Sunday, February 3, 2019

An "Interesting" Résumé Means Good Luck

I got one of those weeding-out phone interviews recently. (I'm kind of looking for a job.) The interview was a lot like the ones I got right after I got laid off as a teacher of twelve years back in Wisconsin. Even though I've had an added several years of experience (not teaching) in addition to my years as a teacher, I still apparently have an "interesting" résumé. I know this means I won't be likely to get a call for a real, in-person interview, since the only people who appreciate interesting résumés are those who don't work in HR. If you also have an interesting résumé, I feel for you, and I'd hire you if I could.


People with interesting résumés are often the ones running the companies, which is why they are not working in HR. These people could potentially do any number of jobs in the business as well as those who have been educated to do a single task. They are creative dreamers who don't want to be constrained by titles and mundane tasks. However, a company may not need several people with these kinds of résumés at any given time, since other people can fit into the right positions once created. It might even get a little hectic if everyone working for a company was actually interesting.




Here's an example from a few years back: I interviewed with an HR guy at a web development firm in MKE. The company was expanding, and they needed salesmen, PHP writers, Javascript scripters, UX designers, programmers, graphic artists, marketers, social media something-or-others, and several others. All of these people would work together to create wonderful websites at $20,000 a pop. Sometimes $50,000 for a really nice website. Instead, I did all this stuff myself (without any titles), so I tried to explain how I could still help their company, maybe by taking on smaller jobs or helping with the education sector. The problem was that they didn't see themselves working with smaller jobs or getting into the education sector. I was told that I could probably get a gig as a junior developer once I learned Javascript, even though I'd already done enough to show I could be useful; even though I had one of the highest scores ever on their stupid logic test.; and even though one of my best friends worked there.

Generally, that's how it's gone for me in interviews. No, I don't know the specific software you use and I don't have a degree in pencil-pushing. The HR folks like to see me as a square peg trying to fit in a round hole, but I'm really more of a sledghammer who's ready to make a brand new opening. Like the boss, in a way. Years ago, anyway, before there was a PDP for the BPM leading to BPI or BPR, reported to the board of directors and investors in a TPS report.

My latest interview that didn't make it past the phone phase was similar to the others because I was told the old résumé was interesting (and it's gotten more interesting as the years have gone by). I can now add actual books that I've published, presentations I've made, a house that I rent, lessons from teaching that I sell, and others that I've helped to become successful. Video tutorials and customer service, all on my own. Even websites like this one. It's all part of this interesting résumé that begs the question: "What's your real passion?"

I know, the answer is supposed to be something in the list of requirements for the job at hand. Perhaps, "Sitting in an office and answering phone calls." I realize that the real passion of many American workers is to try to find ways to get by with doing the minimum required while responding to social media posts or text messages, but those people took 15 college credits in marketing, and they can tell someone their passion lies in communicating the usefulness of a product or making money for a company. Yes, passion lies.

I know one guy who has an uninteresting résumé. He lacks creativity, but he's personable and handsome, with a business degree from a good college. He's gotten jobs at all kinds of high-profile firms, always losing those jobs in a couple years, but still claiming on his résumé that he was a big part of some kind of sales initiative. It's a good résumé. I've read it. He looks like a person who knows what he's doing. I can remember him telling me at one point that his job at a certain company was so easy because the product basically sold itself. That company went bankrupt the next year, but it's a memorable company name for his résumé, and no one can prove that he had anything to do with poor sales.

Those of us who freelance, create, work hard, and even fail, trying to establish ourselves as something on our own, will continue to have interesting résumés that don't get us in to see the boss, who might actually understand our passions. We could probably be trained to do just about anything in the company, or figure those tasks out on the fly, but since we don't have one critical skill that we've practiced over and over again, we're not seen as a good risk.

People with interesting résumés are like those draft picks in sports with all the "up side" potential. HR departments don't roll the dice on a Giannis Antetokounmpo when there are several Anthony Bennetts or Nerlens Noels out there, checking all the boxes. The challenge of having an interesting résumé is to convince the gatekeepers that you're the next Giannis for their company, even if their company has never had a Giannis and don't know how to play someone like that. Good luck.