How to know who’s reading your resume

We want you memo

Who’s reviewing your resume: a recruiter, HR professional, or hiring manager? Didn’t realize there was a difference? There are distinguishing characteristics among the three, so let’s take a quick look:

  • A recruiter is usually employed at a third-party agency that was hired to find talent for a particular role(s).
  • In addition to hiring and firing, the Human Resources (HR) department is responsible for payroll and benefits management, keeping up-to-date with state and federal tax laws, employee relations, and performance.
  • A hiring manager is the individual at the organization who has requested the new hire and will be supervising that individual. Usually, the hiring manager knows the most about intricacies of the position and how it fits with the rest of the organization.

If you’re applying for a job at a nonprofit, your first contact largely depends on the role being filled and on the size of the organization. For example, at smaller nonprofits, there may be no “official” HR department. The person who is reviewing resumes may be the hiring manager, and is managing the hiring process in addition to his or her “regular” job responsibilities.

What are some clues to identifying to whom your application is going? How do you tailor your application to each?

If the contact email listed is not…

Check to see if the contact email listed belongs to a recruiting agency. Note that agencies don’t always disclose the name of the hiring organization in the job listing. This can make writing a targeted cover letter more difficult.

What to do in your application

While you have to align your qualifications with those listed in the description when applying for any job, this is especially the case when working with a recruiter. Why? Recruiters get paid to find the most qualified person for the job, so they’re motivated to only focus on candidates who are the best fit.

What to keep in mind when talking with a recruiter

The recruiter is more likely to speak with candidates who obviously meet the job qualifications, so be sure to demonstrate your fit clearly and succinctly.

If there is an extensive online application…

It’s safe to assume the organization is using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). The applications best matching the criteria will come to the forefront and, most likely, your resume must pass through the “gatekeeper” within the HR department. This individual may also do phone screenings with candidates before making recommendations to the hiring manager.

What to do in your application

Similar to the approach used with a recruiter, be sure your resume clearly indicates that you closely match the specific qualifications listed. A good way to see if your materials are reflecting the job description (and using similar keywords) is to create a word cloud of both the description and your resume.

What to keep in mind when approaching an HR professional

Remember that screening applicants is only one part of their job. They may or may not know the particulars about the job responsibilities, so avoid asking specific questions about the role. Save that for an interview with the hiring manager.

If resumes are to be emailed directly to a particular individual…

It’s likely these applications are being reviewed directly by the hiring manager. This person will be supervising the new hire and should have the most insight into the job functions.

What to do in your application

Do a little sleuthing before you apply. Is the contact email in a firstname.lastname format? Use that to look them up on LinkedIn or a Google search. Find out the person’s actual job title, longevity with the organization, main job functions, etc. Use that to glean more information about how the new hire might work with the manager. Tailor your application accordingly.

What to keep in mind when approaching the hiring manager

Be extremely mindful of his/her time. To your advantage however, dealing directly with the hiring manager is an opportunity to speak to his/her “pain points” and how you can provide solutions to those problems.

How have you approached a hiring manager, HR professional, or recruiter? Share your tips below.

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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