How To Get A Job Against The Odds (or, Why Resumes Suck) | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | Focus, Create and Grow Your Way To Intelligent Achievement How To Get A Job Against The Odds (or, Why Resumes Suck) | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | Focus, Create and Grow Your Way To Intelligent Achievement

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How To Get A Job Against The Odds (or, Why Resumes Suck)

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the United States)

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Arthur Ashe (3 x Tennis Grand Slam Champion)

“Don’t take no for an answer.”

Winston Churchill (Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)


The best jobs go to those who do what they’re not supposed to do.

You know that Seinfeld episode where George tries to break up with his girlfriend Maura and she keeps ignoring his requests to end the relationship until he gives up and keeps dating her? It goes something like this:

George: I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’m sorry but we have to break up.

Maura: No.

George: What’s that?

Maura: We’re not breaking up.

George: We’re not?

Maura: No….Come on, get dressed and let’s get some dinner.

George: Alright.

This is how you need to act when an employer doesn’t show interest in you. No matter how much negative feedback you receive, move forward with your plans to work for them anyway. The key is knowing what you’re up against and doing what you’re not supposed to do.

Why It’s Hard To Get Hired

In The Icarus Deception, author Seth Godin writes that most large companies receive over 2,000 resumes a day. It gets worse. Nearly 80% of these resumes are instantly filtered out by applicant tracking systems, recruiters, and low level personnel. I think I’ve only sent out about 100 resumes total in my entire life, most of them in graduate school. And I’m pretty sure 0-2 of them were ever read by human eyes. Applicant tracking systems are software packages that allow companies to scan resumes and weed out people they don’t want based on keyword density. So, for example, if you’re applying for a job in sales and you don’t use certain phrases like “increased sales”, “large territory” and “ experience”, your resume goes right into the trash.

It’s hard to feel confident under the crushing weight of today’s hiring statistics. Recent research shows that, at medium-sized companies, about 250 resumes are sent in for each individual job posting, the first of which is received within 200 seconds of the job being announced. And if you post your resume on a major job site like Monster, you are competing with 427,000 other people who also posted their resumes that week. Sending out a sea of resumes might seem like the best, most productive and most confidence-inducing thing to do, but in reality, it’s a huge time suck. The problem is that filling out a resume can feel really good. Most people love sending out resumes because it makes them (for once) feel important, busy, and productive. Finally…they are taking initiative in their own lives and making something happen for themselves. At least, that’s how I used to feel.

We Have Your Resume – Signed, Outer Space 

I used to scroll through different jobs online, find one that I wanted and was somewhat qualified for, spend a few hours targeting my resume for that position, spend a few more hours convincing myself that I was the perfect candidate (after all, I had a degree and clearly deserved this job), and then, with my confidence peaking, I would click send. For the next two weeks, I’d check my email and be seriously confused every time I didn’t see a job offer waiting for me. My surprise came from the fact that I didn’t see the odds I was facing. I was operating blindly with nothing more than a hazy idea of the competition surrounding me. Understand that the first step to getting the job of your dreams is recognizing what you’re up against. The second step is becoming blind to failure. You have to be willing to stick your neck out really far. You have to be willing to do things that you’re not supposed to do.

In graduate school, I got really sick of sending out resumes. It was like I was sending them into some black hole in cyberspace. I was going to defend my thesis within a year (theoretically) and I had exactly zero job prospects. I had no idea how to get a job. One day it dawned on me, I need to start connecting with real people – people who already had the kinds of jobs that I wanted. So, I started seeing everyone as a potential employer. I stopped every salesman that came into my lab and asked to buy him or her lunch or coffee. I attended every seminar on campus and stayed until the very end to talk with the presenter. Eventually, one of these presenters told me that his company had a job opening. He gave me a hiring manager’s email address and told me to follow up.

I emailed the hiring manager the next day. After a week or hearing nothing, I emailed the hiring manager again. This time I got a response: they were NOT hiring. A week later, I called the hiring manager on the phone and asked if things had changed. Nope. They still weren’t hiring. Another week went by and I emailed the manager again. This time, she told me they were willing to meet me. This is great! But then she said that they weren’t willing to fly me out for an interview. The only way they would meet me was if I was willing to fly myself (from Iowa City) to a conference in Seattle that started in 4 days. This sucks! Did I mention I was a broke ass graduate student?


Nice To Meet You, Here’s My Fake Card

The total cost of flying out to the conference, registering for the conference, and booking a hotel on such short notice came to about $3,155. The total amount of money that I had left over each month from my graduate student stipend, after paying for rent, a car that repelled women, utilities, and food, came to negative 100 bucks. After a day of thinking about it, I booked the trip, maxing out my sad little credit card in the process. My graduate school wardrobe consisted of 3 T-shirts, 1.5 pairs of jeans and a 2-year old pair of running shoes. So, I spent a couple hundred more bucks of Citibank’s money buying some slacks and a sport jacket. I also created a fake business card that said “Ph.D. Candidate” on the front and listed a mini-version of my resume on the back.

I started feeling really stupid during the plane ride to Seattle. I had maxed out my credit card to go see a company that just told me I wasn’t worth interviewing. What was I thinking? By the time I landed in Seattle, I decided to make the best of it. When the first day of the conference rolled around, I introduced myself to everyone working at the company’s booth and asked to see the hiring manager. “She didn’t come.” So, I asked to see the boss. “He’s not here.” So, I came back the next day. The boss still wasn’t there. This happened every day of the conference. I felt like a dork. I sulked a little and then started handing out my fake card to all of the other companies at the conference. I made some great connections and felt a little better. Then, on the last day, as I was packing up, the boss of the first company called me and asked if I could meet him for coffee in 30 minutes. I looked at my watch. My plane back to Iowa City wouldn’t leave for another 2 hours. I had just enough time. A little over an hour later, I was offered a job. Was is worth it?

But You Don’t Work For Us…Yet

Any short-term pain you go through on your way to getting a great job immediately disappears once you get the job. The problem is that most people expect getting a job to be easy, like employers are staying up late at night looking for ways to give you their money. This is why 8 out of 10 people don’t even apply to jobs they want.

Pretend that you kind of want a job selling cellular phones. Let’s say you love smartphone technology and you want start climbing the ladder in this industry. You’re highly qualified and a perfect fit for the job. If you were like most people, you would occasionally check online until you saw a job opening at a Verizon, At&t or similar store. Next, according to research by Talent Function, there’s only a 20% chance that you would even begin the application process and there’s only a 10% chance that you would actually submit a resume and finish the application process. From here, there’s only a 2-3% that your resume would make it past internal checks to see a hiring manager and only a 0.5% that you would be invited to an interview. What if you could flip these numbers upside? What if you could get an interview 100% of the time?

Pretend that you REALLY want a job selling cellular phones. The only problem is that you have no experience in this field. In fact, you have no sales experience whatsoever. But, to make up for your inexperience, you go to several local Verizon and At&t stores and start talking to the people that work there. You show up for short periods of time, during off-peak hours, and just start talking with them. Instead of talking about yourself, you ask them questions, discuss new advances in smartphone technology, and act really interested in everything they have to say. You also ask to be introduced to the manager at each store. And when you’re introduced, you briefly tell these managers how much you love their stores. Maybe you even buy a few products, like a phone case, an extra charger, and one of those stupid handsfree blue tooth earpieces only annoying people wear at airports. What if you brought in your friends to buy stuff? What if you actively went out and found people who needed new cell phones and brought them into the store? How long do you think it would be until you were hired?

Do What You’re Not Supposed To Do

If you do everything you’re supposed to do, you have less than a 1% of getting hired. Google, the firm with a No. 1 employer brand, gets well over 1 million applicants per year, which means that even during its most robust hiring periods (when it hires 4,000 people a year) your odds of getting hired are 0.4%. The solution: do what you’re not supposed to do. You’re not supposed to just show up to a company and start mingling the staff. You’re not supposed to help a company sell their products before they give you a job. You’re not supposed to fly yourself to a conference and introduce yourself to strangers.

Figuring out how to get a job in today’s economy comes down to increasing your confidence levels, taking chances, and being persistent. Self-confidence is nothing more than your willingness to get trampled on without giving up or losing your enthusiasm. Taking chances means doing things that other people are not willing to do (and that you’re not supposed to do). And being persistent simply means refusing to take no for an answer. If a perspective employer turns you down, in your mind, simply say “no, I’m still in the running for this job” and get back to work.

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