A low unemployment rate and a steadily growing economy continue to coax people into the job market with the belief that a favorable macroeconomic picture guarantees them a new position. They’re also getting the nudge from the fact that staying in their current job will likely result in a base pay raise of only 3% next year—and probably less than, which won’t even cover the cost of living.
The exit sign never looked so good.
While it’s true that just about anyone with an education and a decent amount of experience can get some kind of job, landing the position you want is harder than ever. The fact is, the resume you’ve been so busy polishing won’t be more than a calling card and an old-school one at that. Consider that every corporate job posting receives, on average, 250 resumes. Initial screening eliminates 98% of them, with only 2% even getting an interview.
To get the job you want, you need to “lose the resume.” The reason is a proliferation of career sites and online job postings by companies have opened the floodgates to any applicant, anywhere. That creates a lot of noise, making it harder to stand out with just a resume.
Beyond the bulk of resumes clogging up the system, there is another factor that can keep you from getting the right job – one that fulfills your sense of purpose, expands your learning, and challenges you with more responsibilities (and, yes, pays you more). If you’re like most people, you have no idea how to look for and land the job you want. In thirty-five years of professional life, including the last decade as CEO of a public company, I continue to be shocked by the naivete of people when it comes to their careers.
Not knowing what to do, people cling to their resumes, like the guy I encountered recently at Starbucks. He was sitting by himself at a table scattered with three-by-five cards. Amped up from his venti triple red eye, he pumped his leg up and down, and moved his lips silently, as if he were memorizing lines for a play. In his hand was an unmistakable document: a resume squeezed into two pages with a small font.
“Job interview, huh?” I asked him.
He looked at me with desperation. “Yeah, and I really need this job.”
An impromptu job-coaching session ensued, focused on what everyone – from a C-suite executive to a new workforce entrant – must do:
1. “Know Thyself”
Socrates could have been a career counselor. Knowing yourself —your strengths and weaknesses, your sense of purpose, what motivates, you the culture in which you fit – is the all-important first step. Reflect on where you’ve been successful in the past, the kinds of bosses that championed you, and the environment in which you felt the most comfortable.
2. Lose the Resume
Sadly, people assume their resume accounts for 90 percent of the job search process, but it’s really only 10 percent. Recruiters and hiring managers spend only seconds in the initial screening of resumes. After you make the cut, your resume will get a little longer look, but usually only a few minutes. Unilever, for example, is eliminating resumes and traditional campus recruiting to find candidates for early career roles, and instead is relying on algorithms and short online exercises.
3. Tell a Story
The best way to showcase what you’re known for – your brand – is the story you tell. A great story conveys who you are, your accomplishments and, most important, how you achieved them. Two things about stories: First, they must be true. Don’t lie, inflate, or exaggerate. Second, saying that you were part of a team that accomplished something makes you appear more self-assured (and is truthful!).
4. Focus on your “ACT”
In every interaction, you must always “ACT” your best – being authentic, making a connection, and giving people a taste of who you are. These three elements work in tandem to distinguish who you are and how you can contribute to the organization.
To get the job you want, you need to wake up to the fact that your resume won’t cut it. Job hunting in the 21stcentury requires a focus and dedication you didn’t know you had.