Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I know it's a rough economy, but some things just aren't helping matters

About a year ago, I posted an ad on Craigslist to hire a part-time staffer for office work on weekends and occasional hours during the work week. We were paying $10 an hour for this and in any given week, the staffer would be getting under 20 hours.

In short, it was a pretty basic job, not paying a lot and primarily on weekends and I figured the hardest part would be finding someone who would both want to do the job and be able to do the job. I was so very wrong.

In 24 hours, I received over 400 resume submissions from all kinds of candidates. People with 15 years of experience as office managers for major companies. People with masters degrees in marketing. People fresh out of college in some small town trying to get a foothold in Chicago so they could afford a tiny, rat-infested apartment in an up and coming neighborhood. Extraterrestrials practicing their English skills via e-mail before an impending invasion.

After 200 submissions between noon and 4:30 p.m., I left the posting up overnight just to see what happened. I was forced to shut it all down the next day. Frankly, I was shocked that many people were scouring the ads, period.

Through that process, I was suddenly struck by just how arbitrary the whole hiring process can be. Every time I half-assed a submission. Every time I just skipped the cover letter. Every time I sent a hiring manager pictures of a basket full of sad puppies with the message, "Me wanna job."

At the time, I swore I would post about this as it would be funny to some people and educational to others. Kind of like the Not Hired site.

With that in mind:

* Handwritten resumes are a no-no. I heard this second hand from a friend I'd temped with for a while at Northwestern. He was at a job fair where someone was shopping resumes hand-written on loose leaf notebook paper. We would discuss this when sharing tales of woe from our misadventures in temp work.

* If you are 18 or older and plan to look for any type of job, you need to have a somewhat professional e-mail address. I'm not looking to hire JakDanielz45, SnookieBear22 or PotLover420 any time soon. This advice comes to you from someone who has an e-mail address with the word "Poop" in it. I have never submitted that one to a potential employer.

* Check your cover letter and resume for spelling mistakes. I make mistakes (and plenty here) just like anyone else. I'm talking about the forgetting to capitalize anything on the page or "I would be a great addition to your team?" variety.

* If the employer asks for a cover letter. Make sure you include it. I don't think I called anyone in for an interview who missed this step. Think of it as the "brown M&M" test of the hiring world. When you hear about crazy things in a rock band's rider agreement, chances are it's there to gauge how effectively the staff at a particular music venue pays attention to detail (or that person is Mariah Carey). When I ask for a cover letter and you don't provide it, it tells me that you are not good at following direction. I don't want to hire someone who doesn't follow direction well.

* Check your cover letter and resume for spelling mistakes again.

* The neck tattoo I saw today didn't seem to help with the other employers. When it is fully visible above a collared shirt, you can wear whatever suit you want, but I doubt you have a future in high end retail. Keep this in mind when you're 18, have no intent on ever working in an office (and totally selling out) and want the world to know your nickname in college is Captain Kickass.

* Check your cover letter and resume for spelling mistakes and then have your friend go through it one more time. Unless I'm wrong, I'm betting you don't really live in Chickago.

* While I know it's a mistake, don't send a cover letter for another business to me. Worse yet, don't send it addressed to a competitor/mortal business enemy.

* I know you think you're a people person / have a great work ethic / know how to throw around business buzzwords. Give me something I can work with.

Here's the bottom line (keeping in mind I've been on both sides of this equation several times in the past decade, so I say this out of love):

These points seem stupid and arbitrary, but if you needed to take 400 resumes and turn them into a more manageable 25-50, what kind of rules would you put in place just to keep your sanity? Always keep in mind that once you push "Send," someone has to receive it, sort it and start making cuts. Don't give them a reason to take you out of the mix because you didn't take an extra 30 seconds to confirm the business on the e-mail you're sending your resume to is the same one on the cover letter, KingCrapper4545.

(Image from:

1 comment:

Dylan said...

They should teach this in schools. I recently had to go through a whole bunch too, saw some shocking efforts.

My least favorite were the ones with liquid stains on them, or the resumes that have been bent in half.