Redeeming “The Resume Black Hole”

The number one complaint from job seekers is that after they click “apply”, they feel like their application falls into the “resume black hole”.  Last year, 75% of workers who applied to jobs didn’t hear back from employers.

Truthfully, at Ian Martin our performance is consistent with those statistics…  It’s a tough problem to solve: of the 10,000 applications we receive each month, we typically reach out to about 2,500 people directly.  Of those, we end up placing just over 100 people in jobs.

We’ve decided to try to turn this whole thing on its head – to find a way to create value and begin a relationship with every single person who reaches out to us.

“That can’t be possible?”

After we became a Certified B Corporation, we decided to form an independent group of employees called the ‘Stewardship Council’.  They are responsible for finding creative ways to improve our company’s “stakeholder” impact (stakeholders are our Coworkers, Clients, Candidates, Shareholders, Community, and the Environment).

The Stewardship Council helped articulate a new vision for the company: “We see a world with each and every person pursuing Meaningful Work.”  (Yes, that is a BHAG.)  To pursue this vision, we believe people (and companies) must adopt the practice of ‘Stewardship’ – using their time, talent & resources responsibly to make a difference for others.

So, how are we going to redeem the “resume black hole”?  How are we going to create value and begin a relationship with everyone who clicks ‘Apply’?  Well, we’ve decided to invite each and every applicant to join us in an Act of Stewardship.


For few years now, we’ve handed out “Gift Cards” at our tradeshow booths because their mission so closely mirrors our own:

Kiva is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.

In a brainstorming session this past fall, the Stewardship Council started imagining how we could take this program to a wider audience.  Running the numbers, we suddenly realized we might be able to offer all 120,000 applicants each year the opportunity to use our funds to make a $25 loan to a micro-entrepreneur through Kiva.

“120,000 x $25?!? If you can afford $3M for this program, why not just hire more people to respond to my resume?”

Good question!  When the Stewardship Council first floated the idea of offering $25 to all applicants, they got, “Are you nuts?” from more than a few coworkers and executives.  But this is where the creative use of resources (you could call it “Stewardship”) comes in:

First of all, as excited as we all are about this program, we don’t expect 100% participation.  But even at just 2%, we will still have the chance to connect (through our Kiva lending team) with 2,400 candidates who share our passion for Entrepreneurship, Stewardship & the value of Meaningful Work.

Secondly, we are relying on the amazing power of Kiva to make this program financially viable.  Kiva uses loans (not donations!) to help people create durable prosperity for their families and communities. Watch this 1-minute video to see how it works:

The Kiva loans distributed through this program will be repaid to Ian Martin’s account so other applicants can loan them again in the future (now that’s sustainability!) … To start, we have placed $50,000 into Kiva.  Because the loans are distributed only $25 at a time, we literally cannot get them into the hands of Kiva micro-entrepreneurs without your help.

“What’s in it for me?”


“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.”
– Winston Churchill

As you act for the benefit of someone else (possibly in a circumstance similar to yours), we hope you discover the value that stewardship can “lend” to your own pursuit of meaningful work.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this program (positive or otherwise – bring it on!), and any other practical ideas you may have to improve the applicant process.  Thanks!

Let’s continue the conversation!

Tim Masson

Tim Masson

A self-professed IT nerd and aspiring surfer, Tim became the Chief Steward & CEO of the Ian Martin Group in 2010.

The Ian Martin Group is “Connecting People in Meaningful Work” through its longstanding IT/Engineering Recruiting practice, as well as Fitzii – a hiring system for SMBs, and B Work – a new job board connecting purpose-driven job seekers with Certified B Corporations and other Conscious Businesses.

Through this work, Tim has developed a passion for helping old-world companies navigate the culture-change required to move into a new world of disruptive innovation, social responsibility, and self-management.
Tim Masson