People who conduct a job search by resume distribution are playing a losing
game. They treat it like a numbers game, thinking that sending out 100
resumes by snail mail or blasting out 1,000 via an online service is better
than making one solid contact. They couldn't be more wrong. This strategy
provides the resume at the wrong point in the sales process (if you are
looking for a job, you are trying to sell your services).
And because of
the workload of pumping out so many resumes, resume distribution people develop one
resume that will fit
a large range of opportunities and change a few buzzwords in the cover
letter they send out with it. This is a flawed, time-wasting strategy that
keeps you from actually conducting a real job search. Are people looking for
a generalist at this time? Probably not. Are people looking to add staff so
they can grow, or are they seeking to grow and then adding staff as
With the economy in shambles (as it has been for quite some time), you
can guess at how companies are looking at their money. The national debt is
staggering to the US economy (total debt exceeds the annual economic output
of all of the earth's nations combined), and getting worse to the tune of half a billion
dollars a day. We know money doesn't grow on trees, therefore this debt is
essentially our tax bill.
That load is staggering enough, but the regulatory
load is also horrendous. The top 10 US banks spend an average of $83 million
each last year to comply with a long list of pointless federal regulations
(we know they are pointless, thanks to the 2008/9/10 banking fiascos). That one number
is instructive for looking at business in
Against this backdrop, you are trying to convince a company to divert
some of its very limited funds in your direction. For a company to do that, you have to
give it compelling reasons. You have to identify a problem that company has
and then identify yourself as the solution to it. And you have to
communicate this to the right person.
This is not something you can do by sending out resumes to people who get
hundreds of resumes a day. Your resume isn't going to open doors for you.
Yes, a resume can be helpful in a job search, but nobody is going to pull
yours out of a stack and get so excited that you will land an interview. It
very seldom works out that way.
In the big resume shuffle played by HR departments, you do need to send a
resume. And you might actually get hired that way. So how does this work?
Most companies want to fill an immediate need with a one-trick dog, and then
once they have that person onboard they expect a multi-talented person. Hmm.
What the smart marketer does is identify his/her top
strength--for example, "I am a C++ programmer." This is the one-trick dog
the HR dept is looking for, when combing through resumes. You have to
remember HR people are drones. When you do "generic job hunting" (sending
out resumes, posting on job search sites), these are the people you are
selling to. So, counting on this type of search (shot in the dark) as maybe
5% of your effort, you focus it on something very specific. Yeah, someone
from HR might extract from your resume something they are looking for. This
gets less and less likely with each passing year.
When you're in front of the hiring manager, who is perhaps looking at
other C++ experts, you are in front of a person who thinks more
strategically. He's thinking, "If only I had someone in house who do the
coding. I'd like to get down to 12 hour days, at least on Sundays. So I
really want someone who can admin this stuff as well. I have other projects
To get in front of that hiring manager, you have to do some digging. This
is exactly what a sales engineer has to do when trying to sell a software
solution. He doesn’t sit back and wait for responses to ads. He goes out and
finds clients. Your next employer is the client you are trying to find. If
you have no clue how to find clients, go to your local library and check out
three or four sales books. Read them, return them, and check out three or
four more. Read for at least an hour a day; it's the best use of an hour you
can make at this point.
You aren't looking for an employer, you are looking for a client. The fact you would be on a W-2 instead of a 1099 means nothing,
really--that's just a tax designation. The relationship is essentially the
same. It's always going to be at the pleasure of the client, and it's always
going to begin only if they need your specific services. They aren't
actively out looking for you, so you have to go to them.
What you need to be doing is picking one company at a time and
determining as much as you can about that company to see if it would have a
need for what you do. Spending 10 minutes on Google doesn't cut it. You have to really dig. Look at their products, their
markets, their key customers, etc. Your goal is to find a company that has a
need you are very qualified to fill. If it takes you 60 hours to figure out
one company, it takes you 60 hours. It probably will not take you that long,
but it sure will take more than 10 minutes to research a likely client.
You learn what you can to determine if you can help this company. But you do NOT send them a resume.
One reason not to send a resume is those go to HR. The HR people may not
yet be aware that there is a need. If you were
selling a new kind of server cabinet, you would not send a brochure to
Purchasing. Instead, you would locate the IT dept manager who is likely to
spec the server cabinets, and get that person to decide to requisition one
of your cabinets.
This is why, when searching for a job, you contact the relevant
department manager directly. You set up an informal meeting, if possible. An
informal meeting means you aren't going to talk to them about giving you a
job. You are going to talk with them about problems they may be having
relevant to your experience and expertise. You want to ask probing
questions, and you want to do more listening than talking.
You do NOT send a resume (doing so just gets HR involved before you can
sink the hook).
If the hiring manager asks for a resume, say you'd be happy to provide one after the
meeting. If s/he won't meet without one, that's fine--either s/he's not
interested in hiring, or s/he is so adept at not listening to people that this
is a job you really don't want. The "send me your resume" thing is the same
as "send me a brochure." It's another way of saying, "I really don't want to
hear what you have to say." It's a polite no. Any more time invested
with this potential client at this point is probably going to be wasted.
So, you've been laid off. But the good news is your company has hired an
outplacement firm to help you polish your resume and find great companies to
send it to. Or, is this the bad news?
This is really a marketing question.
What's the market?
Most outplacement services talk a good game, but they really don't help.
They pump out resumes, and report back to their client that they got you in
front of, say, 11 opportunities. The fact you weren't hired confirms to your
previous employer's HR dept that your dismissal was a wise move.
Most companies don't spend money on outplacement to help former
employees. They spend it to gather further evidence to protect themselves
from wrongful dismissal claims and to give the veneer of caring.
That is not to say outplacement firms are no good. It is to say that
their agenda and your agenda do not have a great deal of overlap. Tell your
outplacement counselor you want to focus on identifying what kinds of
problems you can solve and on what company or two has that problem. Then you
contact that company and discuss your solution with the person in charge of
A real job search
Don't think of a job search as a job search. This implies you are asking
someone to give you something (a job). This faulty form of thinking is why
so many people stay out of work for so long. Instead, figure out what you do
best and start looking for a company that would benefit if you do it for
This process takes time. You can spit out 100 resumes in a day, very
easily. But that's not 100 good contacts. It's just 100 envelopes sent to
100 people who have no particular reason to care about the contents of the
envelope. If you send 30 hours researching to find a single company that's a
fit and another 20 hours researching that company, it'll be a week before
you have any "output." But you won't still be vainly mailing out resumes 10
months from now. That 50 hours of solid research may end your job search
The key is to understand you need to meet someone else's need. They do
not need to meet yours. Find out who has the need, and contact that person
directly. Don't send a "toss in the trash" brochure. If they ask you to send
a resume, say you'll be happy to provide it "once we've established mutual
interest." You can the say, "If we don't establish that, it's one less thing
for you to read. I solve problems, and from my research I see you have
problem ABC. I can solve this problem for you. I'd like to discuss this
further with you, and if now is not a good time that's perfectly
Try then to get a date and time for a follow-up phone conversation. If
the other person declines, then thank him/her for his/her time and find
another potential client.
Make sure you prepare for a phone interview before making that first
contact. They may want to talk to you right then. Know exactly what the
problem is and have a summary of why you can solve the problem (do not tell
them how you would solve it).
If you've totally bombed at finding out what problems a particular
company has, then what you need to do is attend industry association
meetings, trade shows, seminars, etc., and ask people what they do and what
problems their company is having. Don't say you are looking for a job. Say
you solve problems ABC. Word will get out.
Once you've established mutual
interest with a potential client, you want them to extend an offer. So far,
you and they agree on the problem. But you haven't documented that you
possess the qualifications to solve it. Now is the time to provide your
resume. It shows you have the relevant experience and education. To ensure
you get a good offer, your resume should also document that you have
accomplished specific things you've quantified in dollars. You saved $30,000
a year by doing X; you did Y to gain the company an additional $95,000 in