Is a dream job a reality?

Ramit Sethi Feb 10, 2012

Tess Vigeland: Last week, we aired a commentary by Ramit Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” His advice to job seekers was do not blindly send out resumes to hundreds of employers. So we wanted to know what should you do to get noticed in a crowded job market.

So Ramit is back with some tips. Welcome.

Ramit Sethi: Thank you.

Vigeland: So last week on the program, we heard a commentary from you that I wanted to pick up on. You told our audience something to the effect of “Look, if you’ve sent out 200 resumes and you haven’t gotten any response; what is sending out a hundred more really gonna do for you?” But boy, in this job market, in this economy, how can you not think that maybe one of those is gonna hit somewehre?

Sethi: The problem is that everyone else thinks exactly the same thing. And a hiring manager’s sitting there and 24 hours after they put out a job rec, they have 800 applications. And having been a hiring manager, on that side of the table, I know what happens. I give each resume less than 10 seconds. And most people are shocked to hear that. In fact, it actually makes us angry. But that’s the truth. And the reason for that is that everyone else is doing the same thing you’re doing, which is just indiscriminately sending out resume after resume. That’s a sure fire recipe to losing, to getting your resume submitted to what I call “the black hole of doom.” You don’t want to be in the black hole of doom.

Vigeland: You never want to be in the black hole of doom.

Sethi: Exactly. And so, what I would say is why not take a different approach? One way is to actually spend a little bit more time front loading the work. What I mean by this is, let’s take two people. Person A, they decide to find another job and they start sending out 20 resumes a week. OK, great. After a month, they’ve sent out 80 resumes. But odds are, they haven’t even heard back once.

Now, let’s take Person B. They say, “You know what, for the first two weeks I’m gonna do a little bit of homework. I’m gonna really figure out what company I want, what job title I want. I’m gonna do a little networking. I’m gonna take some people out for coffee for informational interviews.” And by the time I send out my first 10 resumes, they’re going to be highly targeted. They’re gonna use the language that the hiring manager himself or herself uses. And I’m going to have an inside connection to that job. So, this person who sent out 10 resumes, odds are they have a better chance of getting a job than the 80 resume submitter.

Vigeland: But honestly, it sounds kinda obvious to me that you need to network in order to get a job. So do you issue that advice because even though people know they should, they don’t?

Sethi: I call it the “nod and shrug reflex.” We all say, “Oh yeah, networking! Yeah!” We nod our heads, and then we don’t actually do it. We just shrug, “Yeah, I should really do that.” Yes…

Vigeland: You’re right.

Sethi: All of us say it, but we don’t do it. OK, let’s talk about a couple of mistakes people make. One, they go to networking events, where everyone else is unemployed.

Vigeland: That’s a job fair.

Sethi: That’s a job fair, and that’s not what networking is. I would rather spend five hours deeply researching someone and have a really good e-mail that I draft, compelling, take him out for coffee, learn about them and maybe in the last five minutes, mention something about what I’m doing and ask for their advice. By the way, if you do this twice a week, at the end of the month, you’ll have eight to 10 people who are on your side and looking out for inside jobs.

Vigeland: But what are the chances that some stranger, some hiring manager is going to A. Even looking at your e-mail if they’ve never met you and b. Actually agree to go to coffee with you?

Sethi: You would think it would be terrible. But actually, I’ve tested this with thousands of students and it actually works extraordinarily well. There are a couple of tricks. Number one: You don’t just send out a resume saying, “I’m interesting in this. I, I, I.” We call that the “I, I, I” syndrome, ’cause people love to talk about themselves. But when I meet someone, I wanna talk about them. I’m fascinated with what you did, here’s a quick one or two sentences about me and I ask them a really great, insightful question. How’s it insightful? ‘Cause I’ve done my homework.

Vigeland: Then what about that resume? That we’ve kinda glossed over at this point as not the most important thing to take care of, but it certainly seems the very first thing that people think they should take care of.

Sethi: When people decide to find their dream job, one of the first things they do is “update their resumes.” And if you think of your resume like that, you’ve already lost.

Vigeland: Uh oh.

Sethi: Your resume is not a chronological list of facts. Your resume is a narrative. You get 10 seconds in front of a hiring manager. When that hiring manager puts your resume down, what do they remember about you? Back in my earlier college days, I was the technology and psychology guy, who knew about marketing.” That’s a message, that’s a narrative.

Number two: Every word must earn its way onto the page. So, take a random sentence from your resume and ask yourself, “Is this part of my narrative at all?” If not, cut it. When you do these two things, your resume can dramatically improve and stand out from the hundreds of other resumes that the hiring manager is evaluating, and that’s how you get hired.

Vigeland: All right. Ramit Sethi, thanks so much for coming in.

Sethi: Thank you.

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