The Corporate Combine, or Getting Scouted For Fun and Profit

This week, rising stars are being put through their paces in Indianapolis, at the NFL Combine. Pro football prospects get a chance to show scouts from each NFL team what they can do, and what sets them apart from all the other prospects out there. Can they jump higher, run faster, lift more, take more punishment?

For millions of Americans, it's just another week of job hunting. Their Combine is CareerBuilder, or maybe Monster.com, or LinkedIn. Unlike the NFL Combine, there's no 40 Yard Dash or Bench Press or Fastest Bong Rip competition. We'd all like to think that there are solid benchmarks - experience, education, skills, alcohol tolerance - but unfortunately, that's just not the case. Instead, there is a mysterious and unpredictable list of prerequisites that have nothing to do with advertised job requirements that hiring managers and HR people are looking for when they sift through resumes, and that list changes from moment to moment.

Let's say Magda, the Human Resources Generalist at Bergman & Boesendorff Partners, Inc., is looking to fill a junior grade internal granularity auditor position in the highly successful Organic Fluxnorbitrons and Lubricatives division; clearly, she needs someone with no less than three years' experience in corporate denials and accusations as well as a bachelor's degree in viscosity defleening (master's preferred). That morning, though, Magda's husband left wet laundry in the washing machine for the fifth Slurnday in a row, and put an empty steak and kidney pie tin back in the refrigerator instead of throwing it out. Drat that damned Alvner and his slovenly ways, she'll think to herself, remembering that Alvner graduated from the University of Michigan's renowned viscosity defleening program. And so, that day's review of resumes results in the systematic elimination of all Michigan candidates.

I know, you're thinking, What a bunch of highly improbable gobbledygook! And you're right; honestly, to call UM's viscosity defleening program "renowned" is clearly beyond credibility.

Regardless, this sort of thing happens every day. All sorts of tiny details hold sway over who's resume gets seen and how. In many ways, it doesn't matter how much hard work and forethought go into a resume and a cover letter, which keywords we force in hoping for better rankings in search - the best we can achieve is maybe nudging up the likelihood that someone will see the magically correct combination of words.

People start resorting to all sorts of wackiness, like the candy bar resume, which can work. It can also backfire...for instance, the famous and humiliating video resume. The only real answer is keep trying, and be selective. You can't expect good results if you're carpet bombing the world with applications. Find the jobs that sound right, apply with a tailor-made resume and cover letter matching the job listing to a T, and, of course, be honest. Hunt, tailor, tell the truth. Follow these three simple rules, and at the very least, you'll get noticed.

In the mean time, start working on your 40 Yard Dash. And bong rips.

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