend to have a case by case approach when it comes to CV “makeovers”. The relationship with the candidate, the size of the recruiting company and the job advertised are also influencing factors. All in all, there are some guidelines and some best practices when it comes to placing a good candidate and plucking him out of the pool of also-rans. The key is to advise and to find the best solution for both parties without either crossing the moral divide or becoming the too-good-to-be-true Samaritan.