A Process for Avoiding The Resume Black Hole

There are some good informational assets on LinkedIn about writing resumes that catch attention. The best one I’ve read is HERE and a there is also a rather good one by Liz Ryan on the idea of a “Pain Letter”. However, I still regularly field calls from candidates concerned that they aren’t getting traction with resume submissions to companies, a.k.a. the Resume Black Hole.

There are some good informational assets on LinkedIn about writing resumes that catch attention. The best one I’ve read is HERE and a there is also a rather good one by Liz Ryan on the idea of a Pain Letter. However, I still regularly field calls from candidates concerned that they aren’t getting traction with resume submissions to companies, a.k.a. the Resume Black Hole.

Let me make a few starting assumptions. First, your resume and track record is strong. If you don’t have a strong track record or your resume is weak, start there and check out this article later on. Second, the assumption is that your background, skill sets and personal characteristics align well with the job for which you are applying. If they don’t match the principal elements of the role, you are wasting your time. Finally, I’m assuming that there is an actual job requirement, such as an online post. Informational interviews and skating to where the puck is going to be are very good ideas, but if there is no near term need, it is obvious why things aren’t progressing.

People with whom I speak routinely ask whether they should apply online. Answer? Yes. The ATS (Applicant Tracking System) entry is a requirement for many companies for legal and tracking reasons. The ATS is not your enemy, although the process of data entry can be cumbersome. That said, if all you are doing is applying online, you are missing the boat!

Liz Ryan highlights methods to figure out who hiring managers are. In addition, you may know people at a given employer. If not, you must endeavor to find connections who are employed at the company and who might champion your candidacy. I learned early on in my recruiting career to “get a coach and catch a break”. Even if your connection is not in the same department, they may be willing to help you navigate. After all, they may get a recruitment referral bonus if you get hired!

Don’t limit your follow up to contacting the hiring manager or recruiter directly. If you can get a referral to introduce you or, better yet, if more than one person becomes a referral source, this can be a powerful prescription to crack doors open.

In regards to follow up, there are articles that indicate it takes 7 or more “touches” to make a sale. My feeling is that, although getting a new job IS making a sale, 7 may be too many touches in most cases. The reasoning is that a professional sales person will do more than one “deal”, over time, with a company whereas the hiring process is a one time “sale”. Irrespective of the number of attempts, the idea is being pleasantly persistent but not crossing the line to becoming a nuisance.

Timing is also important, as is frequency and type of follow up. Think about potential demographic preferences, as well. If your hiring manager is around my age, they may prefer a follow up email or telephone call versus a text message. I find people’s communication patterns can also be different than what the demographics suggest, so try different forms of communication (written, email, telephone, etc.) and mix it up.

The following timeline represents a sample online application follow up and assumes you haven’t had a formal response along the way. This strategy might change in light of different knowledge about the company, what intelligence you can garner, etc. but it may help in understanding how follow up might occur.

12/5 – You notice a position posted at an employer of choice and call your friend Jerry, who is employed there, to see if he knows more about the role and inquire as to whether he might be a champion and/or whether his company offers a referral bonus for making an introduction. You apply online and research other connections and who the hiring manager may be.

12/12 – You send a “Pain Letter” and/or cover letter and resume, snail mail with handwritten address, to the hiring manager and ask Jerry to send a follow up email to the internal recruiter / HR.

12/19 – You leave a voice mail for the hiring manager introducing yourself and stressing your interest in the company and opportunity. Add some content that may be different than what was written in the “Pain Letter” or your resume. Something new that adds value…

1/5 – You send a follow up email to the hiring manager thanking him / her for consideration with the assumption that they may have hired an alternate candidate. You wish him / her well but leave the door open as you don’t know, for sure, that it is closed.

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