When I lost my job in June of 2009, I wasn’t very concerned. I knew the labour market was poor, and that it might take me a while to find another position.
Still, I had a solid network of contacts within my industry (and those contacts had numerous contacts as well), and a great track record at the company I’d worked for during most of the previous nine years. (That company, Lehman Brothers, was acquired by Barclays Capital. I was laid off six months after the acquisition, soon after the majority of work my groups preformed was outsourced.)
Within two months after being laid off, it became clear that my contacts, and their contacts, were not hiring. “We’re going to be flat or reducing headcount until 1Q10. Great resume … check back with me then,” became a consistent refrain. ‘Fine,’ I thought, ‘I have a solid operations and management background, so it’s time to explore another industry I’m passionate about. If I can just land interviews, explaining the value of my skill set and experience shouldn’t be too difficult.’ And perhaps that would be the case. But with the advent of web-based resume and cover letter submissions, getting in front of a hiring manager, or even an HR screen, has proven difficult.
Because I’d exhausted my industry contacts (both literally and figuratively, I’m afraid), it follows that jobs for which I applied online were not perfect fits, and would require knowledge of me as a person beyond what’s encapsulated in a two-page resume, at least for true consideration. As a former hiring manager myself, I looked for “glimpses of promise” in the resumes I received, understanding that the resumes only represented a slice – generally technical – of the qualities I looked for in a potential hire.
It may be that every one of the HR professionals and hiring managers who’ve received my resume via online submission have searched for the very same “glimpses of promise,” and found me wanting. In almost all cases, I shall never know.
In reality, submitting a resume online can be an exercise in self-abuse. Once the “Submit” button is clicked, one simply waits. And waits.
It is my assumption that the online resume submissions I made two months or more ago were reviewed and found not to be a match. In all cases except one, I did not receive even a “form email” rejection. The notable exception was MySpace, which graciously sent an email explaining that the qualifications detailed in my resume were not a “best fit” for the position to which I’d applied.
This form email was important to me. I knew upon receipt that persistent follow-up was un-needed. But what of the other nearly hundred submissions? Were they reviewed? Should I try to follow-up? And if so, with whom? Because the online submission mechanism seems purposefully designed to limit interaction between those hiring and applicants, I couldn’t say.
I was given some advice, early in my job hunt, from a friend who had intimate knowledge of the process (at least at her firm) by which resumes submitted online are tagged for further review. “Look at the keywords used to describe required skills, and make sure your resume contains those words. The resumes submitted to us are software scanned for keywords before they ever get to HR.” Fair enough. I had no qualms about incorporating such “keywords” into my resume as long as I was able to provide an accurate account of my experience and skill set. Still nothing … not even rejection emails.
All of which leads me to the following two conclusions:
- There are so many resumes submitted online that top-level reviewers have no need to look for great people who are “near-matches,” since great people who are “perfect matches” are in abundance.
- If you are not a perfect fit for a given position, your time is likely better spent engaged in activities that will make you a perfect fit (for whatever position you’re truly interested in) rather than firing resumes off into a black hole.
But wait, wasn’t there supposed to be some advice for HR professionals and hiring managers?
Yes, and here it is:
- If a person takes the time to register with your online submission site, fill out the accompanying questionnaire, craft a cover letter and submit a resume, the very least he or she deserves is some sort of communication once no longer under consideration.
- Take the time to talk with prospects that, while light on a specific but learnable skill, have shown growth and increasing responsibility in previous positions. You may just discover a diamond in the rough, someone who can bring a fresh, diverse perspective to your company. After all, you’re looking for the best hire, not the most convenient one.
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