Ask The Headhunter: How to get an interview without a resume

Ditch your resume-writing guide and learn how to score an interview without listing your accomplishments on a piece of paper. Photo by Flickr user the_Gut.

Ditch your resume-writing guide and learn how to score an interview without listing your accomplishments on a piece of paper. Photo by Flickr user the_Gut.

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.

In last week’s edition, “How (Not) to Use a Resume,” we discussed why resumes are a weak, passive way to get in the door to meet an employer. We also discussed how to turn a resume into a business plan to make yourself stand apart from your competition — and to demonstrate how you’re going to bring profit to a manager’s bottom line.

The Magic Words Are Not on a Resume

How does anyone get to that manager? Well, it’s a Zen sort of thing. You can’t approach the manager until you have something useful to say to him. Heck, you don’t even know who he is.

So, do all the necessary homework. Meet the right people. Talk to people who know the industry, the company, its business, the department and other employees. Follow this trail to talk to people who know the manager. You’ll learn a lot. And that’s how you’ll identify and meet the manager, too — through people he knows.

The big bonus is that, after all these dialogues, you’ll know a lot about the manager’s business, and you will actually have something to say that he will be eager to hear.

Where Does a Resume Fit Into That?

Why waste your time trying to figure it out? Why submit a resume when the research you must do will put you in front of the hiring manager?

One of my books, “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3 — Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition)” includes a section titled “How to start a job search” (pp. 1-2). It opens with a Zen koan, or paradoxical puzzle, and encourages job seekers to face the truth about job hunting.

Here’s an excerpt from the book, which is available in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore:

Ask the difficult questions

Zen koans are intended to make us think, not to provide easy answers. When you start your job search, don’t skip the obvious questions. But don’t let convention keep you from addressing the difficult ones:

  • Do you seek new opportunities by simply reacting to the job descriptions that come along in the job ads?
  • Are you building a reputation for being part of that horde of opportunists who will network with anyone because they believe almost any job is worth chasing?
  • Are you wasting time mailing resumes to people you don’t know who don’t know you?
  • Do you rely on resumes, job boards, applications and other impersonal tools to convince employers to hire you?
  • Are you known professionally to only a small circle of people, mostly in your own company?

These questions are painful. Many people don’t ask them because it’s easier to follow the rules of the “employment system.” It’s more difficult to pursue the right job using methods that require a lot of work. But, what great new job is easy?

Managers think they want resumes so they can choose job applicants who are worth interviewing. But reading resumes is a frustrating task because the manager must infer what you can do. So, why expect a manager to do all that guess work? (The new rules about larding resumes with “keywords” make it even harder for managers to figure you out!) Why not just lay it out — make your “resume” a business plan for doing the work this specific manager needs done.

There’s no need to recite your history on a resume when you can demonstrate how you’ll tackle the job the manager needs done.

Readers: Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview? Share your comments below, and be sure to ask me questions next Tuesday, Feb. 4, during my Ask Me Anything Reddit chat.