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Is Anybody There? How to Avoid the Resume Black Hole

September 15, 2008 3:50 PM


URRGH! It’s among the biggest frustrations of jobseekers everywhere…the feeling that your resume is being sucked into that big black hole when you apply for positions online.

Why can’t someone just acknowledge your application? Isn’t there anyone to let you know they received it?

Ahhh, if it were only that easy. HR folks will tell you that they’re totally overworked and that there aren’t enough hours in the day to look at every single resume received. And while that may indeed be true in many cases, it does little to ease the anger of applicants.

Instead of raising your blood pressure, simply accept that your resume may be destined to float in cyberspace indefinitely and that human contact is unlikely. (One hint: Before applying, make sure your resume is in tip top shape. With stiff competition today, you can’t afford a single flaw. If you’re not getting any bites, compare your document to this template and adjust as needed.)

Since giving up on finding work isn’t an option, pick up the phone. Once you apply for a position, don't wait for them to call you. People hire people, so invest time in finding an internal referral who'll help get your resume in the right hands. Use your online social networks, alumni contacts, neighbors and so on. For example, on our Women For Hire group on LinkedIn, which is free to join, members offer candid advice and feedback to friends and strangers alike. Look for such avenues to make new connections.

When a job posting says, "NO CALLS," that's really designed to prevent people from calling up to say, "So, did you get my resume?" Nobody has time to sort through the pile to give you that answer.

If you're applying to the HR department for a sales position, call the sales manager of the organization to make him or her aware of your interest and qualifications. Or cold call the department you'd be working for and schmooze the person who answers. Instead of asking, "Are you hiring?" you can say, "I know you have an opening for X and I'm exceptionally qualified and would love the chance to get my resume to the decision maker. Might you be willing to tell me who that is?" If you're interested in retail work, walk into a store and befriend the other sales associates who can often put your application at the top of the pile for the boss.

Share your experiences here—the frustrations and the successes!—so we can all learn from each others challenges and triumphs!

Comments (17)

Good article. Can't wait to read more articles about this subject.

I am an Human Resources Director and have been unemployed for several months now. During this time of layoffs and closures, whcih is why I lost my job to begin with, fewer and fewer HR positions are out there. I have over 10 years of operations management experience prior to my HR background. Unfortunaltely, I am having no luck in securing employment in a management role. I was told by unemployment that employers are not anxious to hire an HR person in a non HR role.
Does anyone have any suggestions? I am getting to the point of such frustration. It is really tough to feel like your being penalized due to the fact that you have been in HR for the last 8 years. HELP, any advise would be appreciated

I left Microsoft after a 15 year career as a Program Manager and we moved to Austin, TX to get some sun. We came with no job prospects because we had a bit of a nest egg and I was so sure that employers would be fawning over my experience.

I was wrong. Anxiety turned into panic after three months passed with nary a nibble. I was modifying my resume to be specific for the opening, but I wasn't getting any response. I was completely befuddled by the rejection.

Then I decided that the right people - those who would appreciate my employment history - weren't seeing my resume. I did some research and found the Email address of the CEO of a mid-size company in Austin. I emailed him on a Sunday morning with my resume and a quick, to the point email and he responded within two hours.

I like to believe it's vision like that that got him into the C-suite. I was a new employee with the firm within the month.

I would like to comment about this. I loved your article and yes it is very frustrating when your resume goes into the black hole, but I have a tip for all job seekers. It's imperative that you Refresh, Refresh, Refresh, your resume on the online job boards. I am a career coach and have been coaching people into jobs for the past 11 years. I was also a recruiter and a headhunter too.
So, it's so important to make changes to your monster, careerbuilder, and craigslist (just to name a few job boards) every three days. Recruiters, HR professionals and Headhunters are scouring the boards every minute of the day and they only look at the last 2 days of postings, so make a small change to your profiles, for example, like deleting the word "the" and typing it back in the resume and then save changes. This action will bring your resume up to the top of the pile every two to three days. I have clients that get 2-5 interviews a week after doing this.

When your education is for a particular field of work is what you have been doing for a few years, then suddenly it dries up and no positions are available, you have skills that have suddenly become obsolete. What then? This is what I have been going through since relocating to an area when I had an interview set up and the employer promised the position and it was then given to someone else. Without a job, the career is at a standstill. What are the options?

As a professional resume writer, there is one thing I often see that I believe keeps candidates from receiving interviews - a lack of focus. There really is no such thing as a "general" resume. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best thing that you can do for your resume is to target it towards a particular position. Hiring managers need to be able to picture you for a certain job. If they can't, the resume will likely end up in the slush pile.

I can definitely relate to this blog post. 2006 was my year of job searching including applying on-line, going to career fairs to hand out resumes and going on interviews with unfavorable response. I got frustrated but never gave up. As other’s have mentioned your resume must be in tip top shape. One particular career fair I went to offered resume critique. I was told that my resume was generic and did not make me stand out. The core competency based resume worked well for me and at the end of 2006 I got an offer for my current job. Please don’t get discouraged I know the economy has many worried but you have to be persistent and make sure you are presenting the best you both on and off paper.

As an employer who's been in business for nineteen years, I can say from experience that Ms. Johnson's correct in her statement that the resumé must be in tip-top shape, and that following instructions during submission is really important. Submission criteria are often (at least partially) an employer's way of testing candidates' ability to follow instructions.

Anyone who sends me a "snail mail" letter when I'd asked for e-mail submissions gets cast aside; anyone who submits a resumé without a custom-written cover letter gets cast aside; worst of all, anyone who has a typographical error in either their resumé or their cover letter gets cast aside. One of my colleagues told me that I may be losing some good people to my strict guidelines. My response was that if the candidates didn't see fit to research the company, and to read carefully, chances are they care only about getting "a job, any job", and that they aren't discriminating much in who they'll work for. No good employer wants to hire someone SO desperate for a job that they'll take the first reasonable offer they get. Those types usually don't bother investigating the employer at least enough to read and follow the submission criteria, and to check out the employer's website. Anyone who's desperate for a job will most likely take whatever's available immediately, and leave it if something better comes along. People who really want to work for me, and who've researched, and who take an interest before they even talk to me, tend to be better candidates. I've even gone over my stated salary offer for two such people.

Also, applicants: If you're not capable of crafting a fancy cover letter, don't have anyone write it for you. Any reasonably intelligent prospective employer will discover a candidate's inability to put a sentence together. Keep your cover letter simple, but write it yourself. The same boring "I believe my skills are a perfect match...I seek to contribute my ..blah, blah..blah". You're a person. WRITE like a person. Stand out. When I see a submission from someone who seems qualified, I always write back to them to see if their e-mail correspondence matches the tone of their cover letter. About 50% of the time, it becomes clear that they had help with their cover letter. If ya can't write a clear English sentence, you'll be found out. Take a class, get some help, but don't get help writing a single cover letter. Instead, consider taking a class, or even reading some wonderful, free material on how to write better. Anyone hiring a "warm body" won't care about you as a person. You'll be fine working for American Express in some functionary position with a "I believe my skill set is a...blah-blah-blah; I seek to contribute my..blah-blah-blah" cover letter. Be clever, be creative, be yourself. DO NOT be generic, and do not send generic materials. Customize everything, and be more discriminating in your choice of prospective employers. It'll pay off.

It has been very frustrating finding a new job. I decided to step out on faith and obtain new employment. This search for "new employment" has been a real drag.

One thing is for sure, I will never give up. I believe that through it all failure is impossible. I have had the good fortune of being offered some jobs, that didn't match my qualifications or my interest and for one reason or another I have declined the offer. My rationalization was that if I am going to look for that "new" job it is going to be something that I believe will be rewarded with good pay and benefits

For me, it was refreshing to hear that others are facing employment challenges and I am not alone in this quest. One thing is for sure I am not giving up, I am destined for greatness and it may take some time but in the end it is worth it.

Ladies, be encouraged and keep fighting, no matter what a blessing is coming your way!

To Terry Clark. I empathize with your circumstance on so many levels. I too was recently unemployed and have been on my current job with a university in the Chicago area for 10 months. My background was social services and I did'nt even consider working in education. But here I am and most of all, I love it! I am black, age 49 and gained about 40 pounds during my less than 1 year of unemployment. However, please, never use race as a reason for unemployment. Don't buy into that. Focus 100 percent on the skills you bring to the table. Believe me someone will recognize your talent. Also, as I read your post, I did notice numerous spelling errors. Being "sharp" is required in every single aspect of the total package you offer. Near perfection is a requirement! Dress, make-up, hair, talent, oral communication, written communication every single detail must be perfected. It's competitive out there. Are you networking? Are you telling everyone you know about your job search? You must use traditional and non traditional means to secure that position that is waiting for you. Stay on your game, earnestly continue your job search, and above all trust, pray, and know that God will place you in the position that is waiting just for you.

I am going to be 63 and in need of work. I have sent several resumes for the past 2 months and so far have not received an interview.
I have over 20 years experience and have been laid off due to the mortgage crisis. If anyone out there can help I would really appreciate it.

Since March 2008, I have been applying for a position (non profit/marketing fields). Now, I am just getting replies (for positions I responded to over the last 2 months). It seems as though the economic crunch hit hard--many companies, especially non profit sectors, waited for the fiscal year to begin. I'm sorry I didn't apply to more temporary agencies--I only responded to one, "No Go." I am glad I survived and am embarking on a more focused and in depth job search, but will resort to temporary employment, if needed. I won't give up! There is a nitch and job suited to my skills/education/temperament. There are great (even though small) companies to work for, we just have to find them.

I have been getting responses back from employers that I have nothing in common with and when I get something I know that I am qualified I don't get a call back. I am a black female 49 years old, I have over 10 years experience in the customer service/technical feild. You have no idea how hard it is to be a blackwoman 49 years old trying to get in the right position in buffalo, NY. I Know I may have to relocate to another state. Listen! I've been offered a supervisor position over a Hotel in North Carolina, Many other jobs in west palm, fl. in Southtowns. I want to move from this place so badly, but my children and my grandchildren are here. I just buried my spouse this feb. and my diabetes are out of control which means I have to stay close to the clinics for meds. The Jobs they have for me are so far out side the city. I need a job I've tryed Alpine, they don't info you that you sound black so they can't use you! I am very articulate, professional and knowledgeable speaker, I brush up my skills so that I convey my hard skills and soft skills at a givin notice. Let me give you an example of a certain interview that was let's just say different: I went on a job inteview with another prestiges company I thought I was on my game, but durning the closing of the interview. which consists of two people putting you under a microscope. kinda like the (spainish inquistion) I heard the woman said “ need sharper skills” now this stayed on mind for a minute. “sharper” I was sharp clothes, shoes, makeup. I thought I talked about my hardskills, and software experience. I even told a joke or two of upscale charatristics (they laugh anyway) was it me? When she said i was too laid back as if I couldn’t bring a good game. this was a litte disheartin. Anyway that was just one of the tings I deal with on a daily basis. sometimes you can't dance around ignorance.

Thanks for letting me express myself.

When I send a resume online, I would just like to know it has been received by the company. An autoreply message would be greatly appreciated just to be sure it got there.


(I am 52 yrs old) HOW do I get in to talk to the decision maker when I am seeking a new career; one I am passionate about. What I am offering is a successful work history and a passion along with transferring skills. I know I can DO IT, how do I get an chance??

Ladies, Do you need an extra copy editor?
In your article on resume frustration & keeping your resume in tip top shape, you referred to "you're resume"!!!! instead of YOUR resume.
You're is a contraction for you are (comprised of a pronoun and verb).
Your is a possessive adjective, as is his, her, their, or my book, for example.
Please tell me your editor wasn't an English major!

I have the best success when I apply for jobs for which I'm a perfect fit. It's easier to get hired and noticed when the employer knows you can just walk in and start performing.

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