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November 19, 2014
How to Prevent HR 'Red Flags' from Derailing Your Job Search
In the minds of many employers:

Too old means you might be difficult to manage and may not be able to “keep up” in a fast-paced environment.

Too young may mean they might think you’re too idealistic, not hard-nosed enough, too ambitious, immature,  lack the experience needed to make sound judgments, etc.

Education: No degree, wrong degree, low GPA, didn’t attend an elite college/university. To some people these might signal “not smart enough” to work effectively with colleagues and clients whose educational background is more impressive…at least on paper.

Job Hopping: Might suggest a lack of career focus, possible personality issues, lack of ambition, “quitter,” willing to jump ship at first opportunity for promise of even slightly higher pay.

Unemployment: May be desperate for any job, regardless of sincere desire for the position. May well just need job to pay bills while searching for a job they really want. Might well exaggerate or invent aspects of prior employment — out of desperation to get hired.

Self-Employment: Too independent, not a team player. Not a “corporate” person.

No Experience in Their Industry: Unable to hit the ground running. Too much to learn before they can be an effective producer. May well try to bring prior job habits, customs, etc. to new company.

The #1 problem facing most job hunters is how to get an interview with someone that can hire you. How can you do that if you have the added challenge of one or more of the above issues? 

Most people send a resume and hope to win the Big Resume Lottery. Let’s follow the resume trail and see what happens.

You dutifully comply with the job posting request to send your resume , and soon Ms. Buffer in HR adds yours to the stack that she already has waiting to review — online or on paper. Five seconds later, you’ve already been screened out! Why? Because the first thing she looks for is your current job title and industry. She’s too busy to read much, if any more, of your tome, if you aren’t currently in her company’s industry in the same or a similar position.

If you do happen to be applying for a lateral move, remember that HR’s job is to look for reasons to screen you out, not reasons to contact you to possibly set up an interview. So even if you pass the five-second gate, any of the above described situations may well cause you to be eliminated from further consideration. An important aspect of HR’s responsibility in the screening process is to verify the information and clear up any questions that s/he might have about dates of prior jobs and maybe your current and/or past compensation. HR may also want to contact some references.

This is also basically the same procedure an outside search firm uses.

What to do? Well, you could do what some do, which is to send your resume directly to the hiring authority. But there’s a problem. At most companies, the policy is that all resumes are first screened by HR. The hiring authority will almost surely just forward the one you sent to her on down to HR. And you’re back to square one.

My advice is that you will have a substantially higher likelihood of getting an interview if you make your first contact by sending a marketing letter directly to the hiring authority. Essentially, the idea is to make an offer to be of service to her or him by telling them that you can help them reach their business financial goals faster with the capabilities you can bring to the table as the result of your education and experience, and that you would be glad to come by one day soon for a brief visit to tell them more about your qualifications.

Do not include your resume. Wait until she asks for it. Then, send a standard resume.

This strategy is designed to help make it more likely that you can get evaluated on the basis of factors that you can win on, rather than being judged on an uneven playing field where your ability to contribute is outweighed by something irrelevant to your true qualifications for a given position.

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Tom Kellum is a job hunting consultant, helping people's dreams come true since 1987. He specializes in providing a personal job-landing service based on proven marketing strategies and methods. For more information, email him at careerkeysman@gmail.com.
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