Ask the Headhunter: Here’s why your resume isn’t getting traction

Photo by Flickr user markgranitz.

Photo by Flickr user markgranitz.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I thought my resume was laid out pretty well, but lately it is not getting the job done, whether I’m using job postings or acting as my own headhunter.

I’ve tried many of the resume books and services, and in my humble opinion, none has shown me how to make my resume better than it is already. But I know I need help. Can you critique my resume and make suggestions?

Resumes don’t get the job done because they’re dumb, mute and defenseless.

Nick Corcodilos: Sorry, I don’t review resumes, so please don’t send yours. But my view of resumes is simple, if contrarian. Resumes don’t get the job done because they’re dumb, mute and defenseless. They’re documents. I don’t believe in them. (See “Resume Blasphemy.”) Your experience is proof that they don’t work. The further evidence is that all those resume books you’ve read don’t have any answers, either. This should lead you to suspect your major premise: that job hunting requires a resume.

The key to job hunting success is people — meeting them, talking with them, and getting them to recommend you to managers. It is a very active process. Here are the most important things you can do in your job search:

  • Meet people who do the work you want to do. People recommend people they know. Face to face contact is best; telephone is acceptable; and email is better than a resume.
  • Learn what problems a company faces. A job ad doesn’t tell you that. Knowing a manager’s worries is crucial to your success in an interview. Ask your contact to explain it to you.
  • Find out what their day-to-day work is all about. Don’t rely on job descriptions. Like resumes, they are too static. Talking reveals the job and your skills more effectively.
  • Formulate a business plan about how you would do the work profitably. This tells the employer why you are the right candidate, while a resume requires the employer to figure it out. (See “Put A Free Sample In Your Resume.”)
  • Go back to those people and ask them what they think of your plan. Personal advice specific to a job is the best “interview grease” there is.
  • Once you know you can add value to the work they do, ask for an introduction to their bosses. A personal referral almost always yields an interview.

    This process is all about delivering value, not a document or profile or a database record.

    Dear Readers: Do you find that resumes get you in the door? How do they compare to making personal contacts?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.