Sunday, June 13, 2010

When Looking for a Job, You Have to Manage Your Search

Last week I wrote about what to put in a résumé. This week I thought I would write on how to control your résumé during a job search,  Controlling your résumé is a euphemism which means how to be in charge of your own job search. Everyone, at some point in their career, will look for a job.

A recruiter cannot do it for you. Your friends cannot do it for you. You have to run your own search.

Last weekend I received a résumé from someone who I have known and who trusts me. He authorized me to send his résumé to as many people as possible. I emailed him back and told him that that was a bad idea and that I would call him with every idea I had to get his specific permission to send his paperwork.   He (and you) should always know where your résumé (and/or portfolio) is.

You have a right to know where your résumé is
There may be places you do not wish to work. There may be people you don’t want to work with. There may be accounts you do not wish to work on. It is perfectly reasonable not to have your résumé sent to those places.

I once had a candidate who declined to interview at an agency. It turns out that the head of account management was a former lover. I guess it ended badly. But it was her right to keep her résumé private.

Target your search
When you are asked on an interview where you have been looking, it is often a trick question. Its purpose is to determine how directed you are. If your answer is BBDO, Strawberry Frog and Mother, there is constancy in your interviewing – you are seeing all creatively driven agencies. If your response is BBDO, Publicis,  Goodby and Taxi there is no obvious thread other than that they are all good agencies.  However, because there is no obvious connection among those places, it may be interpreted that you are not directed in your career.

You do not wish to be overexposed
Don’t allow multiple submissions to the same place.

If you have previously interviewed at a company or if your résumé has been recently sent either by a friend, by a recruiter or by you, don’t allow it to go there again for at least for six months to a year. The last thing you want the hiring manager or human resources person to say is, “not him/her again”, or words to that effect.

I have even had people say to me, “Her résumé shows up here every six or eight months. What is wrong with her? Why is she still looking?”

No recruiter should send your résumé without your express permission
In line with the above points, keeping control of your submissions  is to your benefit.

You should be aware of what happens when your résumé is submitted to any company. At most firms, the HR department keeps a database of all résumés received. They are logged in as they arrive. The logging process happens before anyone decides to see you, which they may agree to or not, depending on your background, currently open jobs or the available time of the person designated to interview you. Receipt of résumés is rarely acknowledged.

If the recruiter who sent it did not ask your permission, they may not tell you it went there and, since the company did not acknowledge receipt or may decline to interview you, you may never find out you were submitted. After all, if you aren't asked for permission, there is no need to tell you that you won't be seen.

And there your résumé will sit.

Every recruiter does not get every assignment. So when a different recruiter has an appropriate job for you at that agency, you will receive a call, give your permission to be submitted and await a call back for an interview. But if your résumé has been sitting there, unnoticed, the reaction to  its receipt, even if you are perfecly qualified, will be, “we already have the résumé.” My observation over years of recruiting is that often, that is the end of it for the candidate, even if they are perfect for a job. A good recruiter will inform you that your resume is already there so you can try to get in yourself or through the previous recruiter.  But if you don't know who sent it, you may never be seen.

The way you handle your résumé is indicative of how you might handle the job
When your résumé is submitted through multiple sources it can cause a negative impression of you. If you can’t manage your search process, how will you manage the details of a complex job? 

And, possibly worse, it may indicate that you are desperate.  No one wants to hire a desperate person.

I would love to hear your stories and details of errant submissions or refused interviews because your paperwork was submitted without permission.  My readers can benefit from your experience.


  1. I once had a recruiter who claimed to have a good job for me but wouldn't name the agency until after they reviewed my resume and agreed to meet with me. I told her I wouldn't authorize my resume to be sent to any agency whose identity I did not know. What if I had already submitted my resume there in the past, or knew I would not want to work there for whatever reason? I felt I was being responsible.

    My logic was lost on her. She said she wouldn't tell me who they were because she assumed I'd then go to them directly, without her! She even insisted I tell her every agency I'd ever interviewed at in the city so that SHE could decide if she should send my resume to this anonymous entity. She failed to realize that the decision to do so was mine to make, not hers. Needless to say I terminated our relationship on the spot.

  2. I will agree with Paul that you need to manage and control the "process" of your job search yourself. But that's got a lot more to do with bigger issues than simply managing where your resume goes.

    HR directors and recruiters serve their purpose and have their own vested interests first at heart: Putting round pegs in round holes. "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. No Coke, Pepsi" (thanks SNL). It's got nothing to do with what you actually want, I promise.

    So, send your CV directly to the account, creative, media, research, or internet execs who might be looking for new and exceptional talents. Maybe something more than a mundane cheeseburger.

    But that means you have to do your own research, snail mail, e-mail, and telephone follow-up. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!

    If you don't do as I say, you'll be waiting a long time for your next gig.

  3. Dear Anonymous #1: Your story rings true. Unfortunately there are recruiters who act unprofessionally. I have always said that I wish recruiters would be held to a higher standard by both corportate recruiters and by the candidates themselves. Unfortunately, most candidates are not as "together" as you are.

    I ask the where are you interviewing question not because I want to know where they are interviewing but to determine how directed they are and to determine where they are in their search.

    Your description of another recruiter's action makes me embarassed for my business.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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