It’s not often that I get to observe the hiring process first hand. I’ve had ZERO turnover in my Jobs employees since starting my firm, which says something about my screening process and their loyalty.

We recently found ourselves in need of a part time paralegal, which afforded me the opportunity observe and offer insights into the recruitment and hiring process. Here is how it started:

I placed an employment ad on a job site, explaining that we were looking for a part time paralegal. I stressed this point, imploring people not to apply if they were really interested in full time work.

I like prospective employees to apply a certain way, so the ad directed them to a prior article on this blog, entitled, “One Employer’s View of Job Hunting Screw-ups.” I asked that they read the article before submitting their resume. The article made these strong suggestions:

1. Read the listing carefully to make sure you understand what the employer is seeking;

2. Always submit resumes as PDF files, not in Word format (unless requested to do so); and

3. Target the employer.

I received 57 emails over a five day period. Out of those 57 applicants:

– 27 submitted their resumes in Word format when PDF was specifically requested.

– 13 did not attach resumes at all, but instead just put the resume text in the email (some offering the explanation that they did not know how to create a PDF).

– 17 submitted resumes as PDF files as requested.

– 2 made reference to the wrong job in the email.

– 5 specifically wrote that they were looking for full time work.

– 6 mentioned why they were looking for part time work.

You’ve probably heard friends and acquaintances bemoaning the job market. They may have said something like, “I’ve sent out over 500 resumes and have not received a single call.” May I humbly submit that the above numbers may say why?

A good paralegal needs to be very detail oriented, and while I am of course ultimately responsible for his or her work, I would hope that he or she would catch details that I might miss. If an applicant submits a resume in the wrong format, regarding a job that requires attention to hundreds of procedural rules, how can I reasonably consider that applicant? Thus, as an initial matter, the applicants that took a few extra seconds to read the job ad and submitted their resumes in the proper format improved their odds from one out of 57 to one out of 17. (I received one very angry email telling me how unreasonable I was being “to expect people to buy Adobe in this economy.” You don’t need to buy anything to convert a Word file to PDF. See www.primopdf.com.)

The ad also expressed that while the job was part time, we were very flexible on the schedule. Five of the 17 distinguished themselves by explaining why part time work was perfect for their situations, thereby providing me with confidence they were not just settling for part time work until they could find a full time position.

And finally, only TWO took it to the next level and did a little detective work to determine to whom they were responding. I don’t know whether they did this because the article suggested it or it was already their practice, but these two people targeted their email directly at my firm’s areas of law, making it sound as though this was a fit made in heaven.

The article also suggests that an applicant should “follow up without being a pain” in order to keep their name in front of the employer. Out of the 57 applicants, just ONE sent follow up emails.

I might be tempted to think that some of these applicants gave this particular job a half-hearted effort because it was only a part time position, but these numbers were typical of what I have seen in the past. The numbers demonstrate how, with just a few extra minutes of effort, you can move yourself to the top of the stack and greatly improve your odds.

Stop thinking quantity and go for quality.  Focus on the job, and customize your approach.  Even your resume should be tailored to that specific job.  And if you don’t quite match the qualifications sought by the employer, sell yourself and explain why that will not be a problem.