Making a purchase without your wallet – résumés and hiring

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Honestly, I could probably retire if I had $10 for every time an applicant has recently said, “It’s not on my résumé, but I used to work at XYZ Company. And that’s actually why I’m qualified for this position.”

This has become so frequent in calls and emails that I’ve been trying to think of a simple way to convey why this isn’t helpful and is actually hurtful to an applicant’s job prospects. Here’s an effort in that direction.

Let’s imagine that you go to a retail store to purchase a flat screen TV. You know the one you want. You’re at the check-out line with the TV on a cart. The sales associate asks you how you’d like to pay for your purchase. And you respond, “Well, I don’t have my wallet with me today. I don’t have any cash, check, or credit card with me. Couldn’t I just take this TV home and pay you later in the week?”

What will the sales associate say to you? They’ll tell you a definite “No.”

You might be tempted to respond, “But I have plenty of money in my bank account. And I’ll be getting a check on Tuesday. So I can definitely afford this. Won’t you let me take this now?” Will the sales associate be persuaded by this argument? They’ll still give you a firm “No!”

In order to make a purchase like this, you have to pay upfront. Maybe cash. Maybe check. Maybe credit card. Somehow, you have to pay upfront in order to carry that gorgeous flat screen TV to your car.

In a similar way, your résumé is the “currency” that helps you secure an interview. It’s an exchange of information and value that helps a prospective employer assess whether you have the experience, skills, credentials, and expertise needed for their staffing situation. If it’s not explicitly obvious from your résumé how your work history and career direction match their hiring needs, then the résumé has failed in its function: to secure an interview for you.

Obviously, the résumé can’t convey every single strength, skill, or complexity of anyone’s work history. So there may be subtle details that you just can’t include. I’m talking about the big details here. For example, if the company says that a bachelor’s degree is required, then your résumé needs to document that you have a bachelor’s degree and from what institution. If the employer says that qualified candidates must have worked for a call center and your résumé only shows your work for a restaurant and a library, then you need to add that work history you have for a call center.

Calling or emailing a prospective employer or employer’s recruiter and saying, “It’s not on my résumé, but the best reason I’m qualified for this position is that I used to work for ….” is like showing up without your wallet and expecting to make a purchase anyway. It’s just not the way these transactions occur!

At best, it looks as if you are so desperate or scattered that you aren’t prepared. At worst, it looks as if you are too lazy to update your résumé with that pertinent work history or credential. Either way, it’s not gonna impress that prospective employer!

It’s possible that some day we’ll be in a Star Trek universe where money isn’t required to get a flat screen television. It’s also possible that some day we’ll be in a résumé-free universe where recruiters have online access to a full profile of your work history. But those are future possible worlds. We’re not living in either one yet!

So, in this current world of job seeking, instead of making a call or sending an email that might actually hurt your chances, take the time to customize your résumé with the critical details that have the power to secure an interview for you! I promise you: that’s what other applicants are doing!

Republished with permission. Originally published by Elyse on her employee/job seeker blog in 2011.

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