When I placed the ad on Craigslist on Friday, I knew that I would be getting a lot of resumes. The Sacramento region's jobless rate is hovering at an unpleasant 8.1% and state workers are facing 2 furlough days a month and/or an uncertain job future due to California's budget crisis. What I mistakenly assumed, however, is that this would increase the caliber of applicants.
Um, yeah, right.
I'm color coding the emailed applications I'm getting - green for call to schedule for interview, orange for maybe, and yellow for not likely unless you were the last unemployed employee on earth. Out of about 100 applicants, I'm standing at a solid 4 greens, 20 oranges, and 76 yellows. I'm sure that's pretty typical for any open position - it certainly has been for other positions I've applied for - but what's outstanding is the sheer haplessness/idiocy of the yellow folks. It really makes me shake my head in this economy.
I'm not sure if they're just so desperate that they're firing off resumes and cover letters without thinking or if they are really, truly only suited for positions that do not require any reading and writing skills. Anyway, here's a quick bulleted list of things that I've come across since Friday:
- 5 different spellings of our company name. (It wasn't in the ad, so they had to do some research to figure it out... and then got it wrong!)
- The wrong job title.
- Cover letter greeting of "Dear Sir". Clearly someone who hasn't been in the workplace since 1950. Probably still calls assistants "secretaries" and flight attendants "stewardesses".
- Inability to read that the position is listed clearly as part-time, temporary, and at an hourly rate of $20 - I'm getting people looking for full-time work with a salary history of $60k+ and no explanation in their cover letter as to why they're applying for this position. My automated response now reiterates PT/Temp and I'm getting people email me back to sat they're not interested, after all. Thanks for wasting my time.
- A 3-page resume that lists, single-spaced and bulleted, all the applicant's 'achievements' and 'skills' but fails to back it up with any work history. I know this is a 'sales' position, but seriously, there has to be some substance behind all the puffery.
- Resume headings in bright-yellow or weird fonts - ie: completely illegible.
- Resume attachments in some out-of-nowhere software application, that can't be opened by any Microsoft program.
- Inappropriate use of 'creative' words, no doubt to demonstrate a 'formidable' vocabulary: If I see the word "pique" one more time! And then there's the person who used "belies" instead of "underlies" or (more appropriately) "supports", therefore contradicting what he/she meant to say.
- Word-for-word plagiarism of the ad to create the cover letter.
- Cover letter entirely in "quotations" and center-spaced, bold/italic type. ????
- 36-sentence paragraphs that make your eyes boggle.
- Resume with everything in bold, no headings, no spacing or paragraphs.
- Typos - not just the forgivable kind (and I, personally, am guilty of on frequent occasion) but the kind that should be caught easily with spell-checks or a perfunctory review. I'm talking letters clearly missing from multiple words and/or spaces missing from between words!
- Repeat submissions - one a day.
- Tons of people who, apparently, consider themselves to be the "perfect person" for the job. Let me (the employer) be the one to judge that. The use of the word perfect in this case is like "nice" in all other instances - it's a meaningless adjective. Not only is nobody perfect for anything (so, you're delusional) it really tells me nothing about you. See my bottom-line advice below, bullet #2.
It all makes me wonder how some people get any job. In this climate, it's unlikely that some of these folks will.
The bottom line is that it's pretty easy to stand-out in a crowd of applicants. Here's what I consider essential for getting my attention:
- Get the name of the company and the position correct. C'mon, seriously!
- Demonstrate that you've really read and considered the ad against your own qualifications and goals by writing a short, concise cover-letter that highlights your relevant experience and achievements. (BTW, achievements = specific results, not just something you "did" - that's what your resume is for. It doesn't need reiteration.)
- Be sure you've understood what the company needs from you to apply - don't just fire-off a resume when the ad says it requires a cover letter, a salary history, and references. (I didn't request the latter in my case, but this is just an example.) With so many applicants, the person reviewing applications probably won't have time to reply and tell you what you're missing - unless your resume is absolutely spot-on and stellar. (4 out of every 100, so unlikely).
- Check your spelling and grammar. If you know you're no Shakespeare, keep your sentences and words simple - don't over-reach, it's so obvious it's painful to read. Do simple well. Red Flag: if you need to use the thesaurus to find the right word, you probably need to re-word the sentence to better fit your writing skill.
- Don't brag and list a ton of 'personal qualities' or character traits in your cover letter or resume. No good hiring manager is going to take you at your word anyway. Focus on objective facts - experience, skills, and knowledge. If they match what the company is looking for, you'll get the opportunity to demonstrate that you're "outgoing" and "carefree" in your interview.
- Unless you're a graphic designer or great at page layout, keep resume design clear and simple. Just like if you're not Shakespeare to writing, if you're not Picasso to design, avoid turning your resume into amateur art work. Do it well or don't waste your energy on it.
- If you're making a career change, taking a significant pay-cut or step-down from your previous job, address this in the cover letter. Otherwise, it's likely you'll be tossed aside as over or under-qualified and desperate for any old job. There are plenty of good reasons why you no longer want to be a VP or a Director or work full time, and its best to address those reasons openly. This actually puts you ahead of the pack (providing you're being honest to the employer and yourself about your reasons and not just trying to provide a reason to get this job while you're looking for another.) Depending on the position, it can be a great advantage to be an ex-VP who wants to spend more time with your kids!