Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Tob,
Poor young fool had to change his abode.
Then one day he was lookin’ for a job…
Time to get cleaned up and stop lookin’ like a slob.
Actually that was unrelated to what I was a-gonna write about, it just struck me as funny to make up a little song about myself – to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies. That is one catchy tune, yessir.
Now before you get up to leave, I do have a tale to tell and it ain’t pretty. Okay you can get up to leave now if you want, ifn’t you ain’t can handle it.
Last week I hit a new low in my job search.
I was experimentin’ with the truth.
Re-writing history. Obfuscating.
You see, for every position, there are points that can be emphasized about oneself and points that can be de-emphasized, or taken out entirely, in order to lead the employer directly to the information he or she is looking for.
For every open position, I did my best to write in as much relevant detail as I could, and take out the irrelevant detail that didn’t apply. I then began to creatively re-write, sometimes adding entire past histories in the effort to get noticed. I lost faith that anything I submitted was even reviewed at all before GENERATE_POLITE_REJECTION(), or worse, nothing.
I even applied at The Reject Shop since they were opening a new shop in Marrickville and needed some amazing personnel to get that store running, and I was rejected – by The Reject Shop.
Disaster struck on Wednesday.
I was in the city Tuesday for an interview, and got a call back on one of the resumes I had sent out. I wanted to meet the recruiter in person to give them the song and dance, and instead of making time that same day, while I was already down there, I’d be making the trip the following day. I told myself that this was the price of the job hunt, multiple trips to the city, meeting people, convincing them how glad they’ll be once they hire me, and so on.
I was pretty sure which resume had been sent for that position, I take notes as I apply. What the position is, the date, the recruiter’s name and number, and any relevant notes that might help me talk intelligently when I call them to follow up. I was a little glad that she called me first, but only glad in the way that having free tartare sauce with my fish and chips made me glad. I printed off the right resume, and some relevant information about the industry/technology, and brushed up on the train down.
It was a typical recruiter’s office, with a receptionist, and a few small two person meeting rooms visible from where I sat. The compact, tough looking Irish woman with close cropped hair and short fingernails welcomed me and asked whether I found the place okay. She had a really nice smile, which she used like it was on automatic timer. There were two or three sentences under the category small talk, and we dove right into the work history. I did this, and then I did that… and she looked slightly confused. She looked through the pages (of which there were one too few, I noticed) and asked me to clarify what company it was I worked for? The company wasn’t even listed on the resume she had. I have no idea what my face looked like to her, but from the inside it was glowing way too hot at the temples, cheeks, and ears, and my brain was overclocking to sort out what I was going to say next. I was finding out first hand how incredibly difficult it is to crunch a swirl of thoughts, one of which was more interesting to me and one of which was more imperative. The more interesting of the two was, “how the heck does she have a totally different resume, which one is it, where did it come from, and why did she bring it out?” The more imperative was: “How the heck do I make the discrepancy sound rational?”
My explanation boiled down to the truth, basically, that I was tailoring the resume to what I thought was wanted, and leaving out the stuff that didn’t relate, to make it easier for the employer to find the keywords they’re looking for, without all the clutter. She had a very boiled down resume, which had been geared for a much simpler role. She told me it was already on their database and “may” be different from the one she got from me directly for the position. I’m pretty sure she was toying with me, but her face was too butch to read.
In the end it was the same story anyway.. I’d never worked in that industry, they weren’t interested. Even if I had submitted the complete resume, and given a total and accurate snapshot of my work history and accomplishments, it didn’t matter and I was left with pretty much the same sinking desperate feeling as at all the other times. I asked for ideas and she was no help.
However, I did learn something from this experience. I was reminded what a hard headed kid I am. I was also reminded that I have no skill for telling people what they want to hear. Above the obvious that radically altering my resume to suit each position would eventually catch up with me, what’s still less obvious to me is the line between when fast talking and tailoring can be applied and when it can’t. –In the case of the recruiter, where they list many jobs and keep a central database, I wasn’t going to get anywhere since their system kept me honest, and kept me out of a job until someone wanted someone with cross-industry and intercontinental experience.
I decided to focus more on what I honestly thought I had a shot at, and focus on what kind of role I really wanted. To this day I still have trouble answering the simple question: “What is it you want to be doing?”