Monday, November 28, 2011

Advice for Job Seekers

I'm hiring again.  Right now I'm looking for a part time assistant to do office work (mainly bookkeeping) and eventually expand to help out with property management tasks (like taking calls and showing available apartments).  The position starts at only 8 hours per week, but we expect that it will grow pretty rapidly.  (Our other positions have basically tripled in hours over the past few months.)

I posted the ad on Saturday, and (less than two days later!) I already have over 30 applications from people who are interested.  This response is typical.

This will be the fourth person I've hired over the past six months, so I'm certainly no hiring expert, but it's becoming really clear to me that there are a few simple things that people can do to increase their chances of getting an interview.

1. Use a professional e-mail address.  Your e-mail address should not have words like "babe," "hot," "stud," "angel," "chick," etc.  If your e-mail address has one of those things, set up a free e-mail address with Gmail that just has your name, and maybe a few numbers.  (If you're a grown up, maybe it's time to say goodbye to your embarrassing e-mail address anyway?)  When I receive resumes from stupid or flirty e-mail addresses, I assume that the applicant is unprofessional, does not pay attention to details, etc, and unless the person immediately appears extremely qualified, these applications go straight to the rejection pile.

2. Pay attention to job requirements.  For this particular job, I am requiring a few things: a background check is a condition of employment; applicants must be totally comfortable using Microsoft Word, the Internet, and Google Maps, etc; they need to have an insured car and valid driver license... and, we're looking for someone who has Quickbooks experience.  They don't need to have used Quickbooks for 10 years, but frankly, my understanding is that it takes some time to learn to use Quickbooks, and that's part of the reason we're hiring to begin with.  If your resume includes experience as a "Sandwich Artist" and a few months as a receptionist, you're going straight into the rejection pile.  (And, why did you waste my time?)  If you don't have the qualifications for the type of job you want, why not get them?  You don't need to have an entire college degree in a related field, but you could at least take a few classes so that your skills will be a better match with what you want to be doing.  Or buy a book to study and practice at home.  People who think that being a "quick learner" means they don't need related experience are kidding themselves.  Being a quick learner may be enough for a job at a sandwich shop, and it will certainly help you as I'm teaching you to use our industry-specific software (which I don't expect anyone to already have experience with), but I still expect you to bring something to the table.

3. Don't bury your qualifications.  I have received so many extremely wordy resumes.  I understand that applicants want credit for as many things they've done as possible so that I'll know they're extra qualified for something, and they can apply for as many different types of jobs as possible.  What actually happens, though, is that it buries your qualifications.  When I "read" your resume, I'm skimming, and I'm looking for specific words that match what I put in the job description: Quickbooks, financial, bookkeeping, real estate, etc.  Don't use complete sentences.  Bullet points that list your skills at the top are even better.  If you actually do qualify, don't risk being accidentally overlooked because your qualification was not obvious.

4. Act like you read the job ad.  You don't have to rewrite your resume for me, and you don't have to spend hours creating the ideal cover letter, either.  (Although both of those things would help you significantly.)  However, if the ad says you're sending your resume to Emily, why address your e-mail to the Hiring Manager?  Are the two seconds it would take to insert my name really too much?  If you don't want to waste your time on a cover letter, send me a very short e-mail that makes it sound like you read the job ad.  Something like:

Dear Emily,
I have experience with Quickbooks, I speak Spanish, and I would love to grow with your company!  My resume is attached.  Please let me know if you have any questions.
Job Hunter

I've had thoughts of expanding my job application instructions to something like this:
"Read this carefully:  If you wish to apply for this job, send your resume to Emily at  To prove that you actually mean to apply for this job specifically, answer the following questions in the text of the e-mail: 1. Have you ever used Quickbooks before?  2. Do you have a reliable vehicle?  3. How many hours is this position? If you do not include the answer these questions in the body of the e-mail, your resume will not be considered.  Thank you."

5. Don't bother including an objective on your resume.  Objectives were really popular in the 80's, I think, but they haven't been popular for a while now.  I don't actually care what you're looking for--I just care if you can meet my needs.  That's what I'll be paying you for.  If you include an objective anyway, try to have it sort of match my job.  If your objective is all about something totally unrelated to the job that I'm offering, not only does it draw attention to the fact that your qualifications are probably for some other field, it also gives me the idea that you would rather be doing something else, so you probably won't do a very good job at my position that you're applying for, since you don't care about it.

Anyhow, these are just some of the thoughts I keep having as I peek at the e-mails and resumes I'm receiving.  These things seem like common sense to me, but the same issues come up over and over again, so I guess it's common lack-of-sense.  About 80% of the applications I receive have one (or more) of these problems.  The good news is, if my suggestions sound new to you, changing a few simple things can probably move you into the top 20%, which will dramatically increase your chances of getting an interview (and a job).


Shelli said...

Emily, you should just hire me. I have all the experience you need (including some Quickbooks). I have a car that's insured. I'd "pass" a background check, etc. etc.

Emily said...

Shelli - Are you actually looking? It's very part-time, and the pay is not amazing, and it's mostly not in Utah County. But, it's not a boring job, and it's an opportunity to participate in the growth of a small business (which is kind of cool), and there is a lot of potential for increased hours. If you're actually interested, e-mail me and we'll talk. :)

Brooke E said...

I thought the "objectives" line was outdated and irrelevant too, but I did learn from an HR person that it can be helpful in big companies that are hiring for lots of positions, especially if you are applying for more than one of them. I think it's supposed to help them keep track of what you're applying for or understand your goals if you are applying for more than one title.

But yeah, for your type of job, they should definitely leave it off.

Emily said...

Brooke, that's very interesting. I thought it must just be a vestige of another time when there were way more jobs than job seekers or something. (Come take my job! I'll offer you "advancement opportunities" just like you want!) Your comment makes some sense, though, although if someone wanted to use an objective for that purpose, they would probably still want to tune it to the specific set of jobs that they're being considered for. Usually that statement is so broad it is irrelevant and looks goofy (a position where their "skills will be of use") or so specific that it pushes them out of the job they're actually applying for. I haven't ever seen an "objective" that has made me eager to interview anyone, but I have seen plenty that have contributed to me not wanting to interview them. :)

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