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Ask the Headhunter: Why you can’t rely on resumes for hiring

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

In this special Making Sen$e 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’m afraid I disagree with your objections to using a traditional type of resume. [See “Resume Blasphemy.”] Here is the basis for my misgivings. I am a hiring manager at a Fortune 50 company. If I want to fill a slot I must complete a job requisition. On the req I have to list the base requirements for the job (e.g., degree, years of experience). When the resumes start to arrive, the first person to see them is an HR clerk who screens the listed skills against the req. If you don’t match, I never see your resume. No resume, no interview! Keep in mind that I am a VP and hire officers. These aren’t entry-level people. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Nick Corcodilos: If you’re a VP and you hire officers, what does it say about you (and your company) when an HR clerk has the power to decide who you should interview and who you should skip? What qualifies HR to judge an officer candidate?

I know managers who skirt the HR department every day. They don’t use reqs, and HR doesn’t touch their candidates.

These managers find their own candidates. Sometimes they turn to headhunters; sometimes they use their professional contacts

I believe that any manager who isn’t devoting a couple of days a week to recruiting isn’t doing their job. To rely on HR to source executives is like relying on your mother to find you a date – she’s good at a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them. (See “Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.”)

Managers with good contacts in their professional community are scarfing up the best candidates in this competitive market because they go out and find them, leaving you with candidates who come along. Please think about this. When you interview only candidates who submit resumes, you’re dealing with a very limited field. Can you really live with that? Should you?

(Before you respond that Nick is just pitching headhunters as the solution, because they go out and actively search for the best candidates, I’m not. You don’t need headhunters. You can do it yourself. There is nothing mysterious or magical about what headhunters do.)

Consider how many great candidates you may have lost because a clerk tossed their resumes in the trash. Beyond a handful of “key words,” what does your HR clerk know about the right candidate for a job you need to fill?

By the way, what I’m suggesting doesn’t just apply to filling executive jobs. If you were a manufacturing manager looking for production workers or a finance manager looking for cost accountants, I’d tell you the same thing.

I’ll offer you a suggestion. Send your HR clerk to a relevant industry event, with the instruction to attend the presentations and return with business cards from notable presenters and attendees. No resumes. Your clerk should not even intimate there are jobs to be filled. Just get the business cards. These cards are more valuable to you than any resume, and you’ll get more for your recruiting buck than if your clerk posts a job to gather resumes.

Now your job is to call those people yourself — the people whose cards you’ve got. Ask them who they might recommend highly for one of the jobs you need to fill. Such referrals are what a headhunter would bring you for a huge fee. Without a resume.

Dear Readers: What could you do to get a job if you couldn’t use a resume?

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,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

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

Copyright © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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