What’s in a name (on your resume)?
One of my passions is helping people look for jobs at early, exciting startups. Whenever I hear that a friend is job hunting, I check in to see how her experience is going. One recently had a demoralizing experience that confused me enough to write about.
Let’s set the stage.
Imagine a candidate who exceeds the experience requirements for a job position. We know that not every candidate and company is the right fit, but her expectations are high. After submitting an application in their recommended format, she expected to at least get a preliminary interview. But, she doesn’t even hear back. Being a strong, and aggressive, she follows up with the recruiter to see where her application stands.
The recruiter told her, “You have a strong background, but we are looking for someone with deeper SaaS Analytics experience in name brand emerging companies for this role.”
What does that even mean? Based on the job positing, she’s an amazing candidate. It is clear that the company is looking for something else, even though they won’t ask for it explicitly.
I’d typically be more specific about her credentials to prove that skill fit, but I don’t want this article to show up in Google results for the person’s name. As much as I’d like to call out this particular company for what I consider a ridiculous hiring requirement, I’ll refrain from doing that, as well. However, this company is decidedly not a name brand. As a bootstrapped organization with a successful founding team, the resume of the person in this role will have no material impact on the company’s fundraising or business opportunity. All that matters is her skill set.
So what gives? Why would a company value a high-profile resume line item over demonstrated experience?
Our candidate followed up with the recruiter to ask for more details about this questionable response, but she never heard back. So, she came to me with a lot of questions about what this response means and how she can learn from it. What can she do about the fact that she hasn’t worked for Facebook or Google?
In my opinion, wanting experience at a “name brand” company is a lazy shortcut for hiring decisions. I’m sure this organization gets tons of applications, and maybe they only want to talk to folks from Facebook. But, this company is an all-remote organization! They have the opportunity to find talent anywhere in the country, from even the humblest origins. By choosing to limit themselves to candidates from well-known companies, they are limiting themselves to candidates from the Bay Area, New York, and a few other big cities. As a remote organization, why would you blow one of your main hiring advantages by enforcing a secondary requirement which reverses that benefit?
So what can a job applicant do?
Unfortunately, our candidate wasn’t missing a critical skill that she can learn through classes or side projects, so this is a harder problem to solve. Here are a few pieces of advice for her and anyone else who feels their application was unfairly dismissed:
1) My favorite answer is a classic one. Check for connections. If you can find a friend of a friend to make a referral, you’re much less likely to get lost in the shuffle of bad hiring practices.
2) Reach out over top of the recruiter, first. I’m sorry for recruiting folks. If a resume lands in the inbox of an executive team member, it’s more likely to get acted upon than if only a recruiter sees it.
3) Suggest a trial project. A qualified applicant like my friend probably has an idea of what the organization’s pain points are. If she suggested a solution to that problem, instead of a generic application to an open position, it’s likely that she would have gotten a more satisfying response.
4) Don’t let an outcome like this get you down. Remember, stuff like this happens all the time to even the most qualified candidates. It feels frustrating and unfair to be overlooked when you know you would have done a great job in that role. Just remember that it was the company’s hiring mistake, not yours. There will be another role, a wiser hiring manager.
These types of applications stand out from everyone else’s generic resume. It’s clear from this case that the company in question missed out on a talented applicant for a bad reason. Don’t let it happen to you!
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