Thursday, October 26, 2006

Guidelines to Make Sure I Throw Away Your Resume As Quickly As Possible

An open letter to job applicants.

It seems many applicants are not really interested in getting hired.

I know it's very difficult to be out there looking for a job and getting no response. But let me tell you, it's also difficult to be looking to hire and to dig through mountains of "spam" applications.

Hiring is difficult. Keeping that in mind will help you get past the first few hurdles. When I go through the hiring process, I have to cull through hundreds of horrible, unqualified resumes. Then I ask for appointments and 60% of the applicants don't respond. I make interview appointments and 25% don't show up. I make second interview appointments and another 25% don't show up. It's difficult and depressing.

So when you drop your resume into the "inbox" of that process, you need to work hard to make sure you make the cut.

The first time I look at a resume, I plan to spend less than ten seconds per applicant.

In a perfect world you, the perfect candidate, will apply to us, the perfect company, and we'll be together forever. In the real world, your perfect application comes in with 200 others, most of which are garbage, spam, unrelated, or unqualified. In a batch of 200 resumes, I'm lucky to find ten people who are qualified and don't turn me off immediately.

Don't fool yourself into thinking you have an equal chance. Your first goal is make sure I don't throw away your resume. After that, if you're one of the ten, then you'll have an equal chance.

Here are some tips. Please take them seriously.

When the job says $X/hour firm, don't ask for the moon. If you're really worth $60,000, that's great. Don't apply for the $9/hour admin job. Do you expect me to say "I was looking for someone to file contracts and fill my car with gas, but you can do so much more. I'll pay you three times the salary." It's not going to happen. If I need an entry level tech, I'm not going to move from $20/hr to $40/hr because you have lots of experience.

Seriously. Read your resume. If you send me a resume in a Word doc and it's got red squiggly underlines all over the place, I'm not even going to look at them long enough to make fun of you. I'm going to close it, delete it, and move on. This takes me one second.

And have someone else read your resume and cover letter -- aloud if possible. "Your excellent add caught my intention." Delete.

Basic qualifications.
If the job announcement says "Microsoft Certification Required" and you don't have it, do not apply. Period. You will never get a chance to tell me that certifications are meaningless and you know brilliant, talented people without certs, blah, blah, blah. Your opinion on this subject does not matter. If the certification is easy, stupid, and meaningless, then go get it before you apply. If I say you have to have a license or certification, then you have to have it. Period.

Along these lines, don't bother starting your cover letter with an explanation of why you're not qualified. Nothing personal, but I've got a stack of resumes and most of them aren't qualified. Go get qualified. If you need a clean DMV, stop driving like an idiot and come back in three years. If you need a professional license, go get it.

Fake certifications.
Your tech school is not doing you a favor if they tell you that passing their class on MCSE training allows you to use the title "Associate degree in MCSE A.A.S.S.X.Y.Z." There is no such thing and whatever it is, it's not an MCSE. If you have an MCSE, say "MCSE, acquired June 2006." Similarly, if the only place I see MCSE is a bullet point under XYZ Technical Institute, I'm going to assume you took the prep class but not the exam. If you have a certification, say so.

Job Title.
If I'm advertising for a desktop or helpdesk technician and your cover letter begins with "I'm seeking a position as a programmer" I stop reading and delete. If your speciality is Oracle databases, I don't care. My assumption is that you're spamming every remotely-technical job with your resume and generic cover letter. If I'm not looking for a programmer, don't say programmer. And if you think I'm going to keep this on the shelf for the day I do need a programmer, you're wrong.

Color and Cuteness.
Green and pink resumes with floating balloons and cuddly teddybears.
Just don't.
What are you thinking?

Think about how you name your resume.
I won't reject someone whose resume is "resume.doc" or "currentresume.doc." But if your resume is "Johnson Resume.doc" it will make my life easier. And I'll know that you have some common sense. If I were to search my archives for "resume.doc," I'd probably get 10,000 hits. But even with the name Johnson, I'd get very few hits.

And don't name your resume somthing cute like "The best technician at any price.doc." Cute works after you've made the first cut. Before that it's just annoying.

I have nothing against people who live in other cities or countries. But please read the job description. If you live in Iowa and want to work for me, driving to client offices in Sacramento, then you have to move to Sacramento. If you live in Bangalore and the job description includes stuffing envelopes in Sacramento, you can't telecommute. Why do you waste my time?

Sending Links rather than the Resume.
I've never clicked on I don't know what's there. And I'll never find out. 1) I work hard to make sure none of my clients click on unknown links that show up in email from strangers. You think I'm going to break this rule myself? 2) Don't make me work any harder to see your resume than I work to see someone else's resume. Delete.

Attaching irrelevant files/info.
When I open your email and you've accidently included listings for all the jobs you're applying for, or letters to other employers, I'm never going to write back and tell you that you made a mistake. By the time I realize what's gone on, you've wasted two minutes of my time, which is more than I've allotted to applicants at this stage. Be careful. Go slow. If you put a bunch of crap in my inbox, I'll just delete it. Sorry.

Your requirements.
At this point, your requirements are irrelevant. Remember, your first goal is to make it through the pile of 200 and onto the pile of 10.
If you need every third Thursday off, save it for after you've been offered a job, or if you get asked about it in an interview.
If your religion requires that you don't work overtime, save it for after you've been offered a job, or if you get asked about it in an interview.

Don't ask about benefits in your cover letter. Even if we offer everything you need, this is not the place to bring it up. My reaction will be "This doesn't taste right." Delete.

Don't apply for unrelated jobs.
When I post for an administrative assistant and a technician, I reject applicants who apply for both. These are totally different jobs, one part time at $9/hr and one making $50,000/year. Decide what you want to do with your life and get back to me.

Don't brag so much that you make me look bad.
When you say "Don't be intimidated by my skill level . . . I can bring extensive knowledge to this low level position," I'm not impressed. Similarly, don't promise that you can bring a new level of organization to my company unless you actually know something about how we're organized. Remember, if the phrase "Forget You" floats through my mind, I press the delete button and you are forgotten.

Explain large time blanks.
If your most recent job ended a year ago, that's a major flag. I actually go looking for an explanation of this. Took time off for a kid? No problem. Worked in an unrelated field for a year? Probably okay if the rest of the resume is fine. But you have to understand that every employer will want to know about that big blank. Rather than giving an excuse to reject you, just put some explanation in your resume.


The bottom line: This isn't fun for you and it isn't fun for me.

Look good and professional. Don't waste my time. Don't do things that will get you rejected right off the bat.

And I wish you luck in your search. Getting the right job can make your life truly enjoyable. And that's the way it should be.


  1. Anonymous10:59 PM

    Karl: I guess I should have read this before I sent you my resume but I would have been laughing to hard to press the send button.


  2. Anonymous9:26 AM

    I just left a comment on another one of your posts but just ran across this one and had to leave another comment because you just described our issues with resumes and all the attendant craziness that goes with it such as getting the resumes from all over the world (although we're getting better i.e. "local candidates only need apply; relocation expenses not reimbursed--that really cuts it down!), typos, candidates applying for positions that have no clearly discernible relation to posted job description and on it goes.

  3. You must be getting hate mail from people who don't know how to make a decent resume..... the article is right on.


Feedback Welcome

Please note, however, that spam will be deleted, as will abusive posts.

Disagreements welcome!