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Résumés Don't Land Jobs for Older Workers

By Bob Weinstein

If you think they do, you're behind the times. Yet every year, companies are showered with thousands of résumés. Small to mid-sized companies receive hundreds of résumés a week, large ones, thousands. Even though corporate websites encourage candidates to e-mail their résumés - the chances that they'll actually be read by a human being are pathetically small. And if naíve enough to snail-mail your résumé, you're dead in the water. Before the envelope is opened - if some lowly HR drone actually mustered the tactile energy to tear open the envelope and scan its contents - it (and you) will be summarily discarded as a relic of a bygone era, a flesh and blood equivalent to high-fidelity tuners, quadraphonic sound and long-playing records.

In short, résumés are a tiny step away from becoming an impotent instrument in the job evaluation process.

It's no surprise that older job hunters are out of work, said former HR executives Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin--principals of Kendall Park, New Jersey recruiting technology firm CareerXroads company. "They're looking for the same kind of jobs they had in the past. Those jobs no longer exist. So they keep on mass-mailing résumés to companies, hoping that they'll catch recruiters' attention. That was a poor tactic 20 years ago; today it's a senseless waste of time."

Buckshot job-hunting strategies never yield results
Older job hunters should not be sending their résumés into what Mehler calls "black holes," a term he coined to describe corporate websites, where they're lost among hundreds or thousands of résumés.

Connecting with employers the right way
Boomers ought to be emulating younger job hunters who are in sync with the rhythms of the present. "They ought to be looking for new trends, new ways of working that will take them five and 10 years into the future," Mehler said. "Unfortunately, they are not doing that."

"They should be exploring social networks, attending trade-association meetings, and be active members of their alumni associations," Mehler said. "Most important, the goal of all job hunters, regardless of age, ought to be to cultivate contacts at companies they'd like to work for. And connect with employees who work there who can walk their résumés into hiring managers' or recruiters' offices."

Mehler and Krispin's research found that most jobs are landed through employee referral. "In many organizations, one in four résumés sent via employee referrals get job offers," Mehler said. "The average is about one in 10."

Wouldn't you rather be one in 10 rather than one in 4,500? The best way to land an interview is through contacts, Mehler said. That could be anyone who works at the company--colleagues, former employees, an acquaintance on the loading dock or even the mailperson who knows every manager/executive (That's a potential goldmine of leads right there).

This basic tactic is the nucleus of a successful job hunt. It's also the most difficult. This is why the majority of job hunters give it short shrift. It takes persistence, confidence and mountains of ingenuity, said Mehler. But, it's worth the effort. You may be surprised where it leads. There are no miracles for landing jobs. It's just good old hard work. Technology is never going to change that."

It's a numbers game
There is nothing mysterious or complicated about job-hunting, according to Mehler. It's a numbers game, plain and simple. And it takes hard work and persistence. It can't be a random effort. Finding a job is more than a full-time job, Mehler stressed. It ought to be a five-, better yet, a six-day pursuit, rather than a random effort.

Mehler is not the first one to drive that point home. I've said it repeatedly in stories, columns and earlier books, and so have other writers. But the advice often falls on deaf ears.

We can't expect to devote two or three hours to job-hunting and expect results. Effective job-hunting takes discipline and a total resignation and dedication to the process. And it's not fun. It's a tedious, boring and frustrating process. And there will be days when we feel like throwing in the towel because nothing is working. All we are seeing is rejection, so why bother trying so hard?

Human beings can be surprisingly inventive in finding rationalizations and excuses for not doing something they consider painful or frustrating. But we can't let these very human reactions stop us.

As tough as it is, we must drive ourselves to endure the torturous moments. We must drag ourselves out of bed, wash, shave, put on clean duds, pour ourselves a huge mug of strong coffee and rev up our job-hunting machine so that we don't lose our momentum. Why put ourselves through all that misery? Consider the alternative.