Job Search Advice

The One Thing Resumes Can’t Do But Networking Can

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I never stop looking for my next great opportunity.

And during those years, I have come across and applied to countless job descriptions from Fortune 500s to boutique start-ups.

Honestly, the type of company really does not matter on paper. At this initial stage, all I care is whether I find keywords that resonated with me so that I can match my resume with the kind of work I was targeting.

See, we as job applicants do the same thing.

Another factor I determine is whether I can do the job being described.

Of course, I would definitely apply to those that closely matched my qualifications and that I know I can succeed at executing.

It is those that I know I can execute but cannot match in words that give me the most trouble.

This is where the resume — and the current hiring process — fall massively short.

The Problem

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Recruiters and headhunters have a tough job.

With millions of people on this Earth, many of them have to sieve through thousands of resumes a week. I am sure we can all understand the pain.

It is the reason the applicant tracking system, or ATS, has been created.

The one thing that ATS is good for is filtering out applicants who are absolutely unqualified for the role, thus significantly reducing the pile and speeding up the process.

At some point in history, somebody with hiring authority established an unwritten rule: only resumes that match the job description by 80% or higher should be considered.

Unfortunately, that rule has set off a number of workarounds that villainized both recruiters and job candidates.

Recruiters are accused of superficially evaluating candidates at face value based on what is written.

Candidates are accused of exaggerating their professional experience on paper, sometimes even lying.

It should not be this way.

Job candidates and recruiters are not enemies. They are collaborators.

And they know this.

Since then, human resources have gradually lowered the threshold to as low as 55% match.

That may sound like relief, but for us who are seeking to expand our repertoire, this still presents a crippling challenge.

For the ambitious crowd who possess a growth mindset, we strive to explore new disciplines and gain new knowledge. So when we search for our next opportunity, we look for positions that stretch.

But positions that stretch us come in two different favors.

Sometimes, they stretch us vertically, with challenges that are a step or two more advanced than our skill level within the same or similar discipline. In this case, recruiters and hiring managers want to see that we have potential to elevate and solve the issues the position would entail.

Then there are those that stretch laterally. Those are positions that may not be similar to our past experiences, but we are confident we can fulfill the obligations.

And that is the dilemma.

We know we can do the job, but we cannot write it on paper because we have not done it yet.

If we have not done anything related to the position, then we cannot use those keywords in our resumes. If we cannot write those keywords in our resumes, then how do we pass ATS and express that we are highly confident in satisfying the role?

Resumes won’t do in these circumstances.

What will?

The Solution

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I have explicitly asked some recruiters this question and I get the same answer every time.


All of them agree this is where resumes fail.

In this situation, the resume still needs to showcase a candidate’s potential with impressive accomplishments and capabilities.

However, recruiters and hiring managers will nevertheless feel the skills gap between the resume and the job description or the job.

The likely only way to fill in that gap for them is to communicate our qualifications verbally.

If we are lucky, then we have the chance to stand up for ourselves during the job interview. Usually, this works if the organization is small or if it is an unpopular role with low competition.

In other circumstances, we can nib the bud before we even apply.

A lot of us — including myself — do not like to network. We are terrified.

But I have learned — the hard way — how crucial networking is.

It is an art form.

First, reach out to the right people. That means recruiters and hiring managers who deal with positions in our desired areas of interest. We can do this through LinkedIn, local associations, or even cold-messaging.

In the introduction message, write two sentences stating your name, reason for the message, and your abilities. Then write one more sentence voicing interest in learning more about their work or needs. Do not forget to provide contact info and suggest next steps.

Second, once we receive a response and schedule a time to converse, do not convey our desperation for work. Instead, we must first build rapport with the person. Ask questions about their challenges, their visions or goals, and their needs.

See how that person reacts.

If he or she seems favorable, then regularly communicate with him or her. Make sure to address what the needs are and how we can cater to them. Fill in what our resumes cannot say for us.

Yes, it takes time, but networking can build stronger relationships than a resume can. So be patient and we will be rewarded.

The Connection

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Resumes are important.

I have no doubt that it has helped millions hop and advance their careers.

But for some of us, especially career changers and advancers, it takes more than a piece of paper to tell others, “Yes, I know I have not done this professionally before, but I know for a fact that I can do this.”

In this day when cover letters are scarcely read and emails go in the junk box, it has become more beneficial to speak to them in-person.

The caveat is grabbing their attention in the first place.

People are growing more antsy as attention spans shorten, so do not bombard them with long introductions or desperate pitches.

Bond with them first. Then when we are in friendlier terms, it would be easier to fill them in on our interests, skills, and offerings.

The outcome will be so much more gratifying.




Data Analyst. Screenwriter. Project Manager. Now, Resume Coach. A student of life and West Coast Swing. A promoter of self from within.

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Cindy S. Cheung

Cindy S. Cheung

Data Analyst. Screenwriter. Project Manager. Now, Resume Coach. A student of life and West Coast Swing. A promoter of self from within.

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