An older gentleman called to inquire about getting my services for a friend’s son; the resume I’d be writing would be his gift to this young man – let’s call him Jeremy – who had been unsuccessful in his job search for over a year. After speaking to Jeremy’s benefactor, part of the reason his job search was going nowhere became evident.
The master plan this older gentleman had in mind involved Jeremy targeting 10-15 companies where he’d be happy to get a job. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s a smart move – but how his next steps were a major waste of time. Without checking to see if any of these companies actually had any entry-level openings (the only level that was appropriate for him), his mentor advised to write a cover letter to the CEO saying that he was willing to take anything – even a mailroom position – in order to get a start.
What’s wrong with that? Several things. For one, cover letters, as I’ve written extensively, are a waste of time if all they do is summarize your resume. This is important – if something is important enough to tell a prospective employer, then it belongs in your resume. Cover letters are rarely read by recruiters due to time limitations; the idea that a CEO – the HEAD OF THE COMPANY!!!! – is going to read an unsolicited cover letter and send it to Human Resources is pretty far-fetched. I mean – this person is running a business, not reading unsolicited mail.
Secondly, a critical mistake during a job search is failing to explain your value proposition to your prospective employer. Acknowledging that you are so inexperienced that you’d be happy with ANYTHING offered you says two things: 1) that you don’t know what you do or why you’d be a good fit, and 2) you are desperate. These are not great job search strategies. And furthermore, how do you position yourself as a good fit if there isn’t a specific job opening that you’re responding to?
So, let’s assume that the CEO actually opens this snail mail with its beautifully typed cover letter and resume printed on heavy stock paper. Let’s even say he looks at it. Jeremy’s mentor is convinced that the CEO will forward the cover letter and resume to his HR department. And what’s HR going to do with it?
Unless HR receives this resume just as the company is looking to fill an open entry-level position, the resume is likely going to be stuck in a folder where it will languish until it yellows. Companies only hire when they have an open position. A previously unemployed recent graduate with not much to offer other than a willingness to roll up his sleeves is not going to resonate in HR’s memory.
No person who’s looking for a job can afford to waste time on non-productive job search mistakes like the one Jeremy’s mentor is pushing. When I explained why his ideas weren’t likely to work, he argued that a sales training he’d once attended advocated this exact move, and it had worked for him. Back in 1964. Learn my updated technique.
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