Sending your clips, file attachments and portfolios unsolicited with your resume can do more harm than good.
By Lisa Vaas
An employer asks a potential technology director to compile a presentation of his technology vision.
He chooses to layout the presentation in PowerPoint, and he lands the job as a data-center manager. Would he still have been successful had he sent the presentation early on with his application before he was asked to send it?
Some hiring professionals give a thumb's-up to unsolicited attachments, while many resent having their inboxes clogged with unsolicited materials from applicants.
But the common wisdom is to not send anything that wasn't specifically requested, according to several hiring professionals who spoke to TheLadders. They also said job seekers who do attach unsolicited clips, portfolio materials or reference lists run the risk of alienating such professionals and potentially hurting their chances of getting interviewed.
Give interviewers the autonomy to ask
Rather than sending out materials unsolicited, job seekers should first establish a connection with someone who can hire them and who expresses interest in seeing their collaterals, some hiring professionals recommend.
"(After you establish a connection), you can ask, ‘Oh yeah, and would you like to see this?'" said Stephen Balzac, president of organizational development firm 7 Steps Ahead and a consultant on interviewing techniques.
"My message to people is always, ‘Make a connection, network.' And then you can ask them specifically what they want to see," Balzac said. "Allowing the other person that autonomy is more powerful than making (the decision) for them. ... Otherwise, the problem is, you're guessing. I suspect that if you asked 100 people how they'd react if they got a portfolio, you'd get a hundred answers."
To short-circuit the problem, Balzac suggested including a URL in your cover letter that points to where your materials are located online. "Having a URL and your stuff there online is good because instead of deluging people with material, you're giving them freedom to look at it if and when they want," he says. "You're not telling the interviewer how to do their job. You're merely giving them the freedom to get additional information from you if they want it."
Candidates should keep their correspondence to the barebones until told to do otherwise, said Ellen B. Vance, senior consultant and advisory services practice leader for human resources consulting firm Titan Group. What stands out for her in particular is whether a job seeker follows instructions on what to include, she says. "I prefer that the candidate not send photos/clips, etc., with the resume," Vance says.
"These are better shared in an interview. I do, however, look at whether the applicant was able to follow the simple instructions provided in the job posting when I make requests for specific information."
But read carefully. While Vance's instructions do not call for samples, others may. Marsh Sutherland, a professional recruiter and president of Walden Recruiting, in Concord, MA, makes it a habit to request sample code from software engineer candidates for every submission.
"This is a great way for them to demonstrate their quality above and beyond simple text on a resume," Sutherland says.
Go online instead of attaching
Sending a link to an online portfolio, as opposed to including materials as attachments, is "always OK," according to Rahul D. Yodh, a partner in the legal executive search and consulting firm Link Legal Search Group.
You can also launch your own online brand for very little money with a branded domain name (Web address), Web site and blog and then linking them all together to host your work samples and promote your professional vision.
If you have an online portfolio, be sure to include articles you've written, links to articles in which you've been quoted, references, work samples, presentations and Webcasts in which you present professional content.
Industry-specific attachment rules
In some industries, attachments are de rigueur, said Yodh. "Most law firms require transcripts when considering attorney candidates, and without a transcript your application is incomplete," he said.
Other industries require artwork or writing samples, including journalism outlets or advertising firms. "If it is the norm in your industry then feel free to submit it, and you won't have to worry about being removed from consideration," Yodh said.
But even if your industry is tolerant of or requires attachments, don't go overboard, Yodh advised. "Feel free to submit a list of references, but don't attach five letters of reference."
If you do send attachments, remember to keep them as small as possible. "Send a couple of MBs of attachments and the e-mail server or firewall on the other end might bounce it back," Yodh said.
And what of the technology director who landed the job as a data-center manager after having presented his PowerPoint presentation? His take as a job seeker is to never send attachments.
"No, it's not something you'd think to do unless you see it as a requirement," said the professional, who's in his 40s and requested that TheLadders not reveal his name. "That was not a requirement for this position. It was more, ‘OK, you made it to the final round, here are a number of questions we would like for you to address.'" The presentation not only answered any outstanding questions, but gave the employer the confidence they needed to make the hire.
Lisa Vaas covers resume writing techniques and the technology behind the job search for TheLadders.