Down the Resume Rabbit Hole

THERE ARE REASONS you were not contacted after you submitted your resume online for that amazing job at Acme Fortune 500 Engineering. Some you couldn’t avoid. Some you could – or you should have avoided. I can help you understand the pitfalls of the application process and help you avoid the resume rabbit hole.

There is the saying that to try something over and over again, expecting different results is insanity, yet in today’s employment process candidates rarely get feedback and often conclude that they lost the resume lottery and will do better by just apply to many more jobs. I see this when I look at a candidate record – tens of applications, one more likely to gain response than the other. In fact, when I see an applicant has applied for a dozen positions one word comes to mind. Desperation.

It’s Not a Lottery, It’s a Marriage

And, only a match made in heaven is worth the investment of your time. When I say that I mean that unless you have the qualifications and experience an employer seeks, you might as well walk right over and drop your resume down the resume rabbit hole yourself. As recruiter for a Fortune 500 Company, I work in a fast paced, high volume environment with hiring managers crying for talent. I am constrained by federal rule to post clear minimum qualifications in every job post. I use supplemental questions to determine if applicants have those minimal qualifications, and those that don’t get weeded out electronically – I don’t even see them. If my posting requires a Bachelor’s degree it is because the market is such that it will take a Bachelor’s degree to be competitive. I often get more than 100, sometimes more than 200 applications – if I reduced the qualifications then I would get 1,000 or 10,000 applications. But in the end, one of the people among those with Bachelor’s degrees would win the contest. Recruiters don’t list those qualifications to be mean or to exclude people – they do it to save you the effort of applying when you will not be successful. People apply anyway – and they never hear back.

It’s interesting to me that applicants who have the basic qualifications but otherwise have a less than stellar resume apply for very competitive positions. An example would be someone who has been out of the workforce for a long time, or has several recent gaps in their resume. Rather than devising a strategy to rehabilitate their resume, they apply for a really great job with a leading company – and then wonder why they don’t get interviewed. There will always be very competitive candidates with very stellar resumes seeking really great jobs with really great companies. Instead, that person would be more successful find a company that is smaller, perhaps pays a little less, but that would really benefit from the skills and abilities that person can offer. The strategy would be to gain a role, and get promoted, at least once – then find a more attractive role with a little more competitive company.

Fewer than 10% of applicants for supply chain jobs have experience and qualifications to be successful in the application process. Those that have the necessary qualifications fall out of consideration early in the process is because the salary or relocation they desire is unrealistic. Applicants who have been in a role for many years, without promotion have gained merit increases that promoted longevity. When they try to step over to the same position, expecting the same salary, they lose the competition to contenders who are earlier in the salary curve but have plenty of experience to do the job. Relocation is something I recommend as a strategy to speed hires, but only if the cost of interviewing candidates is reasonable. If the cost of airfare for interviews is going to be more than a few hundred dollars, I will see someone closer.

Fewer than 10% of applicants for supply chain jobs have experience and qualifications to be successful in the application process.

Use This Checklist to Evaluate Opportunities – Position Yourself to Win

  1. Rate your resume:
    • Best – you have a competitive degree from a well ranked institution and have been on a rising trajectory in your career. The number of years of continuous success necessarily longer for more senior roles. Your resume reflects strong leadership & problem-solving skills.
    • Moderate – you have a competitive degree from a good school where you did well and you have been on a rising trajectory with no long gaps in employment, though you might have gotten laid off you were able to find a transitional role. Your resume reflects strong leadership & problem-solving skills.
    • Average – you were in an industry that contracted, you had several missteps and have been laid-off more than once, but your resume shows strong leadership and problem-solving skills, with a relevant degree from a school that gave you the chance to develop confidence. If your experience was with an industry leader, bump yourself to Moderate.
    • Fair – you have had a patchwork of experience with a variety of employers and have been unable to demonstrate your potential in order to advance. You may have changed your career focus at times – you’re looking for your next job, maybe a career. Bump yourself up to average if you have been in the work force for just 4 – 5 years.

    Match your resume to the employer you target. There are not better or worse employers but there are employers that lead in their industry and are able to attract the most competitive talent. Submit your resume where it will be competitive. As your resume becomes more competitive you will be able to compete for opportunities with more competitive employers. In an upcoming article, I will provide advice on how to find opportunities that allow you to compete.

  2. Assess the required qualifications. Make sure you have all the objective requirements e.g. the required degree, the required years of experience, any certifications and any relevant skills listed. If not, skip to the next possibility.
  3. Don’t try to muscle your way in. In my next article about the Job Search I will talk about hiring manager relationships – it will not work to contact a hiring manager or executive at the company for favorable treatment. You may acquire an information interview but if you are not qualified you will not circumvent the requirements that way.
  4. Assess the list of preferred qualifications. Determine, realistically, how well your resume would stand up against the average resume. If you are short of the desired skills, it might not be worth your effort to apply.
  5. Hold out for an opportunity that matches your experience. If you were recently a manager, trying to step into a lower level role with an equivalent employer will be difficult. Overqualified applicants are considered a flight risk – it is likely they will find a better opportunity and leave sooner than a candidate that is a good match for the role. Better to take a temporary role to allow you to continue your job search than to apply for lesser roles, especially if you hope to be compensated at a more senior rate.
  6. Don’t price yourself out of the market. Match your salary requirement to the market, plus or minus 5% of the mid-range.
  7. Look for positions within driving distance for interviews, or at most a short plane flight away. If you are able to move in a U-Haul, you will be more likely to find an opportunity with relocation. If you require a home buy-out, better to look at the local market.
  8. Provide a chronological resume with your work history clearly framed. Do not omit dates, Highlight accomplishments for each role – don’t worry if it is more than 2 pages. Electronically, it will only be one page.
  9. If you happen to know who the recruiter is send them a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for the time they spent reviewing your resume, knowing how busy they are and how limited their time is. Don’t ask for anything – just say thank you. That will catch the recruiter’s attention.
  10. Finally, include the best phone number to reach you; when a recruiter calls you they should not hear a phone that rings and rings.  Make sure there your email is one that you check regularly – it should be professional and easy to recognize in my email box. If your name is Steve DeVrey. Then or something close to that would be appreciated.

If you follow these guidelines your applications will more often be considered and less often fall down the resume rabbit hole. Not every time but if you submit 10-20 applicants to employers that are a good match to your resume your efforts should be rewarded with an interview. Know that what recruiters like most is to connect people with jobs – we don’t want to leave you in the dark but in a fast paced, high volume shop we have no choice but to bypass resumes that fail to match the requirements or our hiring managers.

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering ‘I will try again tomorrow” 
Mary Anne Radmacher

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Jeanne Ritterson, ECIR, is a full cycle recruiter employed by a Fortune 500 company. She specializes in technical recruiting and likes to understand what drives candidates so that she can assist them in a launching careers that match their career goals.

Categories: Articles, Career Advice

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