The Basics
 

4. Mistakes That Kill


 
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Mistakes That Kill
The New Interview
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Before we go on to talk about The New Interview™, let's blow away three of the bugaboos that really hurt job hunters: the job market, want ads, and resumes. These can kill you.

I. Analyzing the job market

Here's the news -- downsizing is up. 7,000 laid off at a transportation company. A bank cans 2,000. An airline boots 4,000. A communications company drops 8,500. Jobless claims are on a seesaw ride. The state of the job market makes people worry, and that makes them terrible job hunters.

Headhunters couldn't care less what the job market is doing. Their power stems from their ability to solve a company's problem. They look for employers that need help. When downsizings result in masses of people changing jobs, companies rely on headhunters even more, because it's harder to weed through all those desperate, inappropriate candidates when you're trying to fill a few important positions that will help the company survive and thrive when the economy turns back up. In many cases, the same companies that are firing people out one door are hiring people through another and paying fees for help to do so.

Don't waste time fretting over the news. If headhunters did that, they'd go out of business. Spend your time finding managers who have work that needs to be done. Don't make assumptions about what jobs are not available.

Which brings us to the single largest directory of jobs that are not available...

II. Poring over the want ads

Job hunters look at the online job boards (or the classifieds) and see opportunities beckoning. Headhunters see a big sump, where the troublesome masses collect and spiral away down the drain. And that's where headhunters like to see their competition: out of the way, getting processed by personnel jockeys.

When I lived near San Francisco, I had to explain to my frequent east coast guests that the one place they hoped to visit was the one place we would avoid: Fisherman's Wharf. Like the job boards, Fisherman's Wharf is a sump. It's the place San Francisco has set aside to corral loud, unruly, bothersome tourists. It keeps them off the streets. And the city goes to lengths to convince outsiders that this is the best place to go when you visit. No self-respecting San Franciscan would waste his or her time at Fisherman's Wharf. It's a pit.

So are the jobs data bases. When 5,000 people apply for a job, the job is hardly "available." Simple statistics will tell you that even an outstanding candidate can slip through the cracks while unsophisticated personnel jockeys are screening thousands of applicants. (And that's before they get around to actually interviewing a handful.)

Like that little post card says, "Thank you for submitting your resume. We are currently evaluating your qualifications. Due to the large number of responses, we will not be able to get back to you any time soon. If ever." Do you really consider that job available? Go buy a lottery ticket.

The other reason these jobs are not really available is because while Personnel is reading resumes, some headhunter has met with the hiring manager, submitted three candidates, and is helping one of them evaluate an offer. Personnel doesn't even know this is happening. Bzzzt! Time's up. On to the next resume database.

III. Over-emphasizing your resume

When you want a promotion, do you give your boss a resume? Of course not. You walk into his office and convince him you can do the work.

Then, why would you do any less to win a new job with your future boss?

Your resume is not your ambassador. Ever try to get a date by mailing out a resume? It's tough enough competing with the hordes of job hunters. Why put such a weak foot forward? It's a piece of paper! Among thousands! Are you willing to trust your future to it?

Ever hear that a company you sent your resume to got 8,000 resumes for that one job? Do you really think anyone read your resume? As carefully as you constructed it?

Then there's that firm in Kansas that mass-mails thousands of people's resumes to thousands of companies. That's who you're competing with. Pity the poor manager who has to read resumes from people who don't even know they sent him their resume. Maybe not today, but soon, that manager will tell his personnel department to screw off and he will bring in a headhunter to fill the position.

Headhunters avoid giving clients resumes because they know the resume can only hurt a candidate about whom an employer already has all the information he needs. Print up about 25 copies of your resume. Give it only to managers who request it after you have talked or met with them. And make sure your resume commits Resume Blasphemy™.

Okay. Let's get on to what you can do to make your job hunt wildly successful.

Next: The New Interview

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I just downloaded
How to Work with Headhunters. Excellent! I will recommend that each of our Executive MBAs get this book. It's a very comprehensive treatment of every aspect of recruiting, search firms, career management firms and more. I especially like the Back of the Napkin section at the end. Looks like you thought of everything!

Susan Dearing
Director,
ProMBA Career Management Center
UCLA
Anderson School of Management