Resumes and Cover Letters

Avoiding The “Send Me Your Resume” Trap

resume trap

A client of mine was thrilled when he met the president of a high growth local company at a conference and was invited to send a resume.

I advised him to resist sending in a resume immediately, but to wait instead. Learn why waiting can help you maximize the impact of an invitation to apply for a job …

This client had met the president of a highly visible company at a conference. After speaking for a short while, the president invited him to submit his resume, while mentioning that the company was hiring. My client was ecstatic, incorrectly thinking that he had a job locked up.

At first he fought me when I suggested to wait before sending, because every instinct told him to do exactly what the company president suggested. Learn how I helped this client avoid a common job search trap …

Why “Send Me Your Resume” Can Be A Trap:

We’ve all been taught to go to the highest person in the organization we can reach, with the idea that a hiring manager will grant an interview from their superior’s referral. This works well if the superior specifically asks the hiring manager to set up an interview – but that’s rarely the case.

Most executives want the hiring manager to make their own decision, but help them by sending any resumes along that might be qualified. So I asked my client, do you think the president of this fast growing, high-profile company is personally interviewing for the type of position you are seeking … or is the hiring manager one or two levels down? If the executive isn’t the hiring manager, they typically will send resumes to the department that handles resumes – HR.

So by sending a resume to the president, there’s a big risk that it gets forwarded to HR … just as if you applied online.

Sure there are exceptions – If the executive personally knows you well (or if you had a long enough conversation to make a huge impression) and wants to do you a favor, they may specifically request the hiring manager to set up an interview. Or if this position will report to the president or personally solve a big problem that impacts him personally. These are exceptions, not the rule – so don’t count on it. There are better ways to maximize the impact of your conversation, with higher odds of gaining an interview.

In most cases, your conversation with a company executive will not have covered enough detail to cause the executive to “pull rank” on the hiring manager. But, if the conversation was positive, it may invite a continuation or referral to someone else in the organization – This can be far more valuable.

The biggest problem with sending your resume immediately in response to an executive’s request is that the candidate rarely has taken the time to understand the company’s goals/problems/roadblocks. Without understanding these issues, you can’t customize your resume to demonstrate how you are the solution to one or more critical company issues.

If you can’t present yourself as a solution, you are left hoping that the words on your resume magically happen to match the key words that the company HR staff are searching for …

… The odds stink.

Avoiding The “Send Me Your Resume” Trap:

However, if you can instead leverage your meeting into a continued discussion with the executive or to gain a referral to a relevant manager, you can explore potential problems and challenges. For instance, this company had gone through fast growth early in its existence. So the company is now under pressure to continue and beat their early growth – how will that effect your department? The company has purchased some competitors and some international companies in its space – How will they integrate these companies and what sorts of challenges does the manager anticipate? The company is facing many new competitors, some of which have gotten sizable outside funding – how will the company protect its market share and continue high growth in the face of increased competition?

The answer to these and similar questions are keys to understanding the company’s goals/problems/roadblocks that are likely to have a wide reaching impact – including the department and hiring manager that you are targeting. If you learn these issues and how they impact your target department, you can frame your experiences to show that you’ve already solved similar problems in the past.

… But how can you frame yourself as the solution to a problem you don’t understand?

It’s great to make executive contacts at your target companies. Squandering those contacts by immediately sending a resume without understanding underlying company issues is an express ticket to the HR black hole.

And why shouldn’t it be? You demonstrated that you’re a candidate that will blurt out a generic answer before understanding the company’s problems. Why would that compel an executive to decide they can’t live without you on their team?

What will make an executive decide they need you on their team, from meeting you at a seminar or event?

By showing that you’re able to dig to uncover underlying issues and draw upon your experiences to solve those problems, you demonstrate the thought processes that employers consider “must have” skills. By recognizing that meeting the president isn’t enough by itself to earn you an interview, instead using that meeting as a path to understanding underlying problems … you give yourself the opportunity to differentiate yourself from hundreds of other applicants.

… Or you could take your chances in the HR black hole and send your resume immediately.

About the Author

This article was contributed by Phil Rosenberg.  Phil is President of ReCareered, helping great people break through the challenges of modern job searches. Phil managed the Chicago suburban Financial and Technology consulting practices for recruiting industry leader, Robert Half International.