Dear Job Seeker,
Listen up. We all know how difficult it is to land a good job even for the most educated among us. For those of you who are not living under a rock and are well aware of this fact, I have what I believe to be some sage advice. Consider this a reality check.
In my role, I have the opportunity to sit on and sometimes chair search committees. I have yet to be on a committee with less than 100 applications received. I even chaired a search that included 500 applicants 2 years ago. I actually read them all. I interviewed 8! The jobs are often better than entry-level positions but not senior positions. In spite of these large numbers of applicants, my colleagues and I struggle to find even 10 quality candidates to invite to campus. Why? Here’s a Top 10 list that might help you see the light.
1. Attention to detail seems to be lost on applicants from all educational backgrounds. You advanced degree people are not off the hook. Make the effort to spell a person’s name correctly. Learn the importance of punctuation…commas are you friend or your enemy if you don’t know how to use them. Learn a little grammar. It will take you a long, long way.
2. Most applicants are on a broad job search. They use the same letter over and over again. There is nothing wrong with that if the jobs are all exactly the same. Don’t be lazy. Tailor the letters. Make sure you send the letter that talks about my school or company and not about another company. BIG NO-NO. Dear CVS, I am applying for this job because I have always dreamed of working for Duane Reed. Uh! NO, NO, NO!!! Attention to detail, first and foremost.
2. Expanding your horizons? Applying for a job that is outside your historical experience? Again, tailor your resume. Show us that you have some transferable skills that will get you through the door. As long as you meet the minimal qualifications, you have a chance. I often look for a diamond in the rough. I find it gratifying to give an unlikely candidate an opportunity to wow me. But if you don’t tailor your resume AND PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL to show me how your past jobs have trained you for the job I have to offer, it’s not going to happen!
3. Say no to the resume template in MS Word. They can be hard to read and often don’t maintain their attractiveness from computer to computer. Solution? Save your resume as a pdf and then send it. It’s like sending a photograph. You won’t have to worry about the fonts and formats changing from computer to computer.
4. Quality over Quantity. A one-page cover letter should suffice. If you write a well thought out letter, you won’t need 2 or 3 pages. The same with your resume. Unless you have a bibliography of publications, a long list of speaking engagements and a host of consulting gigs to list, your resume should not exceed 2 pages. In fact, that would not be a resume. It would be a curriculum vitae.
5. Speaking of the resume….Don’t regurgitate your job descriptions. There isn’t much value to telling a hiring manager that you provide customer service on a day to day basis. However, there is value in expressing that since your tenure at your current position customer complaints have decreased by 25%. That is resume-worthy information. That peaks my interest. It makes me want to know what you know and to learn your strategies for improving customer service.
6. Do you have a digital identity? If you do, you better make sure you are comfortable with what is out there. While I am not interested in looking at your FB page or Instagram feed, you should not be surprised about how small the world is. As a hiring manager, I often learn things accidentally and not because of intentional research or by “googling” someone. Oh, and sexyLatina@mail.com is not an appropriate email address or twitter handle to list on your resume. Just saying! Be in control of your image both online and in real life.
7. The most important question to ask yourself when applying for a job is, “How will I stand out in a pile of hundreds of resumes? ” You don’t have the opportunity to make a personalized, face-to-face first impression in most cases. So you must allow your resume to speak for you and make that first impression on your behalf. It’s the only thing that will get you in the door for that all-important face to face meeting.
8. To all of you college students, GET AN INTERNSHIP. You know how everyone wants experience? And you say, how am I going to get experience if no one hires me? An internship or 2 or 3. That’s how!
9. Being appropriate doesn’t mean you aren’t being yourself or that you are being fake. Hoops and stilettos have their place. I love a great red lipstick and a funky manicure, but not during a job interview. Ladies, keep your skirt to the knees. Buy a button down blouse that doesn’t pucker or stretch at the bust line. Fellas, shave, get a hair cut, iron your clothes and learn to tie a tie! ASAP.
10. Know your audience. Is it a formal environment or a casual one? Research the company online. There is no excuse to be ignorant about the mission, philosophy, history and goals of the people you want to work for. Not sure what to wear? When in doubt, go professional – get a suit!
What do you think? Let’s turn this into a learning opportunity and into a conversation What mistakes have you seen or have made? Let’s learn from one another and let’s teach those coming up behind us. Remember to lift as you climb!