17 February 2010

Completely Unsolicited Advice for Job Seekers

I do a fair amount of hiring in my job, and in our current economic situation, every time I post a new position, I get hundreds of responses, enough to draw some conclusions about the quality of our work force. I am a little scared. I don't mind honest mistakes -- in New York City, a lot of people don't have English as a first language, which can lead to some interesting sentences. ("It was quite fantastic to see the posting as I have been looking to work more of a corporate type of responsibilities with a great business morality.")

But there are some basic things you can do that will help you keep out of the automatic 'no' pile. So:

Unless you are applying for a graphic design position (in which case you'd have a portfolio anyway), don't design your resume too much. There are standard templates that are fine; if you are ambitious you can create something yourself, but it just has to be clear and readable. Make sure there is enough white space to make this so.

If you have less than 10 years experience, your resume should almost certainly still be on one page. After 15 years, it should almost certainly run to two, but those kind of resumes require more advanced advice than I'm giving here.

Your resume and cover letter should have your name in the document title. Attach them to your email as PDFs rather than Word files if you can.

Your cover letter should be in the body of your email as well as in an attachment and be a brief rundown of your experience. If you don't know a lot about the job you are applying for -- because it's a generic posting on Monster or Craigslist that doesn't list the name of the company -- please don't tell me how much you want to join my organization.

Your cover letter should also tie together any disparate experiences that don't logically flow one to the next. If you don't have a lot of relevant work experience to the job you're applying for, foreground anything in previous jobs that might be applicable, or is generally good -- increased responsibilities, strong work ethic, willingness to learn.

Have an email address that is not stupid, and preferably has your name in it. Not everyone can get JohnSmith @ gmail.com, but you can certainly get something better than crazeejohnnie or bigguyjohn. Those are the email equivalents of wearing a t-shirt and sneakers to a job interview. Nothing wrong with them per se; they're just not right when you're asking someone to hire you. Save your casual clothes and online presence for your friends.

If your address and all your work experience is in a city far away from the one you're applying for a job in, explain that fact. There's probably a good reason -- maybe you just moved here or are planning to -- but without that explanation, I'm going to assume you can't be here for an interview tomorrow.

Spell check. Grammar check. By which I don't mean that you should run Word's grammar check, which is pretty silly. I mean you should actually read what you are sending before you send it. If you are still in school, your high school or college probably has a career office that can help. If not, get a friend to read your resume and cover letter. If you don't have anyone, send them to me with RESUME HELP as the email subject line.

There's more, so much more, perhaps for another post. Good luck out there!

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Anonymous Accidents said...

I wish everyone in the world could just catchup already and realize that if they want to do business electronically, they need professional email addresses. My poor partner, who is late to the Internet, put his birth year at the end of his gmail address, and I HAD to make fun of him. I mean, come on. Kind of adorable, though.

10:25 PM  

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