I get it. Life is tough without a job. Bills pile up. Debt collectors start calling. Your landlord gets cranky when your rent is late month after month, and the friends and family who have helped eventually stop taking your calls.
Desperation sets in and all you can think is “Apply for all the things!” Mass uploads of your resume and cover letter ensue. You feel like you’re in the Hunger Games of the job-hunting world. But this isn’t the Hunger Games. There are steps you can take to up your chances.
As Creative Manager, I’ve seen a lot of applications come through EdgeTheory. Some are so wonderful I would hire that person on the spot if we had an opening. Others are cringeworthy, especially if I recognize mistakes I’ve made.
But I have a secret to share: If you take a few deep breaths and take a little time crafting applications to suit the positions you’re applying for, your chances of getting an interview go way up. Here are a few mistakes to be on the lookout for:
Not stating what position you’re applying for. This should be a gimme, but it happens to otherwise solid candidates. A lot. Seriously, this is the lowest hanging fruit out there but is easily overlooked, especially if you’re filling out an online form. Take two seconds and make sure the position you want is clear.
Saying how great the job would be for you but not saying how you’d be great for the job. I get it. You’re trying to create empathy and show your enthusiasm. But most hiring managers just need to know, “Does this person have the skills? Will they be a good fit for my team?” Immediately showing how you are relevant to the position does both of you a favor and makes a good impression.
- Starting with “To whom it may concern.” Do your homework. Most companies have a website and it takes 10 minutes or less to research and find a name/title that is a likely match. Or play it safe and use, “Dear Hiring Manager.” Or if you’re really in doubt, skip the greeting altogether and dive straight into what you want and why I should pick you.
- Copying and pasting only your resume into the body of an email. This is RUDE. It is unasked for and makes me play detective sussing out who the heck you are and extrapolating from your skill set what position you might be applying for. 9 out of 10 times I don’t have the time or patience for this and to the trash it goes. Instead, use the space for a short, well-written cover letter. You can then add an attachment or a link to your resume. I promise I’ll look at it in detail if I like your intro.
- Not personalizing your cover letter. You can use a template you’ve prepared beforehand like this one, but make sure the greeting, position for which you’re applying, and skills are correct. An articulate cover letter is a huge bonus for you in the writing and communications world. If I love a cover letter, even if I can’t hire you, I will probably write an answer saying thank you and offering encouragement; if I know of an opening elsewhere that seems like a good fit for you, I’ll even send you a job lead.
- This one is a tie between not making your skill set relevant and arrogance. Switching fields and have years of experience? Great! Fresh out of college and eager to put all that new knowledge to good use? Great! Not showing how your experience can be beneficial in this position? Bad but forgivable. Taking an arrogant tone while doing this? Your app is in the trash. The term “transferable skills” is key. I’ve hired people with backgrounds from theater to biology because they demonstrated why their skills were valuable. As a young manager, I’ll gladly hire someone who is older and fills an experience gap if I believe they are a good fit with my team AND me.
- Too many mistakes. Typos happen. Skipped words happen. Heck, I just re-read this blog post and found four skipped words and two pretty egregious grammar mistakes and that was on one read through. But repeated mistakes show me that you didn’t bother to proofread, which translates to me perceiving you as being lazy and/or lacking attention to detail. Mistakes are especially bad for communications/ marketing/ PR/ writing-based jobs. For those who are not native English speakers, you can still sell me on proficiency in another language, but for everyone else: check yourself.
- Not having a findable social media presence. Ok, this is more specific to EdgeTheory, but a lot of hiring managers will look you up online to get a feel for who you are as a person instead of a name and bullet-pointed list on a piece of paper. Not being present somewhere online makes you easy to forget. Bonus: Sending me links to your profiles or personal website. It shows initiative and that you have nothing to hide.
Think I missed something crucial? Feel free to add a comment below.