Before You Apply For That Job: 10 Harsh Truths for Applicants

I am in the midst of hiring for a position in my organization. On Friday, the posting went up onto a fairly well-known online job site which forces applicants to submit their postings through the site. Every day, I tackle the deluge of applications determined to find the gems in the quarry but I am quickly become fatigued. Having now seen how it works on the other side, I have some tips for applicants:

pruned a tree1) If you’ve never done the most important aspects of that job before, don’t apply for it.  If you once did a placement alongside somebody who was doing the job, or you once imagined you would love the job and are very confident that you have the skills to do it well – that’s not enough. This is a competitive job market. Get the experience through volunteering or placements that will actually let you do the work hands-on, or you will just not be able to compete with the other people who have proven they can do the work.

2) I’m probably not going to read your cover letter, but you still have to submit one anyway. I’m serious. I can’t believe how many people aren’t submitting cover letters. I realize it’s obnoxious of me to demand a cover letter since in many cases I won’t even read it, but not submitting a cover letter sends a message of apathy and very minimal effort. If you don’t care enough about the job to tell me why you want it, then I don’t care enough about giving you a chance to come in for an interview.

3) If you don’t update your resume and cover letter to state the current position you’re applying for, I will instantly delete your application. I am spending my evenings reading through applications because I’m too busy at work all day. If I open up your application and you haven’t bothered to update your career goal that states how ardently you hope to obtain some other position in some other company, I will assume you care more about that other job and will not consider you for the one I’m hiring for. And hey, I get it, I’ve been there, it sucks to make mistakes like that, so make sure you check over your application before you submit it and don’t just automatically use whatever file you’ve uploaded before.

4) Don’t submit a four-page resume. If I can get my 20-year career summarized into two pages, then I’m sure you can get your ‘I graduated 3 months ago’ resume edited down from 4 pages. I don’t have the time or the will to wade through four pages of words to try to figure out if you have the skills for this job. If anything, four pages is a red flag that alerts me to the fact that you’re trying to talk your way past having absolutely no experience.

5) If you call my workplace to try to ask about the job, I will not be impressed with your passion, I will be annoyed with your inability to follow rules. We are averaging 20 applications a day for this position, and maybe 2% of them are actually suitable. If I want to talk to you, I will call you after I’ve reviewed your application. If you disregard the request for no phone calls and you call me anyway and interrupt my very busy day, I can promise you that call is not going to go well and it’s just going to work against you.

6) Emailing your resume is not necessarily to your benefit. This may not be true for every other hiring manager, but because I am reviewing applications on my own time outside of the office and ranking those applications directly within the job site’s backend, by emailing your resume I have no way of ranking you or keeping you in the shortlist pile. You are now – at best – sitting separately in a pile of miscellaneous papers on my desk where there is a chance you will get lost in the shuffle. You also risk not having your resume read at all because I don’t actually have time to read resumes during the day, whereas when I go onto the job site I am dedicating time to reading every application.

ability to smell fear7) Having a full page (or more) where you list all your skills in detail is not fooling anyone into thinking you have experience. All I’m doing is scrolling past that long skills section to try to figure out what your actual hands-on work experience is, and the longer I have to scroll the more annoyed I’m becoming with your application. Don’t take it personally. I believe you have the skills but in some positions the lack of experience can result in real damage to both yourself and your client and it would be irresponsible of me to hire someone without meaningful hands-on experience.

8) Proofread. Again. I can’t believe in this time of spellcheckers that people are still submitting resumes with so many mistakes. Use your spellcheck, ask a friend to edit, go to an employment agency. Do whatever you have to do, but don’t submit an application with spelling mistakes, especially if you’re applying for a job that requires any amount of computer work. If you’re making mistakes on applications where you have all the time in the world to get it right, I have every reason to believe you are going to make a lot of mistakes at work and mess up all our record keeping. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

9) If an online site gives you the opportunity to upload a document, put your cover letter and resume into the same document. In the past, I have submitted my cover letter as a separate document but I will never do that again. Every separate link I have to open is more time out of my day/evening, so I am going to the meat and potatoes document first – your resume. In almost all cases, I am making a decision right from there – shortlist or discard. Those applicants that included their cover letter are having it read before I look at the resume, and those applicants that included the cover letter as a separate document are most often not having that letter read. If you want to make sure I see it, include it as the first page in your resume document.

10) Apply for jobs you really, really want. I can’t believe how easy it is to tell when someone is just blanket applying to every posting just to get a job. I understand, you need a paycheque. But I have a team that needs someone who’s going to be in the trenches with them, I have clients that are going to put all their hopes into the hands of this someone, and I need to know we’re all in this together because it’s hard work and you have to love it to do it well. Write compelling objective statements, give meaningful details about your work experience, and tie it all together with a cover letter that tells me why you want this job, not why you want a job. If I like your resume enough, I will read your cover letter.

To those of you doing it well, thank you – you are sitting on our shortlists. You are rising to the top, and it will pay off eventually. I hope to be meeting some of you gems in person someday soon.


Olive Branches

Once upon a time, my sister and I were friends. We had survived a difficult upbringing and become each other’s life preservers in the rocky waters of post-abuse self actualization. However, as men came into our lives, that changed. My sister married a man after crying to me for months on end about how he had cheated on her. I became engaged to a guy she couldn’t stand to be around. A small rift quickly developed into a gaping canyon between us and, before I knew it, she had children that I was seeing only once or twice a year.

I had always imagined I would be a fun aunt that nieces/nephews would look forward to hanging out with. Instead, I was turning out to be an absent aunt, a stranger as far as they were concerned. Shortly before my nephew’s first birthday, I finally decided enough was enough and that it was not acceptable to me to not have a relationship with my niece and nephew, even if it meant having to wade through the tension with my sister.

I extended the first olive branch in January of this year, asking if I could come visit the kids. Things were awkward with my sister, but we focused on the kids and it felt important to me that I was there. And it was important. Just a few short months later, I became the first non-parental person to get a hug from my nephew. My sister was amazed. For me, it was proof that I was investing my time wisely and it strengthened my resolve.

Slowly, as the kids and I spent more time together, my sister and I began to thaw towards each other. And then a couple of weeks ago she extended a major olive branch of her own. She invited me to join her family for a weekend in Chicago, flights and hotel paid for by her and her husband. (Business class flights, no less. Sweet!)

So yesterday, we spent a fun family morning together at Navy Pier, I spent the afternoon with my niece playing together in the Lego Store (“no-baby day” as she called it), followed by more family time romping around in a park trying to get high fives from my nephew every time he zoomed to the bottom of the slide. Man, I love these kids!

IMG_20150830_121912     IMG_20150830_184552

In the evening, we adults went for a ridiculously expensive, boutique dining experience to a restaurant where the chef decides what everyone will eat and almost every ingredient is something you would never find in your local grocery store. (For example, the first of thirteen courses was snail caviar with matsutake, mojama de atun, cucamelon and avocado.)

The really amazing thing that happened at dinner, though, is that my sister and I had the first real conversation we’ve had in years. We talked about nothing – the temperamental chef, the beautifully crafted food – and everything – family, kids, life.IMG_20150830_211954_edit We took our first photo together since her wedding, and I heard her drunk laugh like she used to in our twenties.

We are healing, I can feel it. We have been through darkness, and I think we have both consciously decided our relationship is worth working for, and that me having a relationship with her kids is more important than any rifts between us.

When I think about how we came to this point, I think of Gandhi’s powerful words: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’m finally learning to live that way. I’m realizing that it doesn’t have to be grand acts; it can be small olive branches, because all the small choices we make each day can bring love into the world and compound into one large beautiful change. We have the power to make that happen, we just have to decide to do it.

be the change