Outwitting the Automated Recruiting Machine

Apr 22 2014, 6:50pm CDT | by

If you’ve tried to apply for a job lately, you know that employers are blowing smoke when they whine “It’s so hard to find good people!” It isn’t hard at all to find good people. It’s only hard to convince good people with normal self-esteem to slog through the endless gauntlet of demeaning, soul-crushing steps that make up the typical corporate Selection Pipeline.

It’s not that qualified job candidates are in short supply – just the opposite! Ten of them have read this column in the past 15 minutes. It’s just that qualified people who were raised to value themselves and their experience aren’t willing to shift into Doormat Mode just to get a job interview.

You can outwit the dreaded Black Hole recruiting portals that nearly every medium-sized and larger employer uses instead of a human recruiting process that would attract and hang onto talented job-seekers.

First, you have to zero in on your target employers, and determine which manager in each of your target organizations is your most likely hiring manager.

That’s easy to do unless the organization has 100,000+ employees and every third employee is a Director of Program Management or bears some other ultra-weenie title. (I’m not blaming the weenie-title bearers; it isn’t their fault. Over time they’ll use their influence to get their employers to shift to more human job titles.)

Let’s say you’re a Purchasing Manager. Your boss is likely to be the Director of Procurement, Director of Materials or VP of Operations. You’ll use LinkedIn's Advanced Search page to find your hiring manager, by typing in the company name and trying each of the most likely titles for your hiring manager in turn.

Check the employer’s own website, too. The head of each functio

n will be listed in the Management Bios section, usually found under About Us or Investor Information on the website. If you can’t find your direct supervisor, you can move up the org chart and reach out to the head of your function. Don’t write to the CEO, though — those folks have ten-foot-thick force fields in the form of highly efficient administrators who will take your carefully-constructed message to the CEO and toss it back into the very same Black Hole resume-killing machinery you were trying to avoid.

What do you say to your hiring manager? Send him or her a Pain Letter that tal

ks about the Business Pain behind the job ad. What’s Business Pain? It’s the compelling and expensive problem that gave rise to the job ad in the first place. No tight-fisted CFO is going to approve a job requisition unless there’s pain sufficient to keep a hiring manager up at night. All you have to do is talk about what isn’t working, and talk about your success in relieving that pain on a past assignment, like this:

Dear Mike,

I was lucky enough to catch the last ten minutes of your talk at the Minneapolis Natural Foods Expo, and I couldn’t agree more with your observation that kelp is the new hemp. Congratulations to you and the team at Everybody’s Wheatgrass for introducing wheatgrass snacks to a health-conscious public!

It wouldn’t be surprising if your growth from $8M to $25M in sales since 2010 was pushing your production team to the limit. When I was at Angry Chocolates during the company’s expansion to $85M in sales before its acquisition by Nestle, we faced a similar hurdle. We had to introduce our Angry Choco-Mints in time for C

hocoholic Expo ’11 without missing a production schedule for our distribution partners. We narrowly pulled it out and our Choco-Mints won Best New Product at the Expo that year.

If production strategy is high on your radar screen and warrants a phone conversation or email exchange, my contact information is on my resume. Congratulations again and best to you and the team.

Regards,/>/>

Declan McManus

A Pain Letter doesn’t mention a job opening. It doesn’t drone on about your experience and your trophies. It doesn’t focus on anything about the most likely problem for your hiring manager. A Pain Letter says “I’m out here, observing the business landscape, and I like what you guys are doing over there. Not only that, I’ve been in that movie a few times myself.” There’s nothing a hiring manager is more eager to hear than “I feel your pain, a

nd I see what you’re up against.”

There are hiring managers who won’t like your direct approach, but so what? You don’t want to work for just anybody. You have something valuable to offer your next boss, and if he or she can’t see that in your Pain Letter and your Human-Voiced Resume, he or she doesn’t deserve you.

You’ll find tips on writing a Human-Voiced Resume here. It’s a new day in the job market, and people who sail over, tunnel under and work around the broken recruiting machinery are getting hired into great jobs every day. Your parents didn’t raise a fool or a doormat. Are you ready to step into the new-millennium talent market and run your career like a business? Let’s put it this way: you’re still reading!

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