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Your resume is not the problem

(MoneyWatch) As someone who's written about careers for a very long time, I get a lot of people asking me to please tell them why their resume isn't landing them a job. In fact, I got the following email this morning:

I read your article about how to write a resume that would get a job interview and liked it very much. I am a recent MBA graduate and have started looking for a job in July. I have applied for about 44 job postings and have not received not one reply -- not even a comment. I really appreciate your help. Could you please have a look at my resume and tell me you impression?
I  would not have asked you if I didn't feel stuck. Your kind help is highly appreciated.

One thing I don't do is review people's resumes. I'd love to be able to, but there aren't enough hours in a day. Chances are, there isn't anything terribly wrong with this person's resume. I'm assuming he's run it through spell check, uses bullet points instead of paragraphs (easier to read!), and focuses on accomplishments more than responsibilities. If he hasn't, here are some tips and tricks to resume writing.

It's not, though, the resume that worries me. It is the fact that he's applied for 44 job postings without a single reply. While on the surface, it may seem that the resume is the problem, applying to job postings, even with a perfect resume is more likely to earn you silence than a response. The online resume process is essentially a black hole. If you're getting zero replies, it's because you're applying to a computer rather than to a person.

Online resume applications put your resume into a recruiting system without a human seeing it. Humans can only see it if you put in the exact key words that they are searching on. The computers aren't "smart enough" to figure out that two non-identical concepts are close enough, like a human can. For instance, one woman found out that her resume had never been viewed by a human because she didn't have the "right" experience. What was the right experience? Five years doing academic advising for undergraduates. What was her experience? Eight years doing academic advising for graduate students. The computer is only as good as the recruiter typing in key words.

Submitting resumes is extremely easy and many job seekers prefer that method. But, it rarely works. What you need to do, instead, is get your resume in front of an actual human -- preferably the hiring manager and not HR. While HR is supposed to be the champion of people, their real job in recruiting is to cut down on the number of resumes that land on the hiring manager's desk. So, they look at resumes with a "why should I reject this?" attitude rather than a "could this person do the job?" attitude.

How to avoid the mistake this new MBA grad is making? It's that awful "networking" thing again. You have to actually talk to people. As a new MBA, you school should be able to help you make connections with other alumni. Even your classmates that have now landed jobs are great people to talk to. They probably won't hire you directly, but they know people who can. And, people who have just started new jobs are also good resources to ask to look at your resume, as they know what worked for them.

The key is, though, talking to people. Making connections. You can do that online as well -- follow people in Twitter, join professional groups on LinkedIn and make insightful comments. But, the odds are not with you when you apply online. You must find the hiring managers. You must let people know what your skills are and what you're good at. Otherwise, you'll be emailing me again in 6 months asking what's still wrong with your resume.

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