In the December 9, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker asks how to format a resume for best results:
When you reply via e-mail to a job ad, what is the preferred method of sending a cover letter and a resume? A formatted document, or plain text? Many don’t specify.
First let’s use my Magic Resume Calculator to figure out how many resumes you should send out. Then we’ll discuss how to format them.
How many resumes?
I’m guessing 95%. But, use your actual results. I’ll stick with 95% for this example, based on my experience with all the job seekers I know. Pretty pathetic, eh? Yah, that’s why you’re so frustrated, and it’s why you’re asking for advice.
Now let’s consider the next number: What percentage of the time did you submit a resume or application to someone you actually know, who knows you? I’m guessing maybe 5%. (Sheesh, eh?)
The Magic Resume Calculator tells us you can save 95% of your time by sending out 95% fewer resumes. To maximize your chances of success, send resumes only to people you know who know you.
Obvious, huh? Well, then why aren’t you already doing that?
How to format your resume
When you submit a resume, whether via e-mail or on paper, it’s reasonable to assume that an employer will shove it through resume scanning equipment. So your first step is to call the company and ask exactly what format the machine prefers. That is, if you really want to compete for a machine’s attention.
As a headhunter, what matters to me is whether your resume demonstrates your ability to do the job and to add profit to the company’s bottom line. To a smart employer (where a human is doing the reading), formatting doesn’t matter if the information is valuable. You could put it in the body of an e-mail, in an attachment, or on a piece of paper.
Here’s what matters most to me when I receive a resume:
1. Is the sender someone I know? If not, it gets deleted. I have no time to waste with people who have not taken the trouble to track me down and talk with me before they send me a piece of paper.
That’s not to say I like unsolicited phone calls. The people I’m most likely to talk with have been referred to me by other people I know and trust.
My advice to job hunters: Get introduced. Make contact through someone the hiring manager knows. I’ll bet you don’t pick up hitchhikers, or give telemarketers your credit card number, or ask strangers for money. Get the point? Don’t send a resume to someone you don’t know who doesn’t know you.
This single piece of advice is lost on almost everyone. Because this requires real work and effort, most people skirt past it. I know, I know: It’s just so much easier to send resumes out in bulk anywhere you find jobs posted…. So, why not do it? Because it’s really stupid.
In a contest between a trusted referral and your blind resume, you will always lose. I won’t open your resume, and what’s in it doesn’t matter. That’s how hiring managers and I save 95% of our time.
2. Is the information useful? Let’s say you get my attention through someone I know. Here’s your next hurdle. If your cover letter is a boring, empty pitch about how available you are, and your resume is a recitation of your experience, I won’t spend any time on it. Nor will any hiring manager
Why? Because we don’t have time to figure out what to do with you. You have to explain it to us quickly and clearly. (See Resume Blasphemy.)
My advice: Whether you’re calling an employer or submitting a proposal about a job, learn how to make a compelling presentation, and make it brief. A very helpful book is Milo Frank’s How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less. Be ready to discuss the work I need done, exactly how you’ll do it, and how the outcome will be good for me. The hard work lies in editing your message down to only the information that will matter to me. Figuring that out is your challenge; don’t make it mine. (This is how to profitably use the 95% of your time saved.)
In general, a resume by itself is a dumb piece of paper (or e-mail), no matter how it’s formatted. It cannot represent you or defend you. (See the section of How Can I Change Careers? titled “Put A Free Sample in Your Resume.”)
What matters most to an employer or headhunter reading a resume is that it came via a personal introduction from someone we trust. Your competitors will almost always come in second.
Disclosure: I didn’t invent the Magic Resume Calculator. It’s prior art. Back before we had the Internet, phones, and reliable mail, people had a great incentive to pursue only jobs for which they were recommended: They couldn’t afford to waste their time. Today, employers waste your time and theirs, too, simply because they can. Use the Magic Resume Calculator to save time, and don’t worry how your few resumes are formatted. What really matters is that you know the few managers you hand your resume to, and that they know you.
I know you understand all this. But, do you send out unsolicited resumes anyway, hoping for the best? What’s your hit rate with blind resumes?