Put Your Resumé To Work

We often say, "The road to a better job begins with a better résumé." Clearly the résumé is only the beginning. Once you have that résumé in hand, it's up to you to put it to work in the most effective manner possible.

Gone With the Wind is a great American novel. But would it have fulfilled its potential if only four or five copies were ever circulated? Your winning résumé presents you as someone who is capable of making a valuable contribution to a company. But how much good can it do if not enough people see it? Some people believe that if a résumé is really good, all they have to do is submit it to the company of their choice and wait to be invited for an interview and be offered a position. You may have an absolutely terrific résumé but that doesn't mean everyone who sees it will automatically call you in for an interview. Human beings are very subjective. A perfectly capable candidate may be judged "overqualified" for a particular position in one company while being considered "underqualified" for an identical position in another company by a different hiring manager.

Many would say the greatest twentieth century author for young children books is the late Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. He was certainly the most successful. Yet his first book and perhaps his best-known, The Cat in the Hat, was turned down by over 60 publishers before someone finally realised its value. What if Dr. Seuss had given up after five, 10 or even 50 submissions?

That there is safety in numbers is an old saying. Suppose you have your heart set on going to work for one particular company but get nowhere with the person to whom you've applied. Sometimes it is possible to apply to another person within that same company who may also have sufficient authority to hire you.

Most people realise it is generally best to target many companies in hope of finding that right one that truly values you. The more résumés you circulate, the more interviews you'll get. The more interviews you have, the more likely it is you'll be offered a position. Systematic job seekers are able to establish a ratio of interviews per number of résumés and cover letters they send out. However, those with winning résumés and cover letters find that ratio improves substantially compared to when they were using their former run-of-the-mill résumé. Generally speaking there are six approaches that one can take as part of a serious job search:

  • Responding to job listings on the Web and in newspapers and trade publications
  • Working with school placement offices
  • Working with recruiters and/or employment agencies
  • Posting your résumé for employers to see on eRecruitment sites
  • Personal networking with friends, relatives, acquaintances and through professional organizations
  • Contacting companies "cold"

This latter method is the equivalent of what professional salespeople refer to as "cold calling," and while some salespeople do not care to do it, many successful salespeople realise it is an excellent way to make sales. Not the least reason being that many of their competitors won't bother to do it! Generally speaking, we have found that this is the single most effective job-search method for the largest number of people.

Let's now consider some of the other approaches:
Applying for advertised positions is typically where you'll have the most competitors. It is therefore essential to have a top-quality résumé as well as an effective cover letter. Your ratio of interviews to applications will also depend on the law of supply and demand. Positions for which the supply of applicants is high but the demand low will be more competitive than when the opposite is true. However even here, a winning résumé makes your odds considerably better than they might otherwise be.

Both recruiters and employment agencies rely very heavily on résumés, as this is how they first present job prospects to their clients. Therefore, if you want to be taken seriously by these people, it behooves you to have a winning résumé.

The quality of service students and alumni receive from placement offices of schools, colleges and universities varies greatly. Some do little more than post job openings while others help students write résumés and organize a systematic job search. Likewise, the quality of assistance students receive to write their résumés varies. A few placement people are professional résumé writers; however, they are very rare. Most of the time the student is merely given a few sheets of résumé-writing instructions or at best a "how to" book. If you are a student who has already taken the time to prepare his or her own résumé, you should consider if it is effectively marketing what you have to offer or merely makes you come across as just another body.

Because students and recent grads typically find themselves competing with large numbers of people in similar circumstances and often all at the same time of the year, they as much as anyone need résumés to tout the UNIQUE contribution each of them can make to a prospective employer.

The committed job seeker should by no means overlook personal networking. Nor should your network be limited to those you know. Rather, it should branch out from those you know to those they know to those they know, ad infinitum. That is why an introduction obtained through networking can be so valuable. It not only opens the door but serves to counter much of the initial mistrust that is endemic when we meet people today.

So by all means expand your personal network as far as possible and have plenty of copies of your résumé to pass along to people, some of which they can, in turn, pass along to others.