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I am applying for a position through a recruiting agency and will be speaking (phone screen interview) to a Director-level hiring manager from the company in a couple days. The recruiter said to me that the Director thought that my resume seems to be a bit "thin". The only way I can think my resume received such a comment was probably because I haven't worked in the industry that the company is a part of. For me, reading through resumes is a subjective matter. The application needs to align with the opening to get the best candidate.

Considering that my resume was received in a bit of negative light, why would anyone want to waste their time after providing such initial feedback? And now that I am going to be speaking with such a person, what should I be concerned about? I am obviously not going to ask this person - "Do you have any questions about my resume that I can answer?"

  • You're asking us to read someone's mind. We can't do that. – keshlam Aug 16 '16 at 20:30
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    @keshlam I knew you were going to say that. – jimm101 Aug 16 '16 at 20:35
  • The answer is 42, I already know the next question. – Retired Codger Aug 16 '16 at 20:37
  • We don't have enough info to do more than guess either about the manager's thoughts -- note that they told the recruiter that they would like to see someone with more solid background, they didn't criticize you directly and probably didn't intend this comment to be passed along -- or about how to best spin a resume and work history we haven't seen for a job that hasn't been identified. Outside of the obvious advice to emphasize those skills which this employer needs (including places where you demonstrated those skills in past jobs), there isn't much we can say without more specifics. – keshlam Aug 16 '16 at 20:42
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    "I am obviously not going to ask this person - "Do you have any questions about my resume that I can answer?"" Why on earth not? That's exactly what you should be asking after getting that feedback, if phrased differently. – Lilienthal Aug 17 '16 at 10:10
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For me, reading through resumes is a subjective matter. The application needs to align with the opening to get the best candidate.

That's true.

But don't forget, there's no such thing as a perfect candidate. You can easily be the "best" with a "thin" resume.

Considering that my resume was received in a bit of negative light, why would anyone want to waste their time after providing such initial feedback?

Because "a bit thin" in this case apparently doesn't mean "too thin to consider hiring this candidate".

Nobody wants to waste their own time. Accept it at face value that this person has not ruled you out from consideration.

And now that I am going to be speaking with such a person, what should I be concerned about?

Think ahead of time what it might mean for your resume to be considered "a bit thin".

If it means that you haven't worked in the particular industry in which this company operates, be ready to talk about why that won't be a problem for you in this new role. Talk about how all the experience and other positives you bring to the table more than make up for not having yet had the chance to work in this industry. Be ready to talk about how you have rapidly picked up other industry-specific knowledge in the past, and how you are sure this time will be the same.

You are being given the chance to demonstrate how this perceived "thinness" isn't a big negative. Now go wow them and show them why it isn't.

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Putting the facts together, the Director likes your resume, but is concerned that you lack the experience of other candidates. Your job in the interview will be to highlight that your experiences are well suited to the job. I would directly ask how you compare to the others and what concerns the Director about your qualifications, and then try to emphasize that you have successes, contacts, other experiences, etc.--whatever will alleviate those concerns. Directly asking about the feedback will show a confidence and preparation that can only help you. And there's no reason to be upset--the other candidates may simply have more experience by far.

I was once told that I shouldn't highlight 7 years experience because all the other candidates had 15 or more. But I had other technical skills that were far more desirable, and beat them out. I have much more than 7 years experience now and I agree with the assessment, but at the time, 7 seemed like a lot.

  • Sounds reasonable, but since it's another industry, the OP might have a hard time putting it into practice. I think that is probably the Directors issue. 'Relevance of experience'. – Kilisi Aug 16 '16 at 21:13
  • I'm skeptical about the OP's guess there. – jimm101 Aug 17 '16 at 0:35
  • Yep, it's all guesswork – Kilisi Aug 17 '16 at 12:03
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If you are a salesperson, you are trying to sell a product or a service to a potential customer and the customer has an objection, what do you do?

  1. You can take the objection on the chin, decide not to confront it. And lose the sale. And the sale and the prospect of any potential relationship with the client that might lead to more sales.

  2. Confront the objection. You can deny it but unless you can buttress your denial with some kind of contrary evidence, you run the risk that the prospective customer will dig in their heels. Avoid at all costs getting into an argument with the sales prospect - the risk of winning the argument at the cost of losing the sale is too high.

  3. Confront the objection. But be constructive about it. Can you resolve the objection? Or can you mitigate it? Or can you work around it? You are under pressure, you have to think on your feet.

In this case, the objection is that your resume is "thin". Maybe it' thin because you chose not to include experience that your prospective employer finds relevant. Or it's thin because you lack experience - I have blown away stronger candidates because I came to the interview with utter confidence in my abilities, in my ability to think on my feet and in my cool. And that confidence, which enabled me to resolve interview questions that should have thrown me for a loop, proved to be contagious to the interviewer. Maybe I lacked the experience, but I was the person that the interviewer wanted to back them up when the poop hit the fan. And they decided that the lack of experience was not a deal breaker because the interviewer assessed me (correctly) as the type who could learn on the job. Your having experience doesn't mean that you won't fold into yourself like crumpled paper when the pressure is on. Nor does your having experience mean that you excel as a team member - my claim to fame as a team member is that everybody on my team knows what I am working on, and I don't trip all over the other team members because of poor coordination with them. Your having experience does not mean that you have the intestinal fortitude to claim ownership of your mistakes either.

Interviews are opportunities to think on your feet, kick butt and show what you've got. You do the best you can with what you've got no matter what else goes wrong. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to decide not to meet your prospective employer's objections head on.

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I've worked with agencies both as a hiring manager and as a candidate. Here are a few possibilities, you need to judge from the situation which might be accurate:

  • The agent is trying to help you get the job by sounding-out the hiring manager in advance about your strengths and weaknesses, to give you the opportunity to prepare to address them in the interview. (Regardless of whether this is the actual explanation, preparing yourself - drafting some answers and practising with friends - is what you should do. See if you have some other qualities - eg enthusiasm, energy, affordability - that give you an advantage over more experienced candidates. See if you can present some of the experience you do have as relevant in ways the hiring manager might not have thought of).

  • The manager thinks you are a good fit for the job and is trying to lower your (and the agency's) salary expectations.

  • The manager didn't say this at all; the agent is lying to you in order to lower your salary expectations.

Bear in mind that all the other candidates will also have cons as well as pros. You're not competing against the perfect candidate because that person doesn't exist - it's always (or almost always) a compromise. The intelligent hiring manager assembles a team whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other, so your attractiveness as a candidate also varies depending on who else is likely to join the team. Being relatively inexperienced is not a bad thing in itself, it just depends on who else (maybe with more experience but also more expensive) they can find to team you up with.

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