OK, this post is focused on an article in The New York Times that is more focused on general job search strategies, but the reader responses to it got me so irritated that I had to write something.
Plus, the lessons one can draw are equally valuable in the international job search context.
Here’s what went down: A guy who owns a PR firm wrote a piece that The New York Times ran some months back called “How Not to Get a Job”. It ended up generating some pretty heated comments from the readership.
His complaint? He posted a job online and was immediately inundated with copy-and-paste applications from people who didn’t have anything close to a PR background (e.g., a home health aide).
What do a fragrance designer, New York City cop, bed-and-breakfast manager and youth hockey coach have in common?
Each of them recently applied for an account director position at my public relations firm, along with 500 others whose experience and skill sets ranged from vaguely on-point to off-the-charts irrelevant. Auto collections manager? Home health aide? Visual merchandiser? Count them all in.
Nothing against a home health aide, but you probably aren’t going to jump straight into a mid-level PR position without something seriously exceptional about you, like you left a PR career to work as a home health aide so you could be closer to a sick relative. Or something along those lines.
The guy’s overall points were:
- Please actually read the job listing before you apply.
- Don’t just apply because you can; actually think about what sort of value you might be bringing to the job before you hit “send.”
- For the love of all that’s holy, stop sending useless cut-and-paste job applications where you just do a mail merge with the name of the company and the job description to create a cover letter.
Or in more basic terms, people who spam resumes end up looking like a joke:
Here’s how one actress stated her case: “Not only do I believe in Ripp Media’s ability to deliver human and intuitive touchpoints through physical and technological interaction, but I can contribute to this strategic investment for the modern enterprise by bringing my diverse experiences …” It was like reading Mad Libs.
Many of those hitting me up hadn’t been at their current job more than four months. Moreover, hardly any tried to connect the dots from their world to ours. They assumed that because they’d done surgical sales or analyzed customer accounts for a dental supply company, they could do anything. P.R. account director? Sure, sign me up.
And, in a curious but telling addendum, the guy had even put his phone number in the ad for interested applicants. But almost nobody called him.
People, when an employer lists a phone number in the job ad, they are signaling that they want people with intelligent questions about the job to PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE AND GIVE THEM A CALL:
“Although I listed my phone numbers in my ads, I got a total of two calls from applicants. Everyone else preferred the automatic approach, and it showed in their one-size-fits-all letters and résumés.”
All this seems like pretty obvious advice that people might appreciate, right?
Wrong. Most of the comments section was a massive vomit of useless butthurt.
Just check some of these comments out. Some are engaged in a comparative empathy contest between the author and the job applicants that spam resumes. Others fault the author for wanting to hire someone with experience in PR for a job in PR. Yet others blame Donald Trump for this PR firm’s approach to hiring. (Think what you want of the Trump — this isn’t a political website — but really, he’s responsible for a random PR firm’s job search?)
Yes, it’s hard to find a job. Yes, online spray-and-pray resume spamming is dehumanizing and useless. Yes, the U.S. job market is not as stable and employee-friendly in many sectors as it was a few decades back.
But in terms of getting you a job right here, right now, you have to get over it and understand how this process works. Even if it seems unfair, it’s what you have to work with.
This is the reality: Employers get TONS of resumes, even when unemployment is low. Tons. They are also busy doing other things, like running their businesses, while they are hiring.
So you, the job-seeker, the person asking hiring managers to give you something, need to have a job application that convince hiring managers to use some of their precious time to consider giving you some of our money.
Look, the article isn’t perfect (honestly, there are better ways for a company to look for talent than spamming ads on sites like LinkedIn), but taken with the comments there are a few big takeaways:
- If you want to work for a company, their opinion of you is what really matters. Full stop. Is it unfair? The President of the United States is to blame? Doesn’t matter. They are the ones hiring you and signing your paycheck, not the U.S. President or some abstract notion of justice. You may not like that they judge you for your Instagram content. You just have to deal with that and save the more philosophical and social issues for another part of your life. Or find another job. Your choice.
- Don’t spray-and-pray resumes. If you don’t believe me, believe her or her. Spamming resumes one of the most inefficient and frustrating ways to look for a job, short of walking down a busy street in your country of preference and asking random people for a job. Now that I think about it, walking down a busy street in your country of preference asking random people for jobs would probably be a better way to look for work than spamming resumes. Not that I recommend it over more productive techniques, but it would (A) show some real initiative and huevos, and (B) be less likely to irritate people like a useless, spammed resume would.
- If a job listing suggests you pick up the phone and call them, for Christ’s sake pick up the damn phone and call. That is an open invitation to get to know the person making the hiring decisions. Whom do you think I would remember more (and esteem more highly): the person who took two seconds to spam me a resume or someone who took the time to call and ask a couple of intelligent questions about whether the job was right for them? Hint: it’s not the first one. And I would probably remember the second person for future jobs more suited to them, even if this particular job wasn’t right for them.
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
A special P.S. for any employers reading this: What I’m also saying is that if you are an employer and are trying to hire, and want to avoid getting endlessly spammed with resumes, you may want to avoid online job platforms that encourage resume spamming.
Just as I strongly urge job-seekers to build a strong network to bypass this low-value, low-probability method of job-seeking, I also urge employers to do the same. That way, when it comes time to hire, you can reach out to your network first and find candidates that come pre-recommended. It just goes to show that the power of a good, well-maintained network adds as much value to employers as it does to employees.