One Employer’s View of Job Hunting Screw-Ups
You may be aware from my prior posts that I don’t think any adult should be working for someone else. It’s okay in high school, and perhaps while you attend college (although I personally think everyone should be running t-shirt businesses or starting the next Apple out of their dorms), but at some point it’s time to take charge of your own destiny. You can never be completely in charge of your destiny if someone else gets to decide whether you will continue to be employed. If you want control, put yourself on a plan to someday work for yourself. The only acceptable violation of this rule would be working for me. I am told that is the closest thing to heaven on earth.
But many of you will never take this advice to heart, and will continue in the job market. As many have said to me, “some people just like being employees.” That’s cool; as I recall from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the betas loved being betas. So, for purposes of this post, let’s assume you will continue in the job market, either by choice, while you get your escape plan in place, or because you experienced chemical interference while maturing in a decanting bottle (that was another reference to Brave New World).
As I was sitting here going through the many resumes I receive from people wanting to work for me, I thought it might be worthwhile to post a few of the mistakes I see. I would think that these are common sense, but if that was the case, then why are so many people making the same bad moves? As you read these, you’ll see that some are simply a matter of personal preference. Some employers would not consider these to be mistakes at all, but following these suggestions will nonetheless serve you well. So, here are some tips for your next job search.
1. Use a professional e-mail address. We all understand that you came up with a cute email address that had tremendous significance among your friends. But when I get an email from 2cuteforyou – you’re right – that is too cute for me. Take two minutes and sign up for a professional address. Just use your name or some variation. And admittedly I may be alone in this, but I have an automatic bias against anyone who has an email address with numbers, such as LawMan1004@qmail.com. My first thought is that this prospective employee is not very imaginative, using a name that 1003 before him had already picked. (Unless you actually were the 1004th law man somewhere, in which case I apologize.)
2. READ the job listing. Sites such as Monster.com make it easy to review and respond to job listings, but there is no reason to respond in a mass-mailing format. When I recently advertised for a part-time billing clerk, I received responses from people looking for jobs as a graphic artist, office manager and even as an attorney. How does that happen? Are they only going as far as the name of my business, without bothering to see what position is being offered? Many of the responses that did make mention of the billing clerk position, also made clear that they were looking for a full-time position “with an opportunity for growth.” Respond to the specific job listing, and customize your presentation for that position.
3. Check your spelling and send only PDF files. I receive many emails with attached resumes in Word format, which is an automatic strike against the applicant because I don’t like the evil empire that is Microsoft, and it shows that the candidate makes false assumptions (many law firms do not use Word). I even receive resumes with the “docx” extension. Yes, I have installed the upgrade that allows me to view docx files, but trust me many employers have not. But what really amazes me is when I open these Word files, there are all the misspellings, conveniently underlined in red. Even if there are no misspellings, all the words that are not recognized are underlined in red, and all the formatting boxes are shown. It just looks horrible. All resumes should be submitted in PDF, unless the employer requests a different format. You spent all that time crafting an attractive resume, don’t then trash it by sending it in Word format; the modern-day equivalent of sending a resume on onion skin paper. Many Word documents come with prior versions still included in the metadata. While the version sent to me professes the applicant’s life long desire to work in the legal field, the prior versions of the document state his lifelong desires to work in advertising, work in retail and to work on a crab boat. I have noticed that some employers state that they want all resumes submitted in Word format, and I suspect that some of them make that demand specifically to peek at the metadata. If you respond to such a request, be sure to remove that information.
4. Target the Employer. The applicants that get the most attention are the ones that create the impression that they really want to work for my business. Back in my misguided days, when I was still working for other people, I went to every interview armed with information about the company, and if possible, the interviewer. I don’t recall ever not getting a job offer (I probably was rejected, but selective memory is a wonderful thing). In many instances, the interviewer would go to bat for me to the exclusion of more qualified candidates, just because I had wowed him with my knowledge of the company. With the Internet, not knowing about a company prior to the interview is inexcusable. An applicant should never ask me during an interview what kind of law we practice. That demonstrates a lack of homework. The question should be, “I know you have a number of defamation cases, and that is an area that really interests me. Do you think I would have the opportunity to work on those cases?”
5. Follow up without being a pain. I get busy and the stack of resumes that have avoided the circular file sits there, waiting for my attention. The last time I hired someone, I had already done all the initial interviews and was just trying to make a final decision. One of the applicants sent me almost daily emails, each one offering another reason why she would be perfect for the position. She was not the most qualified applicant, but I was so impressed with her initiative that I hired her. With some, this might backfire, but I can’t imagine that many employers would be put-off by someone making it clear that they really want to be hired.