Monday, February 2, 2009

how to make sure your resume doesn't get noticed

By the end of 2008, the number of unemployed people in the US rose to 11.1 million, resulting in an unemployment rate of 7.4%. People are getting laid off and let go left and right. On the other hand, some companies are reducing pay or forcing furloughs in order to minimize layoffs.

Despite the horrible news on the employment (or lack thereof) front, I find myself in a strange predicament--I need to hire somebody. Last week, someone on my staff quit in order to take a job closer to home to cut down on the costs of her commute. And now I need to replace this someone.

Needless to say, upon posting the job, we got a lot of responses. I was delighted, but not surprised, to see that so many people wanted this job. However, because of the sheer volume of the responses, someone (ie. me) had to go through them and thin out the herd.

What I saw in the pile of resumes was a bit shocking.

Now, let me preface the following by saying that the last time I needed to hire anyone, I was the HR manager at the Crap. It's a simple job application, no resume required. But I have sent out my fair share of resumes in my time and I've always wondered after sending if the cover letter was too long, or if I made the points I needed to make in my cover letter, or if my resume was in a readable format, or if I used the right size font for increased readability.  It's interesting to be on the other side as the recipient and to see what I have seen.

OK, so back to the present. I read through the pile and the following perturbed me:

  • When a job listing asks for a cover letter, please provide a cover letter. This is for THREE reasons--ONE, the job may require a lot of writing and we want to get a taste of what you can do and, TWO, we'd like to know if you can follow directions, and, THREE, we want to know why you think you're great for this job.

  • Piggybacking on the previous note, an email does not count as a cover letter. If you're email contains the following information--your intent to apply for X job which you found on Y website and NOTHING ELSE--that is not a cover letter. I need to know why you want the job and why your experience makes you a good candidate for the job and a short email with little detail will not cover that.

  • Also, please don't email your resume in the text of an email. It's best to send it as an attachment. Just because your resume may be all formatted pretty in your email doesn't mean it will translate that way into our email. And the last thing you want is HR having a hard time reading your resume because of the extra spaces and tabs appearing where they shouldn't be.

  • Your resume need not be the length of a novella. I don't need 4 pages detailing everything you did in college and high school. It would be best to keep your resume short and list the relevant job experience, using the job posting as your guide.

  • Speaking of relevant job experience, take a look at that job listing. When it says something to the effect of "Minimum 2 years experience doing X, Y, and Z", we mean it. So, if I'm looking for someone with experience working with addicts and you're telling me your relevant experience is deworming orphans in Somalia (yes, I stole that from Legally Blonde), then you may not be the best candidate for the job compared to someone who's worked with addicts for 5 years.

  • Try not to type your cover letter and resume in Courier New font. Hey, I was in college once. In fact, I wrote many papers as an English major, most of which had a required minimum length. Everyone knew that, if you're lacking in material, Courier New will lengthen your writing piece. So seeing a resume in that font is a bit offputting.

  • I realize this may be hit or miss with some agencies, but don't be afraid to follow up on your application. This is definitely something I've been guilty of in the past. Unfortunately, some HR departments are slow to act (*cough* mine *cough*). But when the HR lady tells me that Suzy Q has been emailing to check up on her application, it shows me that you really want it. Just don't over do it. One or two contacts a week is nice. A call or email every day is not.

Well, that's all I've got so far although the applications keep coming (yay for me!). I hope the above doesn't come across as complaining or being snarky. I honestly wasn't trying to be. I know that there are lots of people looking for jobs out there and I am lucky to not only have my own job but also to be in the position to hire someone. I'm simply trying to be helpful and to offer a perspective from the other side.


Anonymous said...
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Jilian said...

I saw a resume the other day that said they graduated from college in 2208. Seriously - if you have a college degree hopefully you know about proofreading and having others review and proofread too! A little bit of attention to detail goes a long way!!

I've been in the same job for almost 8 years. The idea of creating my resume, applying for jobs, and interviewing COMPLETELY FREAKS ME OUT! So I really feel for people in that position - I do - but if you want the job you better step it up :)