How Not to Get a Job

We’re hiring again at Jampole Communications, and for the first time in a few years it’s because the business is growing past the resources of the existing staff.

Growth is good, but I think I’m not the only businessperson who has more fears approaching the hiring process than when involved in any other aspect of managing an organization, large or small.

Job applicants don’t make it any easier. Perusing through resumes and interviewing candidates makes me more aware than usual that the overwhelming majority of job candidates shoot themselves in the foot and don’t even know it.

I wrote in 2002 for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the many mistakes jobseekers make are a problem for them, but an even bigger problem for employers, especially at small businesses.

Virtually all my fellow employers tell me that hiring is the hardest thing they have to do. It’s made harder by the numerous missteps that most job applicants take.

In the interests of making life a little easier for the many people seeking jobs in the current tight marketplace as well as for the businesses doing the hiring, I want to present a few tips on applying for a job. What I have to say applies specifically to seekers of professional positions, but it should help other job applicants as well.

Make sure your application is error-free. About half of all cover letters and resumes we receive have grammatical, syntactical or spelling errors. If there is one mistake only and we like what we see on the resume, we will sometimes contact the applicant and ask that he or she find the error and resubmit. If there is more than one mistake, the resume goes into the trash bin.

Follow all directions. When a prospective employer asks you to provide something or do something, if you want the job, you had better follow the directions (assuming it’s legal and ethical).

For example, one time we placed a classified ad for a public relations writer, in which we asked that applicants send resumes and writing samples. We received 150 responses, but only 20 of them had writing samples enclosed. The other 130 went right into the trash bin.

Keep it relevant. While I may personally be intrigued by the job applicant who writes poetry or paints abstract images on guitar cases, it isn’t really relevant to the job we have to do every day.

Deciding what is relevant often involves a judgment call.

For example, participation in extracurricular activities and holding summer jobs are relevant when a job applicant has just graduated from college. They are no longer relevant five years later. But getting a full academic scholarship covering room and board for four years (as my son did! says the proud dad) or winning a Fulbright Fellowship—these kind of academic achievements are probably relevant until the end of your career.

No time for more right now, but next time I really should also write something about frequent interview mistakes that are killers.

One comment on “How Not to Get a Job
  1. There is obviously sooo much more to know about this. I think you made some decisive points in Features also. Keep working, fantasitc post!

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