Unless you’re looking for a seasonal job in retail at Park Meadows Shopping Mall, or any one of its identical brother and sister shopping malls across the country, look forward to stiff competition in the job market. The combination of a weak economy and a slow recovery makes landing that dream job as difficult as it has been in years. Without experience in the job market, it can be even more difficult.
For example, one publishing company in Minneapolis received hundreds of applications for a single entry-level editing job that pays $24,000. You have better odds of getting into Stanford—literally. The saddest part is that on that salary, after college loans, a car, an apartment, and food (assuming you like to eat three meals a day), by the end of the month you’ll be lucky to have a few nickels leftover for the gumball machine. It’s really brutal out there.
Despite the bad news, hear the bright side. There’s a way to distinguish yourself from the hundreds of others who want “your” job. It involves more pro-activity, a touch of audacity, and a lion’s share of confident humility. Most importantly, it involves bypassing “Resume Graveyard,” a.k.a. the Human Resources department.
When looking for a job, the rules are only a starting off point for negotiations. That’s why you must resist the status quo and skip HR as much as possible. Job announcements always end with, “Mail Resume and Cover Letter to HR.” Don’t fall for it.
Human Resources personnel don’t care about you as much as the hiring manager will. It’s really not their fault; they are swamped with newsletters, sexual harassment training, and benefits paperwork. Your typical HR specialist/recruiter spends much of her day swimming out of a flood of emailed resumes, cover letters and thank you notes; she can’t possibly give your resume the attention it deserves. Even if she is the best HR specialist in the U.S. of A., and fully intends to screen potential candidates for every opening in the company, she won’t be able to do it.
Therefore, obey the first commandment: Get thy resume into the hands of the hiring manager. For heaven’s sake, find out who he is. Then call him and tell him you’re really interested in the position. Tell him a little about yourself. Ask him if you can send him a copy of your resume and cover letter. He won’t refuse you. Better still, your name is on his mind and he’s already said “yes” to you once. That’s a habit you’ll hope to cultivate. After all, he’s the person who will eventually make the final decision on you. He is the person you have to impress. He’s the person who needs to read your resume.
Remember: Don’t be afraid of him. If he doesn’t like your resume, you’re not going to get that job anyway. C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas? But, on the other hand, if he’s interested, you’ve already made some progress that the rest of the kids who are “playing by the rules” (e.g. sending their little cover letters and resumes to HR) didn’t make.
There’s even more reason and psychology behind this principle. If the wrong person sees your resume, you may drop out of contention, even for the most asinine reason. For instance, maybe said person went to Miami, you went to Florida State. Maybe this person holds a bias against people named Jonathan due to a horrible dating episode. Whatever. You just don’t want to lose points because one person with nonsensical hang-ups labeled you and your resume inferior. That’s just another reason why you definitely want the hiring manager to be the first person to view your resume. Now, if the hiring manager has nonsensical hang-ups, you are out of luck. But you would have been out of luck regardless. You’ll have to live by those odds.
Most importantly, take heart. For one, the economy will pick up. Eventually. And also, with a little work, a little luck/providence, and some Jedi mind tricks, you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from all the others out there. Bypass the middleman and be a person who makes things happen. The others will hate you for it.
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