Friday, December 2, 2011

Attention Job Seekers!

As a manager, I have the unglamorous responsibility of reviewing resumes for job submissions.  And as I have slogged through only a handful of resumes, for a job we are grossly underpaying, I had some observations that some of you may need to remember when applying for work.  This is directed towards regular office type jobs, but can be used for other jobs as well.

Spelling and Grammar

This isn’t a hard one.  I’m sad to say that the command of the English language is strongly lacking, and no more so than when people apply for jobs.  If you’re typing your own name, the first letter of your first and last name should be capitalised.  This isn’t rocket science.  Don’t submit a resume, cover letter or online application where your name is not capitalised.  The impression you’re giving the reviewer is that you might still be learning your letters and can’t be bothered to hit that pesky ‘shift’ key that is so tough to find.

Writing in complete sentences and coherent thoughts is something seen occasionally on resumes and online applications.  When you’re applying for a job, I realise a lot of places have their own online form they want you to place your information in, how hard is it, I ask you, to type this up in Word and save it and copy and paste into the form?  When you don’t take this care with your application, it gives the impression that you are incapable of writing coherently.  And let’s be honest, who wants to hire someone who can’t think enough to write something coherent?  I know I don’t.


The economy isn’t great, I know, but that doesn’t mean that any and every open position is the right match.  A job opening is not a cattle call.  If the job requires computer knowledge and you’ve been working at BK, yes, there are computers there, but that doesn’t really demonstrate any technical skill.  If you’re applying for a job that requires a college degree, any degree, and you don’t have one, maybe you should rethink applying.

One caveat on this diatribe, while I don’t want to discourage anyone from applying for positions they know they can do, if you are not adjusting your resume for each different position, then you aren’t putting your best foot forward.  If you think you can do the job, but your skills or education aren’t a match, then chances are you aren’t going to get the job through conventional methods, like just applying.  At that point, something more purposeful would be required, like meeting the HR person, if you can, or finding a way in the door, and moving through the ranks.


As a general rule, most tech-savvy folks, such as those in my field, are terrible at interviewing.  The words ‘socially awkward’ come to mind, again and again.  If you aren’t great at chatting it up with the person sitting next to you on the plane or in a queue, you might want to read at least this portion of my rant, if nothing else.

First off – if you’re socially awkward, own it.  Don’t pretend like you’re not.  Interviewers (people) are not stupid and can sense it on you.  If you’re struggling, don’t make excuses, own it, mention it once, then do your best to answer the questions without going off on a tangent about something utterly unrelated.  Those of us (and I do mean us, I am very socially competent), who can interview very well can banter back and forth while being serious, but if you don’t have it in you, you don’t.  Faking it is very obvious and brings your credibility and integrity into question.

If you need more time with a question, ask.  Don’t start answering a question with a completely wrong answer.  Interviewers are asking specific questions and are looking for specific answers.  Non-verbal cues will tell you whether you are on the right track or not.  The interviewer will nod in agreement if you’re right, or either stares at you, or their paper, when you’re veering off course.

If you’re okay at interviewing, but are super nervous, this is a tough one.  You can ‘practice’ all you want, but to me, the best practice is the one I cited at the beginning.  Start talking to random people.  It may sound like insane or unsafe advise (especially if you’re a kid), but being able to talk normally to people you don’t know is basically what an interview is.

An interview is basically a short period of time where you’re pitching yourself as the product to these random people sitting in front of you.  It may feel like a firing squad, but in actuality, they have a specific person or type of person they are looking for.  Either you fit or you don’t.  The key, to me, is to be honest.  If you lie or try to fabricate what you can or can not do, they will find out eventually, and then you will be in an even larger mess than you may be in now.

Interviews, and public speaking, are often considered two of the hardest things to do in any job, but they only seem that way because people aren’t used to how to do either.  Practice can work, but practicing interviewing in front of your friends and family doesn’t actually test or challenge you, those people know you and know your tendencies.  And you can’t walk around a busy sitting asking people to ask you questions.  There is an outgoing nature that some possess that makes this easy, but the rest need to develop a way to remain calm and always remember something that has helped me whenever I have to do either of these tasks: why are you there?  What is your goal?  If you stick to the answers, which are to be hired for a job, or present information to a group, the task can shrink.

I am not the fashion police, but I have to make this comment, don’t dress like a slob.  If you’re interviewing for a job, wear nice shoes, wear a business suit, with a jacket, don’t show up in the clothes you normally go to work in.  If you have a distinctive feature that is appropriate in the office great, but if you have a sea of tattoos on your arms and you’re applying to a law firm that does patent and trademark only, they probably won’t hold you in high regard for your youthful indiscretions.  You may think blue hair is super cool, or the name of your firstborn on your hand is something others want to see, but sadly, the office world will often be filled with old coots that need thinks to always be in their proper place.  And if you look like a kid, they’ll treat you like one.

Above all else, be professional.  If you don’t know what that means, you may have a world of trouble getting a real job, but it isn’t hard.  Watch some office shows, office movies, watch what the non-comedic characters are doing and take a clue from that.  It isn’t about being something you’re not, but it is about being someone you can be, who can be successful and valuable.  No one wants to hire a layabout that mooches off of others.  It may sound campy, but try to be an adult, and maybe you’ll be treated like one, and paid like one as well.

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