Don't Send a Resume

And Other Contrarian Rules to Help Land a Great Job


By Jeffrey J. Fox

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Anyone who thinks getting a good job is easy in this booming economy should think again. The real plum jobs are out there, but they’re harder to get than ever. Now, bestselling author and innovative thinker Jeffrey J. Fox steps up to the plate once again with this no-nonsense collection of surprising and daring rules for landing the right job. Fox offers a Job-Getting Blueprint, a Job-Seeker’s Glossary, several first interview questions, as well as the basic form and variations for a boomerang letter. His rules not only help today’s job seekers devise a winning strategy, but also show them how to prepare for and make the best impression in an interview.


D O N’ T    S E N D    A


And Other
Rules to Help
a Great Job



Dr. Brendan Fox and Dr. David Walters:

among God’s elite corps of mechanics.


You are reading this book because you now are looking for a job or are about to look for a job. You are just starting your search or have been in the job market for some time. You probably have anxiety; that’s OK. You probably own or have read other books on getting a job, and that’s OK. Some of those books are helpful and important. But this book is different. This book is about marketing and selling—the marketing and selling of yourself. Marketing and selling are business disciplines that many people haven’t learned. These people may be students, manufacturing experts, accountants, lawyers, research scientists, human resource professionals, meeting planners, moms reentering the workforce, retired military personnel looking for a second career, fired CEOs, and even sales and marketing types.

Countless good people who are looking for a job—people who could make a positive contribution to any number of companies—are rejected daily by countless organizations. Why? One reason is that they look for a job the old-fashioned way. They rely on resumes and networking to land a job. They follow the “same old, same old” job-getting formula.

With some variation, the old formula is: Read books on how to get a job and how to write a resume and how to network, or get with an employment agency or outplacement firm. Then write a brilliant resume, write a compelling cover letter, print everything on exquisite stationery, mail resume and cover letter to the human resource departments of the Fortune 1000 (or some other list), take “how to interview” training, clear the calendar for the interviews. Finally, go to the mailbox, and from those companies that bothered to respond, read rejection form letters.

Microsoft doesn’t sell software by sending a flyer to ten million people and having employees call old contacts. Budweiser doesn’t sell beer that way, and Procter & Gamble doesn’t sell soap that way. Instead, the great marketing companies invest in innovation, create differentiated products, tailor the products to fill specific customer needs, and package and promote the products with clarity.

Every day, hirers in organizations—your customers, the buyers of you—see the same phrases in resume after resume. Every day, people on the network get replicated letters, ghostwritten by outplacement firms, from job seekers they don’t know. Every day, potential hirers or influencers get resumes with cover letters that misspell their names. Every day, active hirers, or people with current hiring needs, get resumes and cover letters that contain nothing that is red-hot relevant to them. And every day, someone who is generous enough to meet a job seeker will hear that job seeker start the interview: “So what does your company do?”

Do the skills-listing and self-analysis exercises in the other job-getting books. Understand your inner self, your drives, and your good and bad karma. Write down all your pros and cons.

Then do what’s in this book and you will land your dream job, the one most suited to you. This book may not cut the time of your job search, but it will definitely reduce time wasted.

• I •
Don’t Send a Resume

A resume with a “for everyman” cover letter is junk mail. A resume without a cover letter is used to line the bottom of the birdcage. Most direct mail hits the trash barrel between the mailbox and the house. All unexpected and standard resumes go from the IN box to the trash box. Some may generate a rejection form letter; most get ignored; 99.2 percent get tossed.

When a salesperson calls on a customer without an appointment it is a cold call. Cold calls have a low success rate. The customer may have absolutely no need for the product, may not even be in the office. Telemarketers who call at dinnertime have a low success rate. The customer may be too busy to talk, may have absolutely no need for the product, or may not be home. Resumes that arrive without invitation have a low success rate. The person who receives the resume may have no need for an additional employee, may not even be the hiring person.

You are the product, and your resume is your sales literature. Super salespeople never send literature before meeting with a prospective customer. They know that sales literature sent prior to a needs analysis is odds-on to be irrelevant, off target, and unread. Super salespeople send literature after the first interview or bring it with them on follow-up calls. If the literature is not completely customized to the customer’s needs, the salesperson highlights those product benefits most meaningful to the customer. Super salespeople create interest in their product and use sales literature to reaffirm and to leave a footprint, a product remembrance.

You must heed the example of the super salesperson. Your resume has much more validity and Velcro if the customer reads it after talking to you, hearing about you, or meeting you. This is particularly true if your resume is written for the hirer after you have interviewed the hirer. Your resume will validate your ability to deliver what the customer—the hirer—needs.

Turn junk mail into money mail. Don’t send a resume without proper setup. If possible deliver your resume in person. Present your resume. Follow up with your resume.

• II •
Why Resumes Don’t Sell

A young executive was interviewing with the company president. The president remarked, “Your resume is quite impressive.” Disarmingly, the young executive answered, “It ought to be, I wrote it.”

A funny response, maybe. A cocky response, probably. A candid response that deals directly with an underlying problem with resumes, definitely. No one writes a resume that states: “Weak manager. Afraid to make decisions. Afraid to change. Can’t get along with people. Canned in last five jobs.” Even though that might be closer to the truth for some managers, people write just the opposite. The resume is always biased to favor the candidate, and everyone knows it. Consequently, because it is inherently imbalanced no matter how skillfully crafted, the resume itself is a barrier that hirer and candidate must overcome.

Hirers expect resumes to represent one side of the candidate. Hirers expect embellishments in resumes. Hirers so expect an incomplete portrait that the resume is used only as a starting point in the interviewing and hiring process.

All resumes look alike. Regardless of the resume style—experience resume, chronological resume, functional resume—they all ultimately look the same. Selling yourself depends on getting noticed, standing apart, being different from everybody else. If at the outset you are represented only by your resume and your resume looks like everybody else’s resume, then you look like everybody else.

The resume—any resume, all resumes—always acquires a personality of its own, which is often different from that of the person it glorifies. Resume-writing rules, resume structure, and the resume development process work together to produce, in effect, a new shadow persona. The modest take credit. The spare are verbose. The humble become egocentric. The literate use arcane jargon. The confident get cautious. The creative get common.

Resumes are too often an exercise in self-validation. This is particularly true for the seasoned manager—someone who has spent most of his or her career in one place—who now is uncomfortably in search of a new job. These resumes resonate with associated accomplishments, nearly a mirror for every success of the former organization for which the candidate worked. After reading such a resume, one wonders why the person needs to seek a new job.

Many resumes are too long. This is a plague on college campuses. Prospective faculty candidates (for hire or promotion) submit eight-page resumes (which they pedantically call curricula vitae) listing every paper they ever wrote, but only two sentences on teaching.

Your resume has two purposes: 1) to be intriguing enough to get you an interview; and 2) to reaffirm in a tailored way, after your interview, how hiring you solves the hirer’s problem.

During your potential employer’s workday, your resume competes with memos, reports, to-do lists, luncheon meetings, other resumes. Take a lesson from the gunfighter. His resume fit on his business card, yet it worked: “Paladin. Have gun. Will travel.”

• III •
The Job-getting Blueprint

  • Target an organization.

  • Research the organization.

  • Write an impact letter to get an interview.

  • Treat the interview as a sales call.

  • Precall plan the interview.

  • Dollarize your potential value to the organization.

  • Bring something helpful to the company to the interview.

  • Conduct a needs analysis during the interview.

  • Write an individual resume for each target organization.

  • Use the resume as interview follow-up sales literature.

  • Send a thank-you note to each interviewer within one day of the interview.

  • Precall plan each and every subsequent interview.

• IV •
Skip the Personnel Department

The good people in the personnel or human resources department are not the buyers—the ultimate hirers. Unless you are seeking a job in the personnel department, these people are not making the hiring decision. The hirers are the managers in marketing, manufacturing, information technology, sales, and finance. The job seeker will be hired or rejected by the people for whom and with whom he or she would work. The actual hirers are your customers—the people to whom you must sell yourself.

The personnel department is a screen, a gatekeeper. Part of their job is to keep unwanted, unexpected, unrequested resumes from cluttering managers’ desks. Unless the personnel people are alerted to a specific hiring need, they do not carefully review and study resumes and job applications looking for the next superstar. In fact, the personnel department views most nonspecific resumes and job applications as time wasters.

Even when the people in human resources are looking for a certain type of potential employee, their selection process starts with rejection. Particularly when a job opportunity is advertised, personnel people often face stacks of resumes to review. Their goal is to dramatically reduce the stack. They scan resumes looking for reasons to reject candidates. Resumes are tossed because of a candidate’s school, affiliations, geographical location, or job history. Resumes are rejected because the reviewer is weary or thinks he has already found the perfect candidate, or because he misreads the write-up.

People in human resources, especially early in the hiring process, hire by the book. The book is the written job description. Good candidates are routinely rejected because their background doesn’t seem to precisely mirror the job description. The human resources department wrote the job description, or participated in the writing, so anything in the resume that is even slightly off the job description is cause for rejection. The actual hirers are more flexible, meaning that they commonly hire “talent” and refit the job to match the talent.


On Sale
Nov 1, 2001
Page Count
172 pages
Hachette Books

Jeffrey J. Fox

About the Author

For over 25 years, Jeffrey Fox has been helping clients grow revenues and increase gross margins. Jeffrey is founder of Fox & Company, a management consulting firm that shows clients how to dollarize their value proposition to overcome the price objection and to shorten the sales cycle. Fox has written eleven best-selling business books that have been translated into over thirty languages. Fox is the author of How to Become CEO which was on the NY Times, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, Knight-Ridder, and best seller lists. His books have been best sellers in France, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Russia. His book How to Become a Rainmaker was selected as one of the 100 best business books ever written. His Dollarization Discipline was selected as one of the top thirty business books of 2005. He is a popular speaker, appearing regularly before senior management groups and sales forces. Jeff is a graduate of Harvard Business School. Fox & Company is located in Chester, CT.

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