Observations after reviewing hundreds of resumes, for entry level jobs
Resumes suck. Even the pretty ones. About a year ago I was interviewing people for an entry-level tech marketing assistant job for a rapidly growing tech company. As you might expect, I got a lot of resumes, hundreds in fact. If you bemoan the fact that companies don’t even acknowledge receipt of resumes, understand how overwhelming the process can be. It bothers me to not respond, even with a canned ‘no thanks’, but to be honest, 95% of the resumes I went through had exactly zero relevance to the job description. It was: read the first sentence or two and hit delete. It’s that bad, and it has been for years.
Part of the reason for this is the ease of access to job descriptions, regardless of geolocation. A few keyword searches on Indeed or a similar site and you get lots and lots of jobs sent your way. Apparently some people just send their CV to every single one. This is possibly the worst strategy for finding a job, especially an entry level job. So what do you do?
The vast majority of jobs are not filled by posting job listings and reading resumes
As your career progresses, and your experience gets more refined, you’ll find that network connections are how people get hired. But if you’re new to the market, you don’t have the experience to get those connections, or even to make them. The result is applicants exaggerating the value of school projects or part time jobs to flesh out their resume. Take it from me, that is blatantly obvious, especially for a role like marketing where there is a general perception that anyone can do it (they can’t, at least not these days. That’s another article). To put it bluntly, promoting your coder club meetup is not a marketing experience milestone. You have to make an end run around the resume racket. And if you get it right, the person doing the hiring will really appreciate the effort.
This applies to any hiring situation
First, you need to decide what your perfect next job is. Put some time into this and realize that whatever you come up with is a theory. People design their lives around careers that they turn out to hate, because at the beginning someone told them this or that would be perfect for them. You need to find out whether that dream role is a dream or a nightmare. You do this by finding people who do it and asking them what it’s like day to day. I know, that’s a hard assignment but take advantage of your newbie status and ask for advice. Be professional about it and be as prepared as possible, just as you should be for an interview. Learn about their company and its business sector, read through their LinkedIn profile, and when you are ready, reach out to them for a brief meeting, no more than twenty minutes long. Offer to go to them or do a phone meeting. Don’t try and do this via email or Slack. You can’t get a read on their emotional reactions like you can when you’re one on one. Have your questions ready. Then do this with at least two more people in similar roles at other companies or organizations.
Back to that article
Now you should have some notes about the type of job you’re seeking, what’s involved, and an idea whether it is something you see yourself doing as a career move. Organize those notes into a story of the process, starting with why you chose that role to study and who you talked to, then on to what you learned. Don’t just focus on the positive, look for the challenges you think are entailed and write about them. Imagine you’re sitting with a friend over a beer or a coffee and telling them how you got to this point. If you need help with the writing, find a writer friend to help. They’re out there. Get it down to about 700 words. Tell it as a story, don’t use phony business-speak. It won’t impress. What will is the fact that you made the effort. Now start the search process, but skip the resume.
Try to get a name and a one to one contact with someone
Now, go upstairs into management of the company you’re interested in, but be careful about it. Consider getting a free trial of a Pro LinkedIn account that gives you the ability to InMail a certain number of people. Be selective. Target someone a couple of steps above the role you’re interested in. Remember, if a senior member of a team gives your name to one of their subordinates, that person is basically obligated to at least consider you.
Send them a note that says:
“I am an entry level job seeker looking for a job in [sector]. To prepare for my job search I’ve been doing research and interviews, and I wrote a brief article about what I learned. I wonder if you could take a minute to look at it (I’ve attached a copy). I see that your company has an opening for a similar job and I’m wondering if you think I might be a fit, based on my article?
Thank you for considering this request. If it’s not a good fit, I’d rather know that, and if it is I’d appreciate your sharing this with the appropriate person.
Once again thanks for your time,
Before you send it, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up to date. Include a link to it in your signature. Make sure you have someone proofread the profile, article, and email- a typo will blow you out of the water.
This sounds like a lot of work
That’s because it is, and the people you share this with will know that and appreciate it. That’s really the point about this, that you went above and beyond to find the job you want, even without much experience. But there is a lot more to it than that. The people you interviewed are now network contacts, as are those who responded to the article, even if you didn’t get the job. This is how it works in the real world.
If this seems like too much work, consider this: this could lead to a job that pays you good money, and more important, offers real world experience and more connections, which are currency. Isn’t that worth putting in the effort?
I’ve been that senior executive, and I’ve been that poor sucker wading through resumes. If someone approached me this way and did their homework, they would go right to the top of the pile, because they didn’t just tell me about initiative, they took it.