Tips for Job Applicants

The job market has been a very gloomy situation throughout 2008 and there is no clear forecast for when the unemployment will peak and arrive back down to Earth.  Newly posted jobs on Craigslist, Monster, and Career Builder are getting a flood of applicants in a very short amount of time.  A friend of mine put up a job posting on Tri Valley Jobs for a basic entry level tax preparer position and received over 40 applications in the first day and subsequently had to remove the posting due to the heavy volume of interest.  This is a combination of new college graduates still looking for jobs, newly unemployed individuals, and seasonal workers looking for more stable positions.  When applying for a job, there are a number of things that need to be kept in mind or avoided entirely.

Based on my hiring experience, here are some of the necessary guidelines you should make sure you put yourself in the best possible situation to get an interview and be a competitive candidate.

  1. When applying to a specific e-mail address saying to “see your attached resume”, make sure to attach the resume to the e-mail.   Hiring managers cannot evaluate a candidate without a resume.  It seems like a silly rule but I’ve seen it happen.
  2. Since it is not a sure bet that employers have Microsoft Office 2007, try not to send a file in the “.docx” format.  Since everyone is sure to have the ability to open a PDF, just turn your resume into a PDF and Primo PDF is an easy option to do this for free.
  3. Do not copy and paste your resume into an e-mail.  This makes it difficult for employers to save resumes for further review later.  It also looks very tacky.
  4. Write something worthwhile in the body of the e-mail when applying electronically or provide a significant cover letter for the position you’re applying for.  Cover letters help exemplify skills and experiences that you cannot convey in a resume.  In addition, hiring managers can tell if you write a general cover letter for all positions you’re applying for.  Writing a job specific cover letter will provide the company with an idea that you are specifically looking for the job they have posted instead of any general job posted online.
  5. If you have an objective in your resume, make sure that it is applicable to the job you’re applying for (otherwise, it is counter productive).  I’ve seen situations where an applicant will have an objective of “seeking full time chemical engineer position” when the job is actually for a candidate with an electrical engineering background.  When you get those kind of submissions, you realize that the candidate is applying to anything that sounds mildly interesting and the resume gets tossed in the discard pile.
  6. Outlining a list of all your tasks in previous jobs within a 4 page resume is not an effective way to get hired.  Companies do not want to know every task you’ve been assigned in the last five years of your employment.  Instead focus on your core job responsibilities and incorporate the more applicable, detailed job duties in your cover letter.
  7. Proofread and have others critique your resume to ensure that your skills are being presented accurately to an audience who knows nothing in detail about your previous work experience.
  8. Provide a professional sounding e-mail (something with your name like john.doe@gmail.com) instead of something less flattering like hotmamma@hotmail.com.
  9. With so many possible applicants, sometimes an application can get overlooked.  If possible, send a follow up e-mail if you haven’t heard a response within 2-3 weeks.
  10. With employers being so selective these days, it may take an extended amount of time for the hiring process to happen.  Keep your options open and continue your job search on a daily basis.  Do not settle on five specific companies you’d like to find employment with.  Instead be persistent and the more options you have, the more bargaining power you will have in the contract negotiation phase.

These few tips may seem obvious to some, but I’ve reviewed resumes from new college graduates to seasoned professionals and I’ve seen these mistakes sprinkled all over the playing field.  If you make vital mistakes in your resume or the way you portrey yourself in an application submission, job interviews and further communication will not be available.  Let’s all hope that unemployment peaks sometime in the middle of next year but I’m not counting my chickens til they hatch quite yet.

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