How Résumés Find Black Holes

What do job seekers and astronomers have in common? Dumping your résumé into a corporate receptacle is like plunging into a black hole in cyberspace.

Okay, not always, but often enough to be a problem. In a fit of Christmastime career-ennui a few years ago I submitted my résumé to a market research company known for mapping the vendor universe and never heard from them again.

My theory about this process, never verified, was that my résumé lacked the requisite keywords such as graduate degrees. Several weeks later my follow-up phone call was never returned, nor was a follow-up e-mail. Come to think of it, though, the company’s voice-mail system couldn’t have been looking for keywords. The downstream impact on me: I journeyed from feeling admiration to humiliation in about one week.

A recruiter will tell you that I should have given my résumé to a contact inside the company and asked him to walk it over to a hiring manager. I thought of that and opted not to because I didn’t want my contact to know that I wasn’t committed to my current job. (Granted, that’s beginning to sound like a Catch-22.)

In retrospect, these were my choices:

  • I should have added better keywords into my resume like “briefly considered M.B.A.”
  • I could have gone back to college for a more impressive, presumably higher degree
  • I could have tried to meet someone at the firm who didn’t know me
  • Or, I could have tried to figure out whether the company used a third-party recruiting firm and sought them out

The truth is none of these ideas would have worked very well. Although I knew people ‘inside’ I didn’t want to play that card. Lesson learned.

But as I look back upon this experience, I am kind of convinced that the corporate site should have come with a 36-point bold type warning in red that says: If You Insist.

Perhaps I can sue them for some form of delayed stress syndrome related to the lost résumé? “Well, you lose control,” explains Mark Mehler, co-founder of CareerXroads, a staffing strategy consulting firm Kendall Park, N.J.

Mehler says the important thing to do is just ask someone with whom you may have an affinity, like someone who went to your college or high school (not necessarily when you did). “People are generally friendly about helping each other,” he says. “So you ask there’s nothing wrong with that. The magic clue is to ask. Most people won’t ask.”

Tell me about it. This is how I parse the whole episode now: The corporate site seduced me into sending my résumé and I fed it to them. And frankly I don’t want it back.