03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Black Hole Ate My Resume!

Liz Liz Liz, says Stephanie on the phone, I lost another resume into a Black Hole. Oh no Steph, I said, tell me the story.

Okay, I hear about this job at this medical-device company, she says, and the only way to apply is on-line at their website. No phone calls. I called the front desk and they're not giving out the hiring manager's name.

They never do, I said. Right, says Stephanie, so I get on this website and it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to fill in the blanks. The stupid thing wouldn't let me upload my text resume. I've got to cut and paste all night, remembering what month I started working for some company in 1997 and how much money I made there and my supervisor's name.

And then...? I asked.

Then I hit submit and that was it, said Stephanie. The end of the line. I got an autoresponse message that said Go Away and Die, and I'm out of it.

No really, I said, what did the autoresponder say?

It said "We have received your resume and it doesn't meet our needs." It's business-speak for "You suck in every way possible."

Look Stephanie, I said, that's what those Black Holes are made for. They're designed to eat resumes the way prom-goers suck down calamari at the Olive Garden.

But don't they need somebody to do the job? She wanted to know.

They need somebody, but they set up the recruiting system so that they get a zillion times more resumes than they need, I said. They post the job on huge mega-career sites so that the whole world applies, and then they weed out pretty much everybody using keyword-searching algorithms, God's worst way imaginable to hire talent, but that's a whole other Oprah.

So how do you get a job? Stephanie asked me.

You avoid that Black Hole like the plague, I said. There are other ways to get into employers. Not all of them -- IBM and other massive corporations are pretty hard to break into unless you know someone who works there, because the org charts are Byzantine and you can't figure out which manager is hiring for a certain position. But most organizations aren't tough to figure out. We can find the hiring manager's name. We can write to that person directly and tell him or her what we can do to ease whatever business pain is behind the job opening.

I can't do this anymore, said Steph. I can't keep pitching resumes into the void. It's like playing the lottery.

It's much worse than playing the lottery, I said. When you play the lottery, it takes a second to buy a ticket and costs a buck or two. The lottery is legally required to give somebody the prize. These employers don't have to hire anyone. They don't even have to have a real job available. They can post a job ad whenever they feel like it, to see who's around or get a feel for market salaries, or for no reason at all.

I can get a job without putting myself through this demeaning Black Hole process? wondered Stephanie.

It's nearly impossible to get a job going through the Black Hole, I said, but the good news is that people get jobs every day by skirting it. It's more satisfying, I can tell you that.

I need the lowdown on how to do that, step by step, she said.

Keep reading the blog, I said. If this post gets any longer I'll smash into the word-limit wall.