Improving Performance

“I’ve sent hundreds of resumés electronically, and I’m still out of a job! Every time I hit the send button, I feel like I’m sending into a black hole that will never respond. Sometimes, I get an automatic response from the computer telling me someone will contact me if there’s any interest, but that’s it. Are there any humans who can respond attached to these things?”

No doubt there are still far fewer jobs than there are people available to fill them. In some cases, on-line ads get hundreds of resumés per hour, and yes, that can be for a single job. They use machines to screen them, and they inadvertently eliminate a lot of very qualified people as a result.

Additionally, it’s important to note that HR folks are not necessarily trying to find the very best people for these jobs. Yes, I know, everybody says they are, but think about it. How can they possibly analyze such volumes to ensure they’re inviting only the very best in for interviews?

HR folks often have little understanding of the jobs for which they are screening. How would they know who is best qualified? Admittedly, there are general criteria (e.g. 10 years experience is probably better than two, etc.), but they are probably not qualified to pick up the nuances that make one candidate far better qualified than another. Most hiring managers would know, but they don’t have time to screen the resumés; they have real jobs to do.

What HR is really looking for are acceptable candidates. They want to be able to give hiring managers a number of “acceptable” resumés. HR will never get into trouble for screening the most brilliant candidates out. Who would know? On the other hand, if they submit a few unacceptable ones they’ll hear about it. That’s how they’re measured, and that’s understandably where they focus.

A different approach

It has to be frustrating to be doing all the right things and be getting nowhere. Just being the best doesn’t necessarily get you hired. If you feel very qualified for the jobs for which you’ve applied, and aren’t getting any response, perhaps a different approach would work better. As long as you aren’t working for your target companies yet, you don’t have to follow their processes.

When you find an ad, electronic or paper, don’t respond! Instead, do a little research. Try to find out what you can about the company, so you will be able to tailor your approach to what they value or need. Call the company and speak with the receptionist. See if you can find out who the hiring manager is likely to be. If you’re looking for a job in engineering, perhaps it’s the engineering manager. If it’s a large company, there may be several for different departments.

No question, voice mail makes it tougher to get a real person, but consider it a challenge. Once you get him or her, be especially gracious and fun to chat with. You’d be amazed at what you can learn.

Once you’ve got all this and a person’s name, that is to whom you should respond. If you get several names, who are likely to be the hiring manager(s), respond to them simultaneously. Chances are, they don’t have a machine screening their mail. If you get lucky, your resumé will be reviewed by the person who will be most affected by whoever is hired.

Of course, it’s important to understand that your first communication with your potential manager will show that you don’t follow directions. Explain why you are contacting him or her directly, addressing what is beneficial to them. If you take their perspective – and, of course, you’re demonstrating that you’ve done some research – well that’s called initiative, something many managers would like to find more of in their people.

I know a sales manager who won’t even look at the resumés he gets from HR. He needs salespeople who will be able to get themselves in front of managers in potential client organizations. He uses their ability to get in front of him as the first hurdle for screening candidates. He figures if they can’t get in front of him, they probably can’t get in front of his clients either.

If it makes you feel better, respond the regular way through HR, but try this approach as well. What do you have to lose? This approach is a lot of work, so rest assured, the hiring manager won’t be getting hundreds of responses per hour. If you need to differentiate yourself from the masses, this could be a way to do it, and you demonstrate your ingenuity besides.

The job you’re looking for could be easy to do compared to the process of actually getting it. You can wait to “get lucky,” or see if you can speed things up a bit.

Ronald J. Bourque is a consultant and speaker from Windham. He has had engagements throughout the United States as well as in 12 nations in Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 898-1871; fax 894-6539;;

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