Who’s Got Your Resume

DFN: Appears to be a beginning of a good article about the blackhole.

Who’s Got Your Resume — A Decision-Maker Or An Amoeba?
Posted: 11 Nov 2009 09:12 AM PST by Liz Ryan

I am no fan of the black hole, the resume-sucking repository of dangerous anti-matter and hundreds of resumes that were sent in reply to job ads and never heard from again.

I hate that black hole, because it doesn’t help candidates get jobs, and it doesn’t help employers hire good people either. The black hole chews up and swallows resumes, letting only a tiny number squeak through to a hiring manager. The resumes that get through the black hole aren’t necessarily attached to the smartest or most capable job-seekers, sad to say. They’re just the resumes of people whose backgrounds happen to match the job spec the most closely.

Plenty of talented candidates will notice a gaping black hole at the front of a corporate recruiting process, and keep on walking. Life is too short to spend it pitching resumes into the void. Job seekers with better options are going to find them, leaving the corporate black holes to less-sought-after candidates.

Screening resumes against keywords or a long list of requirements is a horrible way to hire good people. How much hubris does it take to imagine that the best-qualified person for an open position — the person who can help a business the most, by dint of passion, creativity, brains and curiosity – is going to be the person who perfectly fits all of the trivial job requirements, certifications and penny-ante specifications detailed in a job ad?

Now, let’s think about the person reading your resume, on the far side of that black hole. Sometimes the resume-screener is a person who runs the keyword-searching mechanism the black hole relies on. Sometimes it’s a person who actually views the text of the resume you trustingly pitched into the abyss. Either way, it is wise for us to think a bit about this person. Is he or she someone like you — broad-minded, worldly, lively and fun? Maybe s/he is all those things, when s/he’s at home or out on the town with friends. On the clock, I doubt that the person reviewing your resume right now is the slightest bit broad-minded, worldly, lively or fun. In fact, I would be very surprised if the resume-screener could be characterized as having any of those qualities, when s/he’s pouring over resumes.

Typically the person on the receiving end of the black hole is given a copy of the job spec, and told “Make two piles. One pile will include all the resumes that don’t meet the job spec. The other pile — a really short pile — will include the few resumes that match the job spec to a tee.”

Mind you, the resume-screener isn’t told: “Now, when we say ‘meets the job spec’ we don’t mean that the candidate has to match the job requisition entirely. Be creative, as you review these resumes. Look for the quality of the writing in the cover letters, and try to gauge the candidate’s intellectual curiosity and pluck from his or her resume and career progression. Lean in favor of risk-takers and people who’ve made quirky twists and turns in their careers. Give us the most warm-blooded, fearless job-seekers you can find in the bunch.”

Typically, the resume-screener’s instructions are just the opposite.

“We’ve got twelve criteria for this job, so don’t pass through any resumes that don’t mean all twelve of them!” Weird job titles, short-term jobs, employment gaps and more than two years of work history outside our industry are grounds for immediate no-thanks-ification.

I encourage job-seekers to think about resume-screeners as amoebae — those single-celled creatures we used to view under microscopes back in high school. Amoebae don’t have a lot of high-level thought processes. To an amoeba, anything in the environment — including you, Mr. or Ms. Job-Seeker — looks like either predator or prey.

If your resume pops out of the black hole meeting all of the twelve picky criteria listed on the job spec, you might look like prey. That’s in your favor. The rest of us look like predators. We scare the heck out of the amoeba in the resume-reviewing position. Passing our resume on to the hiring manager could get the amoeba in trouble. If we have a really scary — I mean confident, human and unusual — resume, we may terrify the poor amoeba. If we do that, we have zero chance of making it through the amoeba-screen to chat or meet with a hiring manager.

Most of us cannot win against the amoeba. Our resume will be tossed in the circular file. If we don’t look on paper like we were genetically engineered to suit this job, we’re toast.

That’s why a big part of our job-search mission is to avoid the black hole — and the amoebae who live behind it — at all costs.

How do we skirt the black hole, leave the amoebae to their work tossing other people’s resumes into the trash bin, and reach hiring managers directly? Read the blog post in this space next week. In my post on Wednesday 11/18/09, I’ll explain how to get your resume into a decision-maker’s hands, avoid the black hole and speak to your future boss directly about the issues that he or she most cares about.


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