Posted on 25 January 2012

Still Sending Out Resumes? You’re Doing it Wrong

Yesterday on Marketplace, Kai Ryssdal interviewed Jai Damian, a hard-working American working part-time though she wants a full-time job.  The article was about her predictions on the State of the Union Address from President Obama that aired later in the evening (Damian shared her comments after hearing the SOTU address in this follow-up piece).

The reason I am writing this, however, is not so much about the State of the Union as much as it is about something Damian said when being questioned about her job-search:

Ryssdal: Are you still sending out resumes and doing all that stuff that job seekers have to do?

Damian: Well I stopped for a minute only because I had been told that I was over-educated. I was over-qualified. I didn’t have anything current on my resume. So I said OK, I’ll take a step back, I’ll wait a couple months, update my resume and then start resending it out. And I think it’s going to be really interesting if I actually get calls because I have something current.

Ryssdal: And about how many were sending out on a weekly basis?

Damian: At least 100.

Ryssdal: A hundred a week?

Damian: At least 100.

Ryssdal: Any nibbles?

Damian: I was lucky if I got a thank you, but no thank you.

Now, I have no other information about what she’s done/doing other than what she said on the air, but when I hear things like this it makes me want to stand on my car and yell to the world:


Of course, my view is limited. Of course, my view is myopic. Interviewing and helping people get hired is what I do all day long. But in this world today where supply is SO much higher than demand in the job-market, you have GOT to do something more than just flood the world with your resume.

So, what’s the magic bullet?

Well, in short, there is NO one thing you can do to magically get a job, but over and over and over again, I help people get into places and connected for opportunities they never would have discovered if they blasted out resumes all day long.

My suggestions:

  • Get yourself a job to pay the minimal bills.
    This is what  Damian did–she got a part-time job. Good work. This keeps the collectors from calling (for a while) and keeps you both active and out of the house… both very good for you mentally and physically. Temporary placement agencies often can get you “in” to a company quicker and easier than you can and they are often hiring when other types of employment are not available.

  • Get very clear on what YOUR absolute value proposition is to the marketplace.
    What can you do that NOBODY else can do? Who are you and what are you all about? Get down to bedrock on this. You’re getting close when you realize it is normally something much bigger than your current career or college degree would often explain at first blush (which is why resumes suck at explaining who you are). These are themes that run through your life, no matter who you are with and what you are doing.  You would seek to do this at any age, in any country, no matter the economy. This is you. And, suddenly industries, titles, job descriptions and everything else falls away to who you are, and frees you up to explore how to go about achieving real value for companies by being the most-unique that you can be…. Now, make sure your resume, your social media profiles (LinkedIn), and every other thing you do publiclyreflects this.Often, this takes the form of a tagline or mantra. If you were a $BLN corporation dropping ads on the Superbowl coming up, what would the screen say at the end, when it fades to black? Your name, your tagline and your URL.  What IS that tagline??
  • Stop Thinking, Thinking, Thinking and Start Doing.
    When companies are looking to hire people, they are looking for doers. For “get it done-ers”.  In this economy, there are acresof people willing to get paid to come to work each day, but only very few of them prove they are doers by DOING the kinds of things that prove they can take on great big, hard challenges and succeed at them.  This is a chance for you to take your job-search seriously and turn it into an opportunity to make great things happen.Mark Suster, entrepreneur-turned-VC wrote a great piece a few years backwhere he details how he knew someone just wasn’t really serious–deep down–about being an entrepreneur:

    “I was blunt (warning: that sometimes happens with me) and told him not to bother… “Why?” he asked.  I told him he wasn’t a real entrepreneur.  He looked stunned.  I said that he had been talking about doing this for too long…. But “he didn’t have the budget to hire a developer until he had raised money!”… I said that was my point. “A real entrepreneur would have done it anyway.  He would have found somebody… and inspired that individual to work for equity or deferred payment.  Real entrepreneurs are contagious.  They are filled with ideas and they get those ideas onto paper…  But they GET THINGS DONE.  You have the skills and knowledge to do that.” [[Massively trimmed from the original and emphasis added.]]

    Doers are the ones who seek challenges to get involved with organizations, consortiums, meetups or other professional groups where the kinds of people who would hire you are bound to frequent. Volunteer your time. Rub the elbows. Be a servant first and always GIVE 10x TO YOUR NETWORK before you ever ask. Let yourself shine for who you really are. People will see you as a doer. People will trust and get to like you. Always offer to communicate and offer timely solutions when appropriate.  ALWAYS follow-up religiously and NEVER place a burden on them to follow-up with you. Then, suddenly, time passes and someone, somewhere will have an emergency where they need help. You will be the first one to their mind. Get the paperwork done so that when that consulting-gig comes a long (“Hey, can you help me out a little with a challenge we’re having?”) You can take the gig without even thinking about it (and (hint) when consulting, you should charge no-less than double your comparative hourly rate for the same full-time job).

  • Connect with People, not Computers.
    As friendly as computers are these days (sending you polite” we received your resume” emails when you apply), they really do a poor job at-best of helping to match people with jobs. You will have 10x more success talking to a real human being (any real human being) than trying to get the Human Resources System to give you a shout out for a new job.My recommendation: Swap out 100 resumes a week for talking to 10 influential people per week (just 2 per day) and within a month your job-prospects will dramatically improve. I’d bet that within 10 weeks you have a new, shiny job. I double-dog dare you to try this. It works.  It might not be your dream job, but if the One Red Paperclip guy taught us anything, you should take what you have and trade up for something bigger or better.  Keep your mind open and you can achieve something great. This won’t happen overnight, of course. (Besides, if it did, we’d all think you got into a get rich quick scheme and, at last count, nobody thinks these are legit.)
  • Send Resumes Only AFTER Making A Connection.
    The first thing Recruiters will tell you about how they really find people is that they ask employees for referrals, then search LinkedIn and other networks (or their own databases) for qualified people, and then, when all else is lost, they mine the online applicants.Build and leverage your real-life and online networks and ask people if they know anyone working at that company you want to work for.  Chances are, you know someone who you can talk to. Ask them for help, and don’t submit your resume to the blind computer system–submit it to someone who knows who you are and is interested, even invested, in helping you at least get a chance to talk to the hiring manager.Of course, referrals can only get you so far. Some great advice from the popular #HireFriday chat on twitter comes to mind here:

    (Incidentally, this Friday’s chat will be about “Out of the Box Ways to Find a Job“. Tune in Friday’s at 12noon Eastern on Tweetchat’s #HFCHAT room.)

At the end of the day, you can’t expect to send out any number of resumes and get responses in this economy. The supply is too incredibly high compared to demand. At the end of the day, the people getting jobs are shortcutting the system and getting hired because they are known, not because they follow the process. In fact, this already happened for Damian when she landed her current job:

Damian: I had to have something. And I got this on a fluke and it was because I knew someone who knew someone who needed someone.# (emphasis added)


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