Who You Know Is As Important As What You Know

I ran across a discussion in one of my LinkedIn groups around why “98% of resumes don’t work.” The poster was referring to the fact that many of her clients are finding that they apply for jobs or send in their resumes and get no response. A fellow group member expressed her frustration with a similar experience. Her frustration highlights a very definite trend in today’s workplace. Almost nobody gets an interview (much less a job) by simply applying to a posted position.

Image credit: inkandvoice.com

Image credit: inkandvoice.com

Even 5 years ago, when I was hiring for manager-level positions, I received hundreds of responses. Today it would be thousands. You really can’t be clever enough to stand out in that deep a pile of resumes! For those of us who were taught that our skills and achievements would speak for themselves, and started our careers by applying to job ads (in our college placement office or perhaps even – GASP – a printed newspaper!), this is a huge adjustment. It’s simply true that there are a lot more people in the workforce than there were then, with 3+ generations in the workforce at one time, and the internet makes it all too easy for everyone with similar skills (or not) to apply for any given job posting.

This is not such a new thing, but view your resume as a marketing brochure. An old marketing adage is, “Features tell, benefits sell.” Degrees, job titles, responsibilities, etc. are all features that basically describe what you were hired to do. What impact did you have on the company & your teammates? Those are the benefits.

Read about my Resume Review Service

career transitions

Read Omar’s KQED Perspective on his transition from the non-profit world to tech

Another marketing “rule” that applies to the job seeker is that you get a “bigger bang for your buck” when you focus targeted messaging on narrow audiences. If you want someone to see you as their next employee, you also need to tailor your resume so that it’s easy for them to know how they can use your talents. This means parroting the language you hear them use when they talk about their challenges & needs; it means translating your skills to the terminology used in their company & their industry, especially if you’re attempting to transfer from a different industry. It doesn’t mean you can’t make the switch, just that you have to help prospective employers understand how the skills you practiced elsewhere will apply and add value for them.



The most important marketing tool in your job search isn’t your resume at all; it’s networking. “It’s who you know, not what you know,” is more true than ever, and has nothing to do with favoritism. It’s absolutely critical to make connections in the companies you’re targeting, to understand what their needs are as well as how you might help them, AND to get on their radar before they’re hiring. Networking skills should be taught in every university degree, because it’s a skill so essential to career success. It’s about getting the right people into the “who you know” column so that THEY know “what you know” and can help you get what you want.

Of course, networking doesn’t come easily to everyone. Read a prior post on how NOT to network. Do you cringe at the thought of attending mixers with other job seekers? Does the idea of emailing a “friend of a friend” to ask for a meeting make you break out in a sweat? Or are you just at a loss for what to say? Working with a coach to break the process into steps can help you to approach it with more confidence. Contact me for a free consultation.


Monica Hahn is a branding & marketing consultant & career coach based in San Rafael, California

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Posted in Coaching Insights, Uncategorized
2 comments on “Who You Know Is As Important As What You Know
  1. Sharon Fogg says:

    Monica, your writing is excellent. Thank you for including me in the Distribution – Sharon

    Sent from my iPhone


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Monica Hahn is a consultant who provides marketing and brand strategy, based in the San Francisco Bay area. Monica is also a career and executive coach who works in person or virtually.

What clients say
What clients say about Monica Hahn: Monica has been one of the most influential and valued Career Coaches I've had the pleasure of working with. She's always shown a genuine interest in helping me achieve my career goals. Monica’s integrity, passion, and intellect distinguish her in her field. Her ability to envision and pave new pathways to our brand and concept are unparalleled.
Kevin Price interviews Monica Hahn of Hahn Solo Strategy. Monica Hahn is a consultant who provides marketing and brand strategy, based in the San Francisco Bay area. Monica is also a career and executive coach who works in person or virtually.

Listen to my interview with Kevin Price on "The Price of Business."

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