Are resumes dumb?
June 20, 2018 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Sending resumes. Is it pointless for professional/mid-career/salaried/higher income folks unless you know someone or have an inside track? If I send out resumes given my situation, is it a total waste of time? If the answer is total waste of time, please be gentle with me. I am having a rough day.

The conventional wisdom I've heard is don't bother--you get jobs because you know someone or because you've gotten a lead. This is true of how I got my current job, which I have had for ten years.

I am well-compensated management with diverse responsibilities, decision-making power, and a guiding strategic voice in leadership. I work for national company but live in a rural area. I believe my job does some quiet good in the world and that I specifically make a difference in an area that is neglected. I have a long pattern of extremely positive reviews, increased responsibility, title bumps, and salary bumps big enough to stress me out in a way I never imagined.

Active self-promotion seems to be how people in my field seem to do well. This is just not who I am as a person, nor is it energy I want to spend. I am not going to suddenly go all in on networking and conferences and external presentations and sticking together five jobs with bits of string. I do not want to write Medium posts and run up Twitter followers and the dozens of things I observe people doing in similar roles. It's not that I don't want to do some writing, or that there aren't highly valuable conferences to go to, or that I don't see the value of Twitter followers , or that I don't want to be part of important things -- it's just that I don't want that to be my stated career strategy and it is not authentic *to me* "to go just to go". (Also, it's a company where leadership prefers not to be splashy, even if it were my inclination--plus, they have no money, so.)

I am willing to cut my salary in half to improve my life. I can't/won't relocate, this is my home. I can't lean on anyone for help; my partner has his own problems which ironically are pretty much the same as mine.

Why am I asking, and this is venting and you can skip it unless you're in the mood for a paragraph of pure stress: I feel trapped. It's a lonely environment where we are always laying people off. There isn't enough money for anything. People are increasingly focused on saving their own skins and making a case for being a permanent salaried line item on the great HR spreadsheet, or creating a veneer of being a 'tough talking team member' so there are a lot of meetings where people are acting like assholes, blowing off all good-faith assumptions about their coworkers, throwing elbows, climbing up on stupid hills to die on, jockeying for position, bringing up tedious shit that genuinely doesn't matter, making up reasons for contentiousness, and we literally had a guy drop dead from stress related medical problems on vacation recently. A number of physical problems related to stress are emerging across my coworkers, including in myself. Today, I lost my shit because I couldn't get pain medicine for my particular deal and I beat my phone to death. Some of my coworkers are yellow-gray and a lot of us look like we are in day one of court-ordered rehab. It's a heavy drinking and unhealthy-leaning industry (one of those where a lot of people are like, proud of that aspect of the culture). It's super sexist, and I'm so sick of being the only woman in meetings surrounded by dick waggling and abrasive, unnecessary behavior that I am almost certainly going to have to hear someone describe as 'leadership potential'. And all of this is somewhat adjacent to Trump reality, which I cannot escape at my workplace.

Thanks for listening.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
(You could ask this over at, either as a direct question, or in the Friday open discussion post. People over there are really good at this sort of thing.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

It's unclear to me if you're applying to posted jobs or if you're asking about just sending your resume out cold. With the caveat that I don't know what field you work in: applying to job postings is a great idea! Sending your resume out cold is not.

Can you work with a recruiter?
posted by Automocar at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

If you mean applying for jobs on sites like Indeed or even the company's own website, chances are that it is a waste of time.

The best use of sending your resume out is to send it to recruiters. Build a profile on LinkedIn, start connecting with recruiters and people in your industry who might be able to recommend you for fitting positions. Essentially, yes, knowing someone or having an inside track is the best way to go these days but remember also that recruiters might not find you unless you go looking for them.
posted by Everydayville at 11:29 AM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

I will say that I get contacted by recruiters due to my online resumes on LinkedIn, Ladders and even Monster with some regularity, and I haven't been actively looking for a new gig for about five or six years. So having a resume available, yes, it does help somewhat.

Sending blind resumes to positions depends entirely on what types of companies there are and what you do. If you're in mid-to-upper management and you don't want to do the things you listed in order to increase your profile, then you're going to need to do the next-best thing, which is get a few recruiters actively working on your behalf. And luckily, that's what they like to do! So I'd reach out to people you know who are in similar roles to yours and ask who recruits for where they work and then talk to those people.
posted by xingcat at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Recruiters are all combing LinkedIn now. Like, that's the only place they really look.

Spend a weekend beefing up your LinkedIn profile. Cram it with as many accomplishments and positions as you can. Your paper resume should be a subset of what you have on your online profile.

Go to the Skills/Endorsements section and fill that as well. Go buzzword crazy. Get (or take) a good headshot and put that in your profile as well, painful as that is (I don't care for them, but it sure looks better than a blank space).

Change your title to something more high-level than your position and without your company name in there (e.g. "Experienced Cross-Functional Manager" instead of "Manager, XYZ Corp."). Start hitting your friendly coworkers with requests for endorsements as well. Write a few yourself.

Once that's all in place, change your profile to full public (again, painful as that is), then change "Let Recruiters Know You're Open" to Yes. Also turn "Share Profile Edits" to OFF. Very important.

I'd be shocked if you weren't contacted by at least one recruiter before a week was over.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2018 [42 favorites]

While active self-promotion isn't you, doing Linked In and low-key networking with friends and colleagues can be a great way to find more people who want to Vouch for you and your resume they might pass on.

Good luck, it sounds stressful!
posted by ldthomps at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

DO put your resume on job sites and any other repository that is searchable for hiring, this is how direct hiring managers and recruiters (tip: recruiters rarely work for you to get you a job, they just fill jobs which whoever they can find to fit, so you need to be out there as a fit but you probably are not going to find A Recruiter who's going to go out and find you specifically a job) find you based on searches. And then when they do find you, they will then ask for a copy of your resume again in all likelihood because these sites always mangle the formatting of whatever they see on their end.

If you are cold-approaching people, either acquaintances or strangers (or referrals from friends, which happens too), there is zero harm in attaching a resume. If you reach out to someone without one, they're going to ask you for one, so skip that step.

There will always be a resume required in part of a hiring process. Nobody is getting hired unvetted with no discussion of their previous experience.

Step one is to make it nice, readable, and above all searchable for hot keywords. Put it on job boards. Respond to all the recruiters who contact you if they seem like they know what they are doing, feel free to ignore the ones who don't. Search job listings and apply per instructions if you see one you're interested in.

If you do have any contacts in the industry you're comfortable talking to quietly about options, or even just to have a 30 minute virtual coffee call with you and talk about where they think your industry is/is going, to help you think bigger picture, do do that even if it's a little scary and feels self-promotey. It's almost always worth it, for both you and the person you're talking to.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got my current job (at a regional bank) by applying for a different job on the bank's Careers website. I interviewed for that, wasn't selected, and was then contacted about this job. It is a high-salaried job and I am fairly senior.

I suspect that part of this depends on the kind of company -- a big bureaucratic company where everyone's resume goes through a giant hopper one way or another? Definitely worth your while, especially if you can keyword-target to the job ad (assume the recruiter doesn't actually know your field.) I also know a bunch of senior product management types who seem to get new roles by applying for advertised openings.

Here's Askamanager on "Is it true that 80% of job openings are never advertised?" tl;dr: Nope.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, of course you should apply... I have been on both sides, and as someone at that stage in my career, I have gotten positions through cold applications to a posted job, and through (internal) recruiters reaching out to me on LinkedIn (both through LinkedIn inmail and through my personal email address). I have also recently hired & been on several interview committees for this type of position and as far as I know every hire we made came from people just... applying to our job postings.

I personally would never work through an external recruiter. As someone who has been forced to hire through them, I found them worse than useless (I guess I thought they added something to the exchange in some way - e.g. by improving the resumes of their clients or being thoughtful in matching - but instead they just send me piles of badly written resumes, most of which are inappropriate to my postings). And most companies I want to work for wouldn't use them unless they had to because of decrees from corporate. I know some people have had success in this route, however.
posted by brainmouse at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

do people contact you through LinkedIn or through an email address on your account?

I have mine set to only allow recruiters (non-connected ones) to contact you through the LinkedIn messenger thing. Works the best for me. You get email alerts, but can block people if they get obnoxious.

Go go "Privacy->How others see your profile" and change "who can see your email address" to "only 1st-degree connections".

Another tip: recruiters will ask to connect with you. Resist that urge. Ask them to send job descriptions to you if they have a position to fill, otherwise ignore them. The way to manage LinkedIn is to only connect to people you really know. Don't make it a game like Facebook to collect as many people as you can.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:08 PM on June 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

It really depends on the field and the employers you are looking at.

My wife is a well-trained professional in an in-demand field, and she has on multiple occasions gotten jobs by sending out resumes cold to places she would like to work and saying "I am moving to your area. Want to hire me?" In some busy fields, positions go unfilled for weeks or months because people can't be bothered to post them, so you might really luck out.

I work for a state university, and we would only ever hire anyone by their applying to an officially posted job on our jobs website.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

And don't discount the old-fashioned approach of actually applying for job postings as they come up. It's how I've gotten my last two professional white-collar jobs.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:25 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Agree with the LinkedIn advice above; I've noticed a real change in the past few years.

After you polish up (and polish up, and polish up) the LinkedIn profile, go ahead and use that to fill out and enhance the resume. Why? Because recruiters on the higher-end of things (where you clearly are based upon what you've said) will ask for one both for their records as well as in their 'selling' you to prospective 'buyers' (i.e. hiring managers).

So no it is not a waste of time to have a resume handy. Use your energy to reach out to as many people in your field even if only to catch up. It sounds like you are ready for a change, and it doesn't mean your income necessarily has to be cut in half.

One thing I've taken advantage of this year (that I thought I never would do) was pay $300/year (or was it $350?) for LinkedIn Premium. My main benefit is getting great online training (I now work for a small company that doesn't have much in the way of training the way, say a prior Fortune 500 employer did).
posted by scooterdog at 1:46 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I work in a very networked field and I have still gotten most of my jobs by sending a resume in response to a listing. You do have to work harder to make your application stand out, but that's a good practice anyway! Go for it.
posted by lunasol at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2018

Absolutely not a waste of time. I think this is bigger factor: "I work for national company but live in a rural area". Your pool is much smaller, is all. However two things I think might help you, one task based, one mentality based (my wife is a chief recruitment officer).

LinkedIn. Make it happen, make it great. It's the number one recruitment tool for white collar workers atm. You will still need a cv, but LinkedIn is how you get recruiters reaching out asking you to send that cv in for a job.

Number two: I recognise and share your distaste for self promotion. However. I am in a working group about boosting our recruitment and promotion of women in my business unit and attended a session just last Friday. In the session a colleague of mine said something you might find interesting: "for years and years I worked really hard and did good work and thought someone would just come along and recognise my brilliance and say 'here you go, here's a promotion!'. No one is going to do that. If you want to progress - especially as a woman in IT - you have to step up and tell people you want that promotion, show them you're doing great work, demonstrate it's part of a plan. People, especially men, are very happy to have women around them working hard for no recognition. Why would they want to promote you when you are doing great work and seem happy?"

You don't want to change your behaviors, but you do want to change your situation. You should look at changing both! Women do not get recognition in the same way and in the same volume as men, this means you have to a little louder. I would consider stepping up a little with the networking and linked in posts etc. You don't have to become a maven overnight, but think maybe about a few small steps to increase your profile. Attending events first, work on getting on a panel later. ;)

Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's not a total waste of time to send resumes, but I absolutely 100% would avoid all aggregate job-searching websites like Indeed. If you see an interesting job listing, go directly to the company's website and apply directly. If you apply on Indeed, it will arrive to the company via Indeed, and I can promise 90% of the applicants applying through Indeed are terrible and under-qualified, and you are going to look bad if you are lumped in with them.

I do think you should get a LinkedIn profile. You can be recruited, which has happened to me, but it's also a good way to search for job opening as well. Do check all the various privacy settings before you start. I don't think their defaults are what you want. (I made it so people can't see me visiting their page. But you may want people to see it as a way of coming to their attention. I am not job searching and mostly am creeping on people's pages, haha.) Check the setting so recruiters know you're interested.

Depending on your field, a personal website with a portfolio may be a good idea as well. I made mine via Weebly and got my own domain name, but there are lots of options, depending on whether you want to own your personal domain name or not.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:44 PM on June 20, 2018

I've been successfully hired for all of my jobs via simply sending my resume directly to the employer with a cover letter. I've also been hired for two freelancing gigs via So I really don't know what to experiences have been different. I've never had any luck with recruiters. For some reason my LinkedIn is completely glossed over while my resume is not.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:08 PM on June 20, 2018

Above advice is good. Living in a small town, and not wanting to relocate, I also strongly suggest networking in town. Not, like, job networking, but joining the Jaycees or the Junior League or the NAACP or the community chorus or other volunteer organizations, affinity groups, or interest clubs, so that you have connections and gossip channels from outside your workplace. A lot of people in Peoria who were looking to leave a sick corporate culture (I won't say which one!) heard through the grapevine via their non-professional networks that, say, the electric company was looking for a PR person. Or the college's business incubator wanted an IT person. Smaller organizations who may only have a handful of people in the communications or IT or whatever department, who do not have the recruiting reach to pull people to move into town like a Fortune 500 does, and prefer to hire a local, known quantity who's committed to the area. Their searches can be pretty ad hoc and disorganized. Local companies also often kind-of know why people want out of the Fortune 500 and won't be super-surprised you're willing to take a pay cut to escape. The more people you're chatting with who aren't at your workplace, the more chances you have to hear about that one little job that some smaller organization has coming open.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:42 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

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