Not that you’ve asked for my job hunting advice, but Joy and I were talking about some résumés this afternoon and I feel the need to get up on a soap box. My standard disclaimer applies – HR people are all different and we do not make hiring decisions, anyway. We are just the gatekeepers. Feel free to try and go around us. I don’t care.

First. Cover letters are not optional. Some job post web sites have a box to check if the hiring employer is requiring them and I do not check the box. Because I am judging applicants based on whether they bother to do so without being told.

Second, there are all of these new-fangled ways that the experts are giving people to “brand” themselves. Things like listing all of your accomplishments together – the actual titles and employers and lengths of service are secondary – or less. Employers only care about what you can do, not where you did it. Some are even saying not to add dates at all.

I think that is garbage.

Particularly when we have to sort through piles of applications, if the thing that differentiates you is that I have to hunt for the information I want like “is this person a job hopper” and “is there a pattern of progressively responsible positions” – that is not in your favor. If you get too creative, it makes me think you are trying to hide something. Oh, and trying to hide your age is silly. First, because I don’t care how old you are and second, it also tends to hide your experience.

The other new résumé thing is sections on “objectives” and “summaries”. I have never read one single “objective” section that made me want to hire a candidate, but I have read many that made me dismiss them. On the “summary” I can go either way. If you think it adds something, by all means include it. But if you use it to broadcast “excellent communications skills” or to declare yourself a ”top notch professional”, I think it is a waste of space on the page.

Bottom line: don’t get cute on the résumé. Differentiate yourself in the cover letter. I have said before that the best cover letter I have ever seen included a list of the job requirements and then pointed to how the candidate had that experience. She got an interview.

(stepping down now)

3 Comments on “Applications

  1. Connie:Thanks for asking.The thing I like in a cover letter is some indication that the applicant prepared it in response to the specific posting I placed – as opposed to "To Whom it May Concern my resume is enclosed for the position advertised." I realize that most job applicants are sending out dozens of resumes, so the ones that are personalized stand out. Giving the referral source is a good idea. Make sure you have the title correct. What about the position interests you? What about our company interests you? What do you think makes you a good fit for the job? Writing those things proves that you have good communication skills, as opposed to saying "I have great communications skills". And please proof read your letters better than I proof read my blog!

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