"Ask me anything, being politically correct was checked at the door. You want to know what the Recruiter or Hiring Manager is thinking? I'm going to tell you but be prepared to know it might not be what you're expecting. "
That was my disclaimer, how I started the bare all session for 7 job club members who were facing the end of unemployment compensation.
They had all sent countless resumes, received calls and attended interviews. They were turned down every time during more than a year of searching. After longevity ranging from 7 - 30 years, and one odd duck that had never held a job more than 2 years, they were hurt and confused why no one "wanted" them. They had been loyal and hard working and considered themselves "lifers" at their jobs. They felt put out on the street even though they all acknowledged that it wasn't personal.
"I go in, they look at me, see I'm in my 50's and I can see it in their faces... they're thinking, what are we going to get out of her, she's old".
"What happened to paper applications?"
I asked each of them what they considered to be their profession or career and how long they had held their longest job for. I found that they felt it necessary to manufacture resumes that look like lengthy to do lists rather than career marketing pieces with examples of strengths and accomplishments because they were proud of every single thing they did well.
"How do I know if they got my Internet application, there's no name of anyone to call?"
"The job was taken down off the site a week ago and I still haven't heard anything. How long should I wait to call?" Call about what," I asked. "To see if I am being considered", the professionally dressed 50 something asked. She wanted to know before she went on vacation so she could stop thinking about it.
"Here, let me help you", I said. I let her know that if the job was taken down it meant the search was over and a decision had likely been made or at the very least final candidates selected. She didn't get it because she continued on. "What if I am one of them and I'm not home to get the call because I'm on vacation?" I tried to be gentle as I explained it was over... I asked if she needed to hear the rejection.. She said yes. I saved her the call and suggested she enjoy her vacation and get excited about new opportunities that might be available upon her return.
The patriotically dressed woman who was concerned about her age had difficulty coming up with her most important career accomplishment. After all, she was just an Admin Clerk who maintained hospital departmental records and administered the database over the past 30 years. "I don't know you", I said, "but let me guess what your strengths and accomplishments were and you tell me how accurate I am".
- You have superior time management skills
- Your can learn on the fly and implement new processes and technology rapidly
- You are good at training and working well with others
- Attention to detail and accuracy are finely honed skills you possess
- Your attendance record is excellent and your personnel file lacks disciplinary action
And I went on... And her face lit up. Her demeanor changed as she agreed with what I was saying. "Yes, that's me", she said. I asked how many records the department maintained and the policies for record retention. I talked about converting the to do list into an achievement oriented resume that captured her skill as a repository specialist with great capacity for knowledge management.
She asked me to slow down so she could take notes. She was getting it...
There are people who need your help my friends. They are good people but they do not understand what we look for. It's not their job to understand and we really shouldn't expect them too. We're out there looking for expertly crafted resumes and polished presenters. Fortunate individuals do not spend a significant amount of time between 18 - 65 searching for work. Why should they be expected to be experts at job search, resume writing and interviewing?
The light bulb went off for me the first time I was invited to speak at the local job club. I felt the questions were from far left field. Each time I go back I hear the same or very similar questions. So if it's a bunch of people that do not know each other, at different times and places with the same questions... is it them or us?
It's us. We're expected to do more with less, we look for the perfect candidate on paper. It's easier to put a resume in a no pile than the maybe pile and pick up the phone to help make that determination. We pop out the job postings electronically and sit back for ATS alerts that there are incoming. We don't think about the effort and time put into each web application filled out, each resume and cover letter crafted.
We look to disqualify candidates, not qualify them.
I challenge you to pick up the phone. Call a local job club, state employment agencies (one stop job shops) all have them. Volunteer to speak. You'll learn from them as much as they learn from you.