You see a job posting. You like the title, like the look of the job, love the location; you know you are perfect for this job. You push the send button on the resume you use for all the perfect jobs you find, the ones you just know you can do better than anyone else. All you have to do now is wait for the phone call, the interview, the offer.
Okay, it really doesn’t work that way. You have just made a mistake. Well not a huge one, but I think the odds are not in your favor. Here are some reasons why:
1. The job might not exist at all. Oh yes, it’s posted somewhere, and someone might have held that job once upon a time, but for now it might very well be a budget placeholder, approved and funded and as long as it’s empty, keeping a department somewhere in high enough cotton to protect the really valuable jobs and people in them.
2. An agency, recruiter, or contractor is gathering resumes and hoping to score paying clients–either you or a company who will soon get your recently floated and slightly redacted (missing your name and contact info) paperwork.
3. The posting is required by the company’s affirmative action plan or other internal policy, but the real candidates are already working for the company and have been preparing for that job for many years.
4. The posting is required by the company’s affirmative action plan or other policy, but the real candidates are those who will see the posting and look for a friend or other inside connection. The friend will hand carry a specially crafted version of the clever candidate’s resume complete with personal recommendation to the hiring manager or top HR executive with a friendly smile, and hope that he or she will earn the usual bonus for referring the candidate who gets the job offer.
4. The job has been posted four times this year and hundreds of candidates have been screened. No one is hired because the job is really a political minefield between two department managers who want control of the turf, budget, output, and incumbent. Lucky you, this one is the bullet you dodged.
5. No one wants to tell the sucker to whom the job reports that this is really his or her job, once the reorganization takes place. Meanwhile half the company is in on the strategy to “just leave it alone, we’ll tell him/her when the right time comes.” Or we’ll get HR to do it, so don’t let them in on the secret.
6. The job was eliminated a month ago, but those lists are automated and the recruiter who is supposed to correct the list is on vacation/furlough/sick leave/drugs.
7. The job listing will eventually expire and this will all be resolved. Nobody ever gets hired from those job boards anyhow.
So, you say, this makes no sense. Why would my perfectly good resume not make everyone over at that crazy company sit up, take notice, and call me right away, even if any of those things you said are at least slightly true? Because that’s not how it works.
Fewer than 4% of all the people who get jobs this year will get them by hitting that send button and applying for a job they saw online. My deepest suspicion is that in that 4% are those who were directed to apply that way because the company has no other way to connect its applicants with its tracking system, and so they referred the insiders to the outside to get them officially inside, if that makes any sense. Applicant tracking systems are supposed to do a lot of heavy administrative lifting, but they have rules and standards that must be obeyed. Some require that you all use the same front door, hence the need to have your buddy lead you to and through it.
My very favorite authority on finding a job, Nick Corcodilis, has the definitive analysis of why you don’t want to pin your hopes–any hopes at all–on job boards:
Job-Board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter (from 2003 – but still valid as the day is long…)
And that resume of yours. When you load it up with all the cool and award winning stuff you ever did, making such a heavy handed case that you must be the Right One, and so that it will work for all the jobs you might ever want. . . well, you look a.) old, b.) desperately competitive, c.) not fun to work with, and d.) a little naive.
Attaching samples of your work. No, a thousand times no. Once your work is done, it’s over. Even though I might love to revisit the very first compensation plan I ever wrote from beginning to end, some of the people it covered are gone now, for good. Yes, the plan is over for them, as it was over for me when the plan year and my employment with that company ended.
On the other hand, when your stripped down sports model of a resume is hand carried by either the retained search firm who got your name from a good buddy of yours that you had lunch with last week, or your good buddy himself or herself, it doesn’t matter what’s on the resume.
What gets you the job you want is a relationship with someone who can get you invited into a great conversation with the decisionmaker, who ends up liking you, trusting you and wanting to work with you. Period. That’s just how it works.