Ask the HR Guy – Resume Spam

You’ll hear some variant of this a lot in this economy:

“Sara has sent out a hundred resumes. Sara has gotten only one interview. Sara is so, so sad. Feel sad for Sara.”


As you might have guessed from my condescending tone, there’s massive logical flaws in both of these statements. Yeah, the economy sucks. But HR departments aren’t noted for their economic barometry. Let’s start with the obvious; looking at who’s unemployed.

What’s most telling is to break down employment stats by educational status. People holding a college degree, equivalent, or higher have been wavering between 93 – 96% employment, and yes, that’s after the recession kicked in. There’s a reason for this; any job that requires a college degree can really only pick among about 30% of the American population. And that’s just a general office job; as you might guess the percentages drop like a rock if you’re looking for a degree or certification in a specific field.

Then look at just the high school diploma holders, about eighty percent of the population. THEY’RE fluttering somewhere around ten to twelve percent, depending on what numbers you’re looking at. And you probably don’t need me to tell you how bad it is for high-school dropouts: I’ve seen unemployment estimates for them ranging as high as 20%.

So that explains the second: unemployment rates for high school dropouts are always high relative to the rest of the population, so if you put up a job they’re qualified for, you’re going to get buried under resumes, even if the Dow crosses 36,000 next week.

So what about the first?

Again, even in the best of times, if you send out 500 resumes, you’re going to hear back from, max, ten percent of those, and maybe ten percent of those will go to an interview. Also, none of them will be punctual about it. So, quite frankly, searching for three jobs in your field and applying for them isn’t going to do shit.

Look, this is how it really works in HR departments. A job posting goes up, resumes come in, and the recruiter looks at the resumes. If they like it, it goes in a stack with the rest of the resumes they’re going to pass on to the hiring manager. If they don’t, into the trash it goes. No, you will not get a nice letter saying “Thank you, please apply some other time.” The recruiter has better things to do than salve your feelings, and contacting a person you have no interest in opens the door to all sorts of problems, namely people you don’t want to talk to calling you all the time.

So, having the resume stack severely reduced, it goes to the hiring manager. The hiring manager picks out the ones they like, usually three to five candidates, and the rest are the back bench. Usually it’s those three to five.

What the solution to this? First off, run your resume by a professional. Except in specific fields, it should fit on two pages max. Then, send send send.

1) Go digital. Unless they either specifically request it or don’t accept digital resumes, you should be sending it by email to them.

2) Customize. With digital especially, there is absolutely NO reason than you shouldn’t include a customized cover letter. These things aren’t hard to rewrite. Point out your previous experience in your cover letter.

3) Go to staffing agencies. A staffing agency will be contracted to fill jobs you won’t know about. Don’t be shy; hit as many as you can and get your resume out there.

4) Use Craigslist. Anybody not using Craigslist to post or find a job is a moron. I’ve heard complaints about scammers. Yeah, so? Welcome to the Internet: that’s what the delete button is for. Craigslist gets more traffic, both ways, and costs less. There’s…well, plenty wrong with other job sites, but you should check in with those as well. But Craigslist needs to be your primary starting point; the only thing it doesn’t have that the others do is an advertising budget.

5) Don’t just apply to three jobs and call it a day. Apply to any job that can make effective use of your skills. It’s not your industry? So what? It’s still your skill set.

None of these are any sort of magic bullet, mind you. But it’s worth remembering that finding a job, no matter when, is hard work. So put your back into it.


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