David Greene came to me a pretty scared man. He had been unemployed for about 14 months, and the cause just baffled him. He was a smart, accomplished professional that had successfully climbed the corporate ladder of a well-known local company here in Kansas City. His last position was Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, but he had found himself applying for commission-only sales jobs, and not even getting calls back from those applications.
“Tammy, I don’t know if you can help me,” he told me over lunch. “I’ve had my resume professionally written three different times, and every time I’ve paid more and more for it, but none of them get me any phone calls. I’ve always considered myself very successful, and extremely good at what I do, but now,”
I could hear the desperation in his voice, and I could see it in his eyes. He was starting to doubt everything he built his career on; his ability to sell himself, his keen relationship building skills and networking abilities.
He handed me his three professionally-written resumes. “What is it that I’m not seeing here? What’s so wrong with these documents? What’s so wrong with my career?”
It took me about two seconds to diagnose the problem, and I immediately pointed it out. “Well, David, let me put my employer glasses on,” I smiled, “These resumes are beautiful – well formatted, five dollar words, the whole nine yards, but they’re all chronological. The first thing I see is that you spent the last 17 years at Interstate Bakeries. You’ve got about five seconds of my attention before I decide whether or not to read the rest of the resume, and I’m thinking to myself, “do I need a Twinkie sales guy?” and honestly, David, the answer is no, I don’t really have a use for a cupcake salesman in my organization.”
He tilted his head a little. “But that’s where I worked. I’m not going to lie about where I worked. How do you get past that? I’m not just a Twinkie guy. I did a lot of really great things at Interstate. I built that inside sales force from the ground up, and it now accounts for 80% of all the sales of the company. You can’t tell me that doesn’t count for something to somebody reading my resume.”
“That’s a fantastic achievement, David,” I said. “And of course that counts for a lot, but I’m not hearing that story because I’ve already put your resume down and moved on to the other 599 resumes in this stack I have to look through.” I hated to be so blunt, but I had to tell it to him straight.
“There’s actually a pretty easy way to overcome being defined as ‘just a cupcake guy.’ If you use a one page functional or skills-based resume, you actually focus the page on your strengths – what you bring to a new position, and your achievements – how you’ve affected the bottom line of the company you’ve worked for. You never mention Hostess or the industry you worked in. By the time the hiring manager gets down to the part about who you worked for, they’re already pre-sold on calling you.
“Don’t feel too bad, though. Almost everyone who is looking for a job at your level has some sort of liability, some sort of obstacle to overcome, like switching industries or being older or being unemployed for a long time.”
“Stop, Tammy – every single one of those things describes me, and I don’t think I want to hear the rest of that list!” Though he was rolling his eyes, his grin showed a great amount of hope.
“But David, it may not be all your resume’s fault. Let me ask you, How are you using it?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” He looked confused.
“Well, what’s been your plan? How are you getting it in front of the right people that can make the decision to hire you?”
He looked like a deer in the headlights. “Um, I guess I’ve just been applying when I see a job that I know I can do. Online mostly. CareerBuilder mostly. And I’ve sent it to a couple of recruiters in the last couple of months. And I suppose I’ve given it to a few friends who are looking out for me.”
I could have pretty much guaranteed that was going to be his answer. “There lies a big piece of your problem. At your level, only about 15% of jobs are ever publicly posted. And because nearly everyone mainly uses the job boards, each one of those jobs get between 600 and 1000 resumes. I can write you a Rock Star resume, but if it comes in as number 201 and they’ve decided to look at the first 200, there’s not a whole lot that stellar resume can do for you.”
“I’m listening,” he continued to smile.
“Well, my clients have had great success by ignoring the job boards and not even looking online, not even at employer websites. I’ve found that if you proactively contact companies you would want to work for, along with companies that are growing – whether or not you know they’re hiring – you get a much better response rate than if you apply online.
“But the contact needs to be in hard copy, delivered by the good old US Mail, and not by email. Your resume will stay on someone’s desk much longer than it will stay in somebody’s inbox. Couple this with networking the right way for executive job seeking, and you have a winning combination every time.” I was checking for understanding in his face, but what I saw was more like amazement. A true Eureka! moment.
“That’s not the only key to it, though,” I continued, “your level of activity has to be incredibly high because of the current job market. You can’t expect employers to be beating down your door if you send 10 resumes out a month. Since you’re unemployed, you’ll need to send out 40-50 resumes a week to get one phone call each week.”
I saw his jaw visibly drop. “Is that even physically possible?”
“It sure is, it really only takes about 10-12 hours when you know how to do it right – and that includes finding the right people in your target companies.”
“What does your schedule look like tomorrow?” David said. “I’d like to talk about this in more detail. I need to something drastically different than what I have been doing.”
David signed up with my firm’s Six Figure Solution executive search program the next day.
Two weeks after receiving his new functional resume, he called me immediately following his first phone interview. The head of a mid-size technology company called him in response to a hard copy resume David had sent.
“It went great,” he told me. “I barely had to do any talking. The resume really spoke for itself, and the CEO was really excited to tell me about his company. I could barely get a word in!”
We spent the next two weeks preparing for the three face to face interviews that resulted from that phone call.
In the middle of his fourth week of searching, I got a call from David at the end of the day.
“Well, I got the job offer. I told him I’d like to think about it, just as you recommended. But I can’t believe he’s offering me well over six figures as a base. And the commission schedule is nearly double that. I really want to call him tonight and take the position.”
“That sounds like a great package,” I said, “but let’s take a look at what they can give you in a signing bonus. And let’s see if they”ll be willing to work with you on increasing the vacation to four or five weeks. Do you have some time to go over the details with me now?”
David received a $52,000 signing bonus and an extra two weeks of vacation, and accepted the VP of Eastern Division Sales position that Friday. He started at his new position the next Monday.