It will hurt your brand. Don’t do it.

What am I talking about? I am currently conducting a Chief People Officer search for a significant non-profit organization. I happen to be on the Board of this organization and have been for about 7 years, so it’s near to my heart. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the country, and currently employs about 1500 employees in four counties in Southern California. In short, this is a big HR leadership job.

I asked our program coordinator for the McDermott & Bull Executive Network to send an email out to our group of 1500 senior executive members to see if they knew anyone that could be a fit. Why not network on this and show it to all our members to find some great qualified candidates? Well, as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. Ok, it wasn’t really that bad. In fact, I received many great responses from a number of qualified members that are interested in the position, as well as a number of great referrals, so I want to thank those that have responded with this kind of help.

What I wasn’t ready for, and frankly very surprised to see, was how many responses I received from members and referrals that had no business applying for this position. In the first day following the email blast to our members, I received over 70 email responses and was very excited to see which members were interested and to review the qualifications of the candidates. Of those, about 60 were so far off the mark, they didn’t even have an HR background. I received expressions of interest from CFO’s, heads of sales, marketing, CEO’s, and others that have no significant experience in HR.

To say I was shocked wouldn’t do it justice. I did my best to respond to all the emails, including those that were way off the mark. In one case, I replied to an email saying to the candidate that their background showed marketing and not HR and therefore they weren’t a qualified candidate. This person then responded that they had done marketing for a staffing firm and therefore had worked with HR departments and were knowledgeable about that function. Really? I think a lot of HR leaders that I know would disagree.

So, after this experience, I shared this with a few other HR leaders I know, as well as hiring managers, and found that this is common these days. Most chalked it up to a desperation that seems to exist in the job market today. People are willing to try anything for the one small chance that maybe it will work. Folks, this won’t work. In fact, it will work against you. Let me show you how:

  1. The recipient of your resume will look at it and say “what were you thinking” and will likely throw it out. That’s the best case. The worst is that they’ll remember your name and black ball you from future opportunities with their company.
  2. The time you took to apply for a position for which you have no experience is taking you away from spending that time wisely to find the “right” opportunities for which you should apply.
  3. Any time spent doing the “wrong” things will keep you from developing a sound job search plan that you can work and really find the right job for you.
  4. Sending resumes and getting rejected hurts, even if you never really had a shot. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

I’ve had some candidates tell me that they believe they have nothing to lose by blasting their resumes in response to positions for which they have no experience. You never know what might happen. Well, I don’t agree. I think you do have something to lose, especially that bridge to the company that you might really have an interest in working for, but in the right position.

If you see a great company that you might want to work for advertise a position for which you’re not qualified, try to build a relationship with them by adding value to their process. You can refer qualified candidates to them and let them know you would be interested in speaking with them about something for you, but not this job. However, you know someone great that they should consider. Now, that will differentiate you in their minds, and just might get you an interview. I would be willing to bet that if you did this a number of times, you would end up interviewing with some interesting companies.

Good luck and let me know your thoughts on this post. If you have a story to share about this topic, please do and let’s share the experiences with all our readers.