Keep Your Resume Out of the Black Hole

My friend Stephanie wants to know why I'm so adamant about the Black Hole, the one that swallows resumes the way my dog eats mac and cheese off my seven-year-old's plate when the seven-year-old isn't looking. "I know there are a lot of people applying for these jobs, besides me," she says, "but my resume isn't bad. I know I'm playing the odds, but why not go for it?"

Here's why not. Stephanie doesn't understand how the Black Hole works, and in that respect she's exactly like most job-seekers, who think that the resumes lobbed into the Black Hole get reviewed one-by-one by a careful reader, either an HR person or someone in the hiring department. That happens sometimes, especially in small employers. Most of the time, the process works very differently. Here's a dramatization to give you an idea of the true nature of the Black Hole.

Let's say I'm an HR manager, and I'm sitting at my desk. Down the hall comes a hiring manager -- we'll call him Ted. "Liz," says Ted, "I just got a job requisition approved. You'll see it in your email inbox." "Cool," I say. "What sort of person are you looking for?"

"It's a product manager job," says Ted. "Five to seven years experience."

"Awesome," I say, and I spin around in my chair and check in my inbox. Sure enough, there's Ted's requisition. "Give me a second and I'll put it on Monster," I say. It could be Monster. It could be Craigslist. Whatever it is, I type the thing in there and I hit Submit and the job is posted. Took me a minute and half; it's a clerical thing. "Do you want to check with me on Tuesday?" I ask Ted. "I'll have a bunch of resumes in the queue by then."

Ted heads off to a meeting. I pretty much forget about that job spec out on Monster, crazed as I am with a million other things to think about. Ted shows up on Tuesday and he asks me "How's it going with those resumes for my Product Manager?" I have no idea, so I spin around in my chair again. I log into the company's Monster account and check the Product Manager file. "Eighty-seven resumes," I say. That's light. It could easily be two hundred and twelve.

Ted says "Why don't you phone-screen ten of them and give me the best five." Now look what Ted has given me: a batch process. An assignment. "You got it," I say. I start downloading resumes. Here's the question: how many resumes do I pull down from Monster, to get my ten people to phone-screen?

Ten resumes? Twenty? Some of them may have egregious typos and spelling errors. Maybe I need to go through twenty-five or thirty before I find ten suitable phone-screen-able people. That still leaves fifty-seven resumes up on Monster. I'm not going to look at them. Ted is not going to look at them. No one looks at them. Those people have no chance at the job, at all.

Why would I look at eighty-seven resumes when the first twenty I pull out of the stack are good enough? I wouldn't. In no sense will the best-qualified person who applied for the job,  get the job. It'll be the best-qualified person out of the people who are interviewed. The randomness of the process, from a job-seeker's perspective, is crushingly discouraging.

That is why the Black Hole sucks....resumes.

As a job-seeker, you cannot put yourself in the position to have your resume ignored by employer after employer. There has to be a more proactive way to go after a job, and luckily, there is.

You can talk to hiring managers directly.

You have to find out who the hiring manager is. The smaller the organization, the easier it is to do that. The larger the organization, the more complex and confusing the org chart will be. Even LinkedIn searching can't help us find the right hiring manager, most of the time, at IBM. The company is too big. In that case, we have to use our own networks - our LinkedIn network, our Facebook peeps and our regular old three-D network - to get to someone who knows someone, and make an introduction for us.

If we drop down to employers with only a few thousand employees in our city or region, we may be able to find the person with the opening. Then, we can avoid the Black Hole altogether.

Thank goodness.

There is another problem with the Black Hole, apart from the fact that most of the resumes tossed into it are never seen by human eyes (and that's bad enough). The other problem is that the person on the receiving end of the Black Hole is not a person like you and me, but a single-celled animal; specifically, an amoeba.

I'll talk about that in the next blog post.


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