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Resume Tips on How to Avoid the “Resume Black Hole” Trap

17 Apr, 2015

Resume Tips on How to Avoid the “Resume Black Hole” Trap

If your resume looks as if it could have come from 20 years ago or it just hasn’t been put together carefully–with good attention to what your targeted employers are probably looking for–it most likely will end up in the resume “black hole” trap. The same goes for submitting it to employers without doing any research beforehand to see if your background makes sense for the company. Yet another black hole mistake is distributing your resume with a generic cover letter that does little, if anything, to give the employers a reason to read it OR the resume.

What is the Resume “Black Hole” Trap?

We all know that in science, a black hole basically swallows everything that comes close enough to be drawn into it–and doesn’t let anything escape back out again. When you rely on resume writing that doesn’t do justice to your experience and your potential value to employers, doesn’t show that you are not only living but working in the 21st century, and so on, you are aiming your resume right at that black hole with regard to the job search process. You will be submitting your poorly thought-out resume to employers who will, at best, dump it straight into their vast and growing database; at worst, the resume won’t even make it into that location. What you almost certainly won’t get is anything in the way of a return trip–i.e., a meaningful response or reaction from the employer.

RESUME TIPS on How to Avoid the Resume “Black Hole” Trap

While there’s no 100% guaranteed process–no foolproof steps you can take–you can certainly increase your chances of not getting swallowed. You can take a number of constructive actions, including:

  1. Do your homework on the company, industry and other key factors before you start sending out your resume, so you can focus on critical needs your targeted employers have that match well with your experience and talents.
  2. Make sure your resume zeroes in on the value you have added to past and current employers, rather than simply providing a laundry list of your qualifications and responsibilities. Avoid the phrase “responsible for” or similar wording.
  3. Give employers an indication that you are current on technology related to the overall category of social media. If, for example, you have a good LinkedIn profile, consider including the link to your profile in the contact information at the top of your resume. The same goes for places like Twitter-but DO be careful that whatever content you already have in those places is professionally presented or at least neutral in nature (e.g., no wild party stories or photos!). Otherwise, you might just help your resume get into the black hole faster!

Make Your Cover Letter a Strong Resume Add-On

No one these days should send a cover letter that says, in essence, “here’s my resume; I hope you like it!” A professional cover letter is not the same as a file transmittal sheet. It must quickly and clearly indicate to the reader that you are a promising candidate for the company’s open position and have substantial value to offer. While it shouldn’t just repeat information verbatim from the resume, it can and sometimes should reference and expand on items that are in that document. Above all, it should help encourage readers to give thoughtful consideration to your resume by distinguishing you from the horde of other candidates they’ll be seeing.

But aren’t resumes “dead?” Maybe I shouldn’t even worry about the resume “black hole” trap.

Occasionally I read something by a recognized expert on employment issues or job search techniques, suggesting – or plainly stating – that resumes are dead and job seekers shouldn’t bother using a resume to secure their next position. If you’re sitting there staring at your shiny new resume, especially if you’ve just paid a professional to create it, you might be wondering whether you’ve wasted your time and hard-earned money. Take heart; all is not lost.

I’ve seen experts make a strong case for not using a resume – including active job development approaches and value-demonstration tactics – and some of them have a much more exalted presence in the career management field than I do, even though I’ve been in it a long time. However, I’ve also had clients take the resume I created for them and parlay it into interviews and job offers that led to a satisfying career move. So my view is that a resume – done right and used effectively – can still help you capture desirable job opportunities. The operative terms are “right” and “effectively.”

YOUR JOB SEARCH IS MORE THAN JUST A RESUME

It’s true that if you think having a resume is all you need for a successful job search, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. In the first place, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten hired just by having a professional resume. Life seldom works like that, and the employment or hiring process virtually never does. In the first place, employers won’t find you in the vast universe of applicants unless you target them, so simply firing off your resume for an advertised opening is ineffective at best. (Here comes that black hole again!)

If you’re a senior-level manager or executive, you’re most likely not shopping your resume around via online job boards, company job postings or other similar methods anyway. To start with, you probably have a network of contacts you will selectively share your situation and goals with. Even though those individuals know you, you might want to provide them with a copy of your resume as a quick way for them to understand what you are pursuing and what you want to offer to employers.

As a matter of fact, even if you’re not a senior-level job seeker, that’s not a bad way to increase the effectiveness of your job search.

So what’s next?

Don’t assume resumes are “dead” and how/when/if you present yours doesn’t matter much. Just re-think the possibilities and choose what works best for you in your unique situation. And be smart about keeping away from that black hole!

By the way, have you updated your resume lately? If not, now is a good time to do that! What have you accomplished since the last update that isn’t in there and should be?

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2 Comments on "Resume Tips on How to Avoid the “Resume Black Hole” Trap"

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Ray Holder

Great article with a lot of insights! The debate out there as to whether the resume is dead or not will never end. Though resumes have evolved, according to me they can never be dead even after recruiters can easily see the candidates work experience on the digital resume platforms like LinkedIn or any other online platforms. Still, during job interviews the employer asks the employee for his/her resume. A standard template like LinkedIn can help employees build a great paper resume.

Maria Hebda
Great points and thank you for sharing, Ray! I agree that resumes will not be going away any time soon if at all. Employers and recruiters are looking for that “perfect-fit” or ideal candidate to bring in for an interview. The key thing is to demonstrate your true value and being able to back up what you state in your resume by revealing career achievements and quantifying results if at all possible. The nice thing about a resume is that you’re not limited as to the number of words, characters, or space whereas this is the case for some online… Read more »
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