Tips for Escaping a “Resume Black Hole”

A black hole is defined by Wikipedia as a “region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing – not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light – can escape from inside it.” A “resume black hole” is similar except that you can replace “gravitational effects” with something more like “laziness” or “lack of common courtesy.”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit too blunt and oversimplified, but that’s what it feels like, right?!?  You know the feeling all too well.  You’ve scoured the web for the perfect job.  You’ve spent hours crafting the wittiest, yet professional cover letter.  You’ve had 6 different people review and give conflicting advice on your resume, and you’ve finally built up the confidence to click “apply” to that job that seems like a slam dunk for your background.

And then… waiting… waiting… waiting.  Anybody there…?

There goes that confidence!  Did you screw up the application (Why do they need to know what summer jobs you worked 17 years ago?)?  Did your dial-up internet go out at the exact time that you clicked “apply” (I thought I heard thunder!)?  Did you misspell your name (facepalm!)?

Here are the various truths you need to know: First off, your resume is sitting in a pile of resumes (maybe hundreds) somewhere – it’s important that you know that, for your own sanity’s sake.  It didn’t just disappear, and you probably didn’t screw up the application.

  • There is a very good chance your resume somehow missed the electronic keyword filter that many Applicant Tracking Systems use to sort through “qualified” resumes from garbage.
  • There is a chance that your resume fell victim to someone who got glassy-eyed while looking through 300 resumes, and they just didn’t see the immediate connection to their job.
  • There is a chance that the job has already been filled, but the posting automatically refreshed (these are scheduled when the job is first posted) or it just wasn’t taken down.
  • There is a chance that posting this job was part of an internal HR policy that mandated that every open position be posted externally for at least “x” amount of time before a hiring decision is made – when the reality is that the company has identified an internal candidate they wanted for this role all along.
  • There is a chance the person reviewing the resumes found 2-3 that she/he liked, before she/he even got to your resume in the stack, and just stopped there. Sounds lazy and unfair, but you have to realize that oftentimes, recruiting is only one small piece of the job of the person reviewing resumes, and they have to be efficient.

Starting to get the idea?  There are more explanations, but I’m afraid I incited a monitor-smashing rampage half-way through the list. So here are some tips to “escape” the resume black hole:

  • Tailor your resume to the jobs for which you are applying. This means using similar keywords (don’t fabricate your experience), ensuring you include ALL relevant experience, and use words that are common in the description at an equally-common proportion in your resume.
  • Find and reach out directly to the person who posted the job. Sometimes, the poster’s name or email address will be on the posting.  Otherwise, you might start with either someone in HR at the company or whoever you would perceive as being the direct supervisor for the role.  Connect via social media and send a direct message or email.
  • Find someone with common interests at a target company who you can leverage for an introduction. Look up the company name AND your school, previous place of employment, fraternity/sorority, hobbies, military experience, etc. on LinkedIn to find people who may be more responsive to you initially (ex: Apple AND “US Marine Corps”).  Once you connect and celebrate / commiserate about your common interest or experience, see if they can help you get in front of the right person at their company.
  • Find as many avenues as you can to connect with people in-person. Job fairs, coffee dates, “informational interviews” – all of these are better than online applications.  It’s a lot harder (though not impossible, unfortunately…) to look someone in the face and ignore them!
  • Find a GOOD Recruiter who can help get your resume directly in front of the hiring manager or HR Representative at the company—at least you’ll know the right person has actually laid eyes on it. Find someone willing to listen and educate you on the search process, and someone you feel has your best interest in mind at all times.
  • Keep applying. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you just never know how you are going to get your next job, and you need to cover your bases.  It’s hard to tell which applications are going to get absorbed by the black hole, but you can’t take away the application process (a necessary evil) from your search.  No one will take your search as seriously as you do, so do whatever it takes to find the right job.

The resume black hole is real, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.  We are at a crossroads where technological efficiency and the “war on talent” meet, which means that these companies really want to find you (good news!), but the technology that they think will help them find you hasn’t yet evolved enough to effectively do so (not-so-good news).  Try these tips, and please contact me directly if I can ever help with anything in your career!