November 4, 2011

Today’s Hann Stand:

Your resume is a tool – using it the RIGHT way is NOT “as easy as child’s play” !!!

Some years ago, a well known Canadian company ran a series of successful TV ads, in which a pair of rather serious-faced young children touted the use of the company’s technology and services as being “as easy as child’s play.” The ads certainly got people’s attention. However, more than one person remarked that they found the ads a bit condescending, somewhat irritating, since they didn’t much appreciate being lectured to by precocious 8-year-olds.

The unintended consequence of these ads was to remind us just how much we continue to struggle with technology that was pure science fiction when we were kids!!!

Our kids, meanwhile, have become our first line of technical support. Whenever we experience difficulty with the latest Android phone, Tablet or other groovy Gizmo, our ‘in-house juvenile techie wunderkind’ can usually solve the “problem” before we can even finish (inexpertly) describing it.

That same technology has dramatically changed many of the rules that relate to the JOB HUNT. The how’s, and when’s, and the correct etiquette you should use in submitting your resume to employers of interest, are a whole new ballgame.

So here’s the deal, as it relates to technology: don’t get ‘trigger happy’ as you set about your job search. You absolutely need to avoid the unintended consequence of appearing to “spam” your resume to prospective employers and especially their in-house Talent Acquisition Recruitment teams as well as Third Party Recruiters (companies like me). Not only will you NOT GET THE JOB, but you will most likely cause irritation that could cost you heavily down the road.

 So here’s the most graphic example: The death of the “broadcast resume”.

Time was when you could send your resume, with a suitable and well crafted cover letter, to one or more contacts at a firm which interested you, and then follow up with a phone call. These unsolicited communications were one way of cracking the “hidden” job market and a way of circumventing the supposed appropriate process. The odds of success were always low but if it worked, it was a great way to get your foot in the door. Now that email has replaced conventional “snail mail,” and voice mail acts as a shield for unwanted calls, the probability of getting a callback is virtually zero. Worse, the unintended consequence of your diligent email campaign could be to get you a reputation as a “spammer” – and trust me that’s the last place you want to be.

I know a handful of really good candidates who think they have done an effective job of getting their resumes in front of all the top companies, and Management Consulting Firms and Utilities and Public Sectors Organisations and so on and so on, you get my drift. After a while these unfortunate people generate a reputation, and reaction – “oh, that guy…seen him but can’t use him…” followed by the eye roll. And it may not be fair but it’s true, because it’s a perception thing – it means that you have broadcast your resume way, way too much and you can’t change that because the harm is already done.

Potential employers have neither the time, nor the inclination, to sift through hundreds of emails from individuals seeking their next career move.  Nothing frustrates an in-house recruiter more than going through piles of resumes of candidates who are unsuitable or what our industry calls “remote fits” for open positions – or whose resumes do not clearly demonstrate that they are, in fact, a suitable and relevant fit for the open position.

Seriously, how can you expect a potential employer to take the time to read your resume, let alone contact you, if you haven’t taken the time to target your resume to the specific position you are applying for? The onus is on you to lead the reader to the specific information which TELLS and SELLS how you are specifically suited to the position for which they are screening. The easier you make it the higher probability you have of getting the result you want.  Do not assume that a “generalist” resume will even be looked at, because it almost certainly will not. There just isn’t the time.

Indeed, many organisations now employ electronic “resume screeners”, which search cover letters and resumes for relevant “keywords” to assist in the mining of talent. Helpful as pointers, no tool can do the same or better job than you of selecting the combination of phrases and words that match the specific position you are applying for. So that resume had better be tailored specifically to EACH position, and contain the  necessary relevant keywords the search engine seeks, or your candidacy will never see the light of day. And that is probably the most valuable piece of information you will get for your job search.

How best to adapt to this new reality? First and foremost – NEVER send your resume unsolicited. Always respond either to an ad, or to a personal request to see your resume. Next, be selective – reply only to positions for which you are well-qualified. If it’s a stretch and you don’t meet the qualifications for at least 80% of the role, don’t apply – you will just be an irritant and worst of all you might get flagged as a spammer.

Even more importantly, make certain your resume highlights your suitability for the position you seek. Make sure the important keywords mentioned in the job posting are present in both your resume and definitely your cover letter.

Apply only for specific positions relevant to your skills, experience and education. Don’t say, for example, “I am looking for something in Retail Procurement.” Say instead “I am an accomplished Category Manager, with a background specific to Retail Procurement in the areas of Apparel and Health & Beauty”.  Be focused – employers are becoming increasing myopic when it comes to hiring and they don’t have time to waste. They want specialists, and they want employees who understand that.

So your resume should highlight your strengths and achievements relative to the position you seek. You need to present yourself as the specialist the employers need – there really is no room these days for generalists, at least in the fields in which Argentus’ specialises – including Supply Chain Management & Procurement in Retail, Financial Services, and Manufacturing.

Oh and on one of my most favourite topics, accuracy and honesty are always paramount. Assume that every assertion you make on or about your credentials can and will be verified. The internet allows for anyone to find out anything about anyone else these days, so assume you are an open book and you’ll be OK.

To land that job, you will need to clearly demonstrate that your services will produce a strong return on the company’s investment in you – it’s all about ROI these days. Close the loop, and actually tell a prospective employer what you can and will do for them. Don’t make them guess – put them in the picture because no-one has the time to put themselves in the picture and you’ll thank yourself when you land the interview.

The bottom line? No one wants to get a reputation for being someone who applies for anything and everything – that sort of thing gets around quickly (see my earlier posting about “informal references”), and eventually no-one will touch you. That’s a bad place to be in – you certainly you don’t want to be there.

Over and out


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