November 29, 2011

EMPLOYMENT: Over on Facebook, some friends have been talking about yesterday’s jobs post, and a couple comment on how with so many resumes coming in, they’ll toss any that contain typos. One comments: “I used to screen for my law firm. We would receive piles and piles of resumes, and that was during the boom years. I found myself tossing the majority of them for typos and the like. I also was surprised by how many applicants had inappropriate e-mail addresses (e.g., partygirl88@____.com).”

The Insta-Daughter has a job where, as low person on the totem pole, she’s in charge of sorting the resumes, and she’s been amazed by how many (1) don’t indicate the job sought (sometimes they’re hiring multiple positions, and it’s not always obvious from the resume which one the person is applying for); (2) are several pages long, but don’t have page numbers and the person’s name at the top of each page (which makes them hard to reconstruct if they’re mixed up, as happens); and (3) refer the reader to a website for crucial information. Then there are the typos and grammatical errors, which are distressingly common even though these are mostly people with fancy educational backgrounds, and often with industry experience.

So here’s some advice: As you put your resume together, imagine that you’re an intern or other junior employee faced with a stack of 500 resumes to sort, because that’s who’ll probably be the first person to see it. Make yours easy to sort, easy to keep together, and easy to follow. And remember that people faced with big stacks of resumes are basically looking for reasons to weed yours out, to reduce things to a manageable number, so don’t give them those reasons. Proofread, proofread, proofread — then have a friend proofread for you. It’s okay to have samples of your work on a website, but make sure that all the stuff people need to decide whether they want to look at you that closely is right there on the resume in convenient form.

And do think about the email address. I see that kind of thing surprisingly often among my law students. (My favorite was a student — a big Democrat — whose email was “lickBush@___.com”; I suggested a change to something less political, or otherwise subject to misinterpretation). And in general, although people often spend a lot of time fussing over their resumes — because that’s the only part of the process where you’re in complete control — it’s a mistake to view your resume from your own perspective. You need to try to look at it from the perspective of the people who’ll be reading it at the other end.

Books like Live For Success or What Color Is Your Parachute? are easy to make fun of, but these kinds of simple points are important, and anyone who spends any time doing hiring soon learns that there are a lot of people applying for jobs who haven’t mastered the basics yet. Don’t be one of them.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Becker emails:

In addition to the excellent information about resumes – all stuff I’ve been hammering people about for years – add in the ring back tones used on their phones and their voice mail messages. An utterly vile, hip-hop ring tone or a message like “You know what to do…” or “Leave a message, if it’s important I might call you…” (all stuff I encounter with frightening frequency) are good for a message to the effect “I was going to invite you for an interview until I was exposed to your complete unprofessional ring tone/voicemail message”.

Also remember that your tweets, Facebook postings, blog, etc. are likely to be viewed by potential employers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ben Dolfin writes:

If you’re looking for a job in the trades go meet people and introduce yourself, who you are and what you’re looking for. I do a lot of IT stuff for small companies and they’re not the kind of place that puts a help wanted ad on Monster or hires professional HR staff. They’re the company that hires their friends nephew or the guy they know from the baseball team or the IT guy from church so get out there and meet people. Almost everyone I know started with crappy jobs like hauling shingles up a ladder, but if you’re not willing to do the crap work chances are you won’t make it that far. There are lots of jobs advertised but there are lots more that aren’t.

Yes, and even the advertised jobs are more likely to be filled by someone who found out via word-of-mouth.