Is your résumé printed on fly paper?


If you can remember fly paper, your age may be showing. If you can’t, it was a paper strip coated with an adhesive that flies found irresistible and it hung from the ceiling of more than a few country cottages. Any fly that landed on it was stuck—permanently.

Today’s office equivalent of fly paper is the Post-it® Note. Most people think their CV is a work of art that deserves to be a permanent part of everyone’s file cabinet. What they’re doing with that work of art is the equivalent of printing their résumé on a Post-it® Note with the expectation that a passing opportunity will land on it and stick. It won’t.

Points to ponder:

1.  Business people have little time or inclination to read anything, especially résumés, because résumés make for very dull reading. So they program digital optical scanners to do it. If the scanners don’t find what hiring managers are looking for, the system erases them and the e-mails that brought them.

2.  The only way to beat the system is to work with it. It’s the résumé owner’s job to learn what words are likely to be on the hiring manager’s mind and to make sure that their résumé contains those words. It’s hard work but it’s the only way to improve your hit rate.

3.  Managers can’t read minds and they aren’t paid to help you make career decisions. That’s your job.

To separate the wheat from the chaff (i.e. be in the 10% of people whose résumés get through):

Know what you’re looking for and why. Use your cover letter to make the point. If you can’t articulate it, don’t bother thinking about sending either. (See point 2 above.)

Know, or have a pretty good idea about, where you’re likely to find it.

Read up on every company that’s a player in that segment to discover, or make a very educated guess about, what words their hiring managers are looking for. Every company gives off written information about itself, and it’s easier to find than you think. If they’re hiring, they’ll be running an ad somewhere. Find it and locate key words in it. Failing that, Google the name of the company and see what comes up.

Deeds speak. Build a version of your résumé that contains those words and they’ll speak for you. Please make sure that your résumé contains lots of relevant deeds, preferably attached to numbers. That’s what an employer is buying when he or she hires you. Anything else is a position description and position descriptions don’t sell.

Use the Internet to locate people who work in your target company or companies. If that doesn’t work, call people you know and ask them for names. Never write to “To whom it may concern”.

Direct your résumé to them by name. Avoid writing to HR like the plague.

Follow up with them within 2 to 3 days to be sure your résumé arrived and to check on the status of your submission.

This is an assignment. Take as much time as you need: the exam is open-book. Make sure the dog doesn’t eat it.

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