By AMA Staff
There must be thousands of “how to write a résumé” books out there. AMA recently spoke to the author of a new résumé book that’s different: it was written by a recruiter who has actually placed more than 8,500 individuals in jobs.
Tony Beshara is the owner and president of Babich Associates, the oldest recruitment and job placement firm in Texas. He is the author of Acing the Interview and The Job Search Solution and, most recently, Unbeatable Résumés, published by AMACOM, the book publishing division of American Management Association.
The following has been adapted from an interview with Beshara for AMA’s Edgewise podcast series.
AMA: With what’s going on in the job market and the unemployment statistics we’re hearing about, your new book is certainly timely. Let’s get right to it: What are the three biggest mistakes people make when writing their résumé today?
Tony Beshara: Let me set the stage a bit. In my placement practice I receive close to 300 résumés a week. I make my living reading résumés.
Here’s what I consider to be the three biggest mistakes:
- Overestimating the value of a résumé. They think that a résumé is going to get them a job. Well, a résumé isn’t going to get you a job. If you’re lucky, it’s going to get you an interview.
- Overestimating the attention paid to a résumé. They think that their résumé is going to get read by a hiring authority. Well, they’re going to be lucky if it gets scanned by a screener.
- Underestimating the odds. For every professional job, probably 175 to 200 or more résumés are sent to a prospective organization. Most people don’t understand that there is phenomenal competition for their résumé, that hordes of other people—even unqualified people—are submitting their résumés for the very same job.
AMA: Has the high unemployment rate changed how businesses filter through all these résumés?
TB: Not only the high rate of unemployment, but the attitude towards business. It’s not any big secret: businesses in the United States are still afraid. We’re coming out of a recession. I’ve seen eight of these recessions. This is the eighth one, probably the most difficult one that we’ve been through since I got in this business in 1973.
Companies are fearful. They’re operating more out of fear of loss than a vision of gain. They’re more afraid of making a mistake in hiring than they are interested in hiring a great candidate who’s going to take them to the next level. So what happens in an environment like this is that an organization or the people that are reading these résumés are looking for the perfect candidate. And there are no perfect candidates.
When the economy is rocking and rolling, they might hire people for six months, nine months, a year, or even two years out. They don't mind hiring people who may not pay off for them for a while. But now, during the interviewing and hiring process, employers want to know what you can do for them right now. If I hire you today, how are you going to contribute to my bottom line? I get résumés all the time with these glowing futuristic “Over the next ten years I can do this for you. Over the next six years I can do this for you,” and on and on. Employers don't want to see that.
AMA: In the book, you talk a lot about the importance of a résumé strategy. Can you explain what you mean by that?
TB: Most of the time, people’s résumé strategy is to press the “send” button—and that’s about it. And that is the worst strategy you can have. I do think that one thing that makes my book so different than other résumé books is because it’s written by a guy who finds people jobs. Résumé writers do provide a business service. They might write a résumé that you’ll like. However, that doesn’t mean a prospective employer might like it. And so, a strategy for use of a résumé is to not only send a résumé, but to follow up on it to make sure the résumé gets read so that you can get an interview. A résumé isn’t going to get you a job. It’s going to get you the interview, and you need to have a strategy and approach for the use of that résumé in order to be successful. So you have to customize that résumé to exactly what they are looking for and demonstrate what you can do for them right now.
AMA: Lately we’ve been hearing about companies that will not even consider a candidate who is not presently employed. Do you have any advice for long-term unemployed people?
TB: Yes, this is a real challenge, because we’ve seen, over the past two and a half to three years, a lot of people—people who have never been unemployed before—who have been unemployed for long periods of time. However, being out of work for a protracted time is not as great a stigma as it used to be. My advice is that people should do their best to quell any fears on the part of the interviewer or higher authority that they are a risk. They should not hide or minimize the gap. Nor should they be defensive. They should just talk about their track record and how it applies to the specific needs of the hiring authority. It’s that simple.
AMA: What do you think of social media Websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook as job search tools?
TB: LinkedIn is excellent. It actually does seem to help people in their job searches. Everything else, I haven’t found to be too successful. I surveyed 4,000 candidates to see who has actually found a job through Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. Of the 1,650 people who responded, only one said he had found a job through any of the three (it was Facebook). Three respondents said they secured interviews as a direct result of being on Facebook. And three people said they found contract/freelance jobs by using Twitter and Facebook.
Now, maybe these results were because the majority of the people we polled were older than 25. So over the next few years this may change.
AMA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TB: Writing a résumé, you can talk about it all you want, but you must have a strategy that shows a clear understanding of exactly what company you’re sending that résumé to, who you’re sending it to, and what they’re like. The résumé is simply a tool, part of an overall strategy to get face-to-face interviews and get the job offer.
About the Author(s)
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