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Ask the Recruiter: Summer 2020

Ask the Recruiter: Summer 2020

Julian Zeng

illustration of recruiters searching for candidates with magnifying glasses

We asked our audience on LinkedIn to share their burning questions for recruiters, including tips on getting their résumé noticed, what certifications are in demand and which of their past positions to highlight


  • Jess Forman, associate manager of marketing and media recruitment, Russell Tobin

What are some key elements that can help my resume get noticed?

Jess Forman:

  1. Measurable results. I see a ton of résumés where people vaguely explain their job responsibilities and duties— similar to what you would see on a job description. Get specific and take things to the next level. For example, instead of “increased traffic to website and lowered customer acquisition cost,” you could say, “increased traffic by X% month over month and lowered customer acquisition costs by Y% in Z amount of time.” By doing this, you are proving that you had real, measurable results. 
  2. Make multiple résumés. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all résumé, unless you only have one specific type of job you are applying to—but that’s not usually the case. It’s important to highlight your experiences that most closely relate to the role in which you are interested. It’s never OK to lie, but it is OK to describe in more detail your relevant skills to help prove you have the correct experience. 
  3. Reach out on LinkedIn. If you’re simply applying to a role on a company’s website, closing your computer and calling it a day … you’re doing it wrong. If you want to stand out, you need to take advantage of LinkedIn. Connect with the hiring manager, send a quick note explaining the role you’re interested in and let them know you’re happy to send a copy of your résumé directly. If you’re too nervous to directly contact the hiring manager, you should never be afraid to reach out to one of the organization’s internal recruiters. 

Jennifer Youn-Grillo: When it comes to résumés, less is more. Less means you’ve had to think about your experience and make deliberate decisions about what you’re leaving in. It forces you to focus on what your key contributions were to the roles you’ve held. For example, if you’re a marketing manager and you’ve listed a set of tasks, that’s not very compelling to a hiring manager. What would be compelling is how you’ve quantified the work in a tangible way. How many total subscribers did your newsletters or email and social media campaigns reach? If you can quantify your work, you’ve immediately positioned yourself to stand out from a sea of résumés. The last points that come to mind are consistency and formatting. Simple things like proper alignment of start and end dates, companies and job titles, correct use of tenses and spell check will go a long way in helping your résumé get noticed. In short: simplicity, quantifiable results and attention to detail. 

How do the best candidates separate themselves from the pack? 

JY: I found that successful candidates are extremely clear about what they’re looking for in their career, honest about their non-negotiables and are excellent communicators. All of this usually comes across during the first prescreen call. Typically, a recruiter or a hiring manager will start with an opening question such as, “Could you give me a brief overview of your background and what you’re looking for next?” This comes across as a simple question but requires a well-thought-out answer. Successful candidates have spent some time thinking about their past roles—not in piecemeal but as part of a larger story about where they want to be in their career. Keeping your answers succinct shows the recruiter or hiring manager that you’ve distilled the important points. Most importantly, it shows that you’ve critically thought about how your experiences will contribute to the role. 

What do most recruiters prefer: a traditional résumé format or a creative one?

JF: A mix of both. You don’t want to go too crazy and make it look more like a school art project than a résumé, but it’s totally fine to show a bit of your creativity. As long as it’s easy to read and not too busy with pictures or logos, you’ll be OK.

JY: I prefer to see a traditional résumé because I find it easier to follow. However, it’s dependent on the roles you’re going after. If you’re applying for a designer or creative director role at a progressive, “outside-of-the-box” agency, having a creative résumé that highlights your strengths in a unique way can work to your advantage, assuming it’s executed well. What’s important is the content of your résumé. 

What skill or certification is in demand right now?

JF: One skillset that has been super hot over the past year—and throughout COVID-19—has been demand generation. Demand generation can be part of someone’s role, like a more general digital marketing manager, but we are finding that candidates are standing out if they only focus on it. 

JY: There’s a range of certifications being offered by Facebook and Google that could instantly give your résumé or profile a competitive boost. Having these certifications not only adds credibility but positions the candidate as an expert in their field within their network. As a digital marketing recruiter, seeing any of the following certifications on LinkedIn profiles is a plus: Facebook Blueprint-certified in media planning and media buying, Google Ads Display, Google Ads Search and Shopping Ads Search. As more companies move to the cloud, we’re also starting to see a demand for Amazon Web Services Certification.

I’m a seasoned marketing professional with 20-plus years of experience—how do I get an employer or recruiter to consider me for a role? I’m concerned my age will be a negative factor.

JF: This unfortunately is a big issue in our world, but I do believe that there are ways to present yourself that will help. The most important tip would be to keep your résumé to two pages or fewer. It’s overwhelming to receive a five-or six-page résumé—you want to focus on recent roles. What you did 10 years ago may be relevant, but—frankly speaking—a recruiter or hiring manager is probably only going to lay their eyes on your résumé for 30 seconds to a minute. Describe in detail the past three to four jobs you had—anything beyond that, you can add a section for “other experience” and list each one as a bullet point. This way, instead of jumping to conclusions about age based on résumé length, a recruiter is focusing on your experience and skills. 

JY: There was a viral post not long ago that read, “If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.” I bring this up because seasoned marketing professionals not only bring experience, but insights and efficiencies cultivated over years. That said, it’s important to be honest about the role you’re after and where you feel you can bring the most impact. Focus on the measurable change you’ve made. You could also consider dropping your graduation year. 

The first two roles of my career were my most relevant and longest-tenured—is it still recommended that I prioritize more recent positions on my résumé?

JY: Normally, hiring managers or recruiters do see time gaps as a flag, so I’d keep those on and emphasize your most relevant experiences. I’d also focus on crafting a cover letter that succinctly explains your position and specific contributions you were able to make in your most relevant roles. If your recent roles are not directly relevant, but still fall within the industry, you could also highlight your transferable skills.

Julian Zeng is omni-channel content manager at the American Marketing Association. He may be reached at