The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
The words that you hear most frequently from job hunters are also the saddest: “I’ve tried everything, and nothing works. I’m giving up.” Even well-prepared, experienced, “with it” people who seem to be doing everything right often end up at that point of total frustration. They really may be doing everything they know how to do to look for a job. They check want ads, have a great résumé (which they may have paid a lot of money for), and network with everyone they think can help them. Yet overwhelmingly, it doesn’t work. Because these things are exactly what the conventional wisdom tells them to do. And in fact, they rarely work. My next columns will deal with each one in turn, and explain why these very well-known methods are not the way to find a job.
In the online age, want ads have developed a power unimaginable a few years ago. They can reach millions of job hunters, and carefully selected job possibilities can be delivered to your inbox while you relax at a coffee shop. You can respond easily, attaching your résumé and cover letter to an e-mail, or going to a website that takes your application in the exact format the employer needs. You can submit piles of applications before your latte gets cold. Then you can wait patiently, certain that someone will notice your superior résumé and call you back. Good luck. Studies show that your chances are about 4–10%, depending on the field.
A few minutes’ thought reveals why this marvel is really the emperor’s new clothes. The power to get the ads out to a huge population results in huge numbers of responses, and who is going to wade through that pile of résumés? So there’s an entry-level guy in human resources who gets the privilege. He spends an average of eight seconds scanning each résumé for some key words that he’s been trained to spot. Once he has a few to work on, the rest get dumped. I hope the job hunter at least got a good cup of coffee, because he’s not going to get much else.
Many employers have taken this charade to a new level. They have your résumé read by a computer, also trained (sorry, programmed) to look for a few key words. Sometimes the humans in the company are explicitly barred from seeing résumés or speaking to candidates. That way everyone can hide behind a veneer of tech-based objectivity. Before I decided to start Pathways to Parnassa, I applied for a job with a leading social services agency, for a position that would depend completely on people skills used face-to-face with clients. And the only way to apply was to fill out a pre-formatted form online so a computer program could evaluate my skills. I realized that this was not the kind of place I wanted to work at.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t respond to want ads. I am saying that your response must be understood as the first step of your effort to secure an interview and, ultimately, a job. The goal of these columns, and of the coaching I do in my Pathways to Parnassa work, is to teach job hunters how to take those next steps that lead to success. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at email@example.com.