At Notes from the Job Search, we spend a lot of time teaching that the perfect resume is the one you drop off after your first day of work and that the job you want is one that you get through a referral from a friend. We also spend a lot of time working on making our resumes the very best possible; which seems like a contradiction. Why spend time perfecting something you shouldn’t be letting anybody see? Unfortunately, we normally need to work both ends of a job identification/recruitment process in order to get the job we want.
What makes writing a resume such a tough problem? Heck, there is a whole industry built up around writing them and it’s easy to spend 2 or 3 thousand dollars on one. Is that a good use of money?
The answer is tied up in the other end of the process, specifically the recruitment process. What does the hiring company go through in order to hire a new employee?
The hiring process works best for the potential employer at the same time it works best for the potential employee: When a potential opening and a potential employee meet up before HR gets involved. Sorry HR folks, but it does. The hiring influence and the job seeker talk about the problems that need to be solved, the job seeker is identified as compatible through mutual experience and common friends and interests, the quality of the work can be reviewed based on relevant criteria.
Bringing HR into the process requires that a fundamentally subjective process become objective. Step one is a “job description”. My background is IT and in IT terms, that is a “solution” or a “specification”. Solutions that are separated from problems probably represent the largest number of failed projects in IT and that is what’s required when hiring is turned over to HR. HR has a specification and then does it’s level best to fill it. They interview the hiring influence, get that person’s best guess as to what they need, translate into a series of questions, etc. etc. In the end they have a rigid set of criteria, questions with a rigid set of answers.
The reason for all of the time worked on resume’s is to negotiate that rigid path… In competition with some ridiculous number of other people doing the same thing. The resume is the first step down that path.