More Tips: How to NOT Get Kicked to the Curb Before You Even Interview

7 Jun

Shockingly (to those of you who ONLY know me through this  blog), I have directly hired (and, sadly, fired) a not insignificant number of people in my day. (By which I mean more than 50, and fewer than 100. Probably. But I’m too lazy to do the math.)

If you are currently looking for a new job, this is your lucky day. Because you’re about to receive valid advice from a REAL PERSON (one who swears, eats at food trucks and mocks people for farting in yoga), as opposed to some SHRM-bot that only gives vanilla tips for getting hired.

For background: I’m currently looking for a salesperson with almost ten years’ strategic sales experience and a strong book of contacts in a specific industry. And yet…

Tip #1: Don’t stretch your experience. 

The first person to send me his information had fifteen years of bartending experience. And nothing else. Now, don’t get me wrong. I used to bartend myself, so I’m aware of all the transferable skills. BUT, I’m looking for someone who has received Miller Heiman training, can write an account strategy in his sleep and is comfortable talking the the CMO of Beam Global, rather than the local distributor of Beam products. Sorry.

Tip #2: Read the job description carefully.

To turn the mirror on myself, perhaps the description is poorly written. Because another person who applied had absolutely NONE of the requisite experience. I feel compelled to respond to everyone who expresses interest (because we’ve ALL been on that side of a job search before and I believe silence is evil), so I bounced an email to this individual.

I won’t quote, but the gist of it was “Hi. At first blush, nothing about my opportunity matches your experience. Am I missing something?”

Her response: “Sorry. After reading it more closely, you’re right. Didn’t mean to waste your time.”

Well, I’ll give her points for owning it. but I won’t refer her to a friend with an opening that might match her skills since she clearly has challenges with either a) reading comprehension or b) attention to details. Her loss.

Tip #3: Customize that cover letter.

And when I say customize, I specifically mean: do NOT reference another company’s job. That’s kind of insulting, and probably a deal breaker. Unless you have found a way to electronically staple Sour Patch Kids to your cover letter. In which case, I might be willing to turn a blind eye.

The other part of customizing a cover letter? Not addressing it to “Dear Mr/Mrs” (and nothing else). That’s even weirder than the old “Dear Sir or Ma’am” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Especially when you consider that the online posting clearly has a real person’s name attached. Stop being coy.

Tip #4: Save “clever” for the interview, not the resume.

What do I mean?

  • Listing “Champion, Ass-Kicking Contest” on the “awards” section of your resume does not amuse me. (Well OK, it does, but only a little.)
  • I have huge respect for stay-at-home moms who re-enter the workforce, and recognize that you bring a lot of transferable skills to the party. But trying to represent that time away from Corporate America as a professional bullet on your resume (ie. “CEO, Domestic Affairs”) is sort of like me trying to land a job as a buyer with Sotheby’s on the basis of my eBay transactions.
  • Listing your educational institution as the “School of Hard Knocks?” Just… No.
Tip #5: Own your failures.

I admit, I am biased. The one title that drives me to rejection faster than any other? President. That’s right. I see “president” on your resume and think “Hmmm… failed business venture,” or “Trust fund baby.”

Maybe that’s unfair of me, but I tend to believe that if you are the president of a successful venture, you wouldn’t be interviewing for someone else’s payroll. It’s kind of like the captain of the Titanic claiming he’s cool with a passenger steering the boat while he goes off in a dingy just for kicks. Not very believable.

An alternative? If you got a taste of entrepreneurship and hated it — then OWN it. Tell me why you don’t want to do that any more. But please don’t make it sound like you’re running a small kingdom and are open to wooing in case there’s something out there you’re missing. Because I’ll call bullshit on that every day of the week.

And in closing…

If you are actually looking for a new job, I wish you the best of luck. I know searching isn’t fun, and I realize it can be demoralizing as you send resumes without response.

Just remember… it’s kind of like dating: Put effort into every interaction, respect the time of the people you’re contacting, and never claim to have a 12″ penis. Because even if you don’t end up making the cut for that opportunity, you never know who her best friend is. And there is always a moment of truth.

9 Responses to “More Tips: How to NOT Get Kicked to the Curb Before You Even Interview”

  1. lexy3587 June 8, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    A business prof I had gave the best advice on cover letters. PROOFREAD. Why? Because, when he wasn’t a prof, and was working in industry, he read a fair number of cover letters that read,

    “Dear Sir or Madman,”

    … because auto-correct is not always your friend.

    • pithypants June 8, 2011 at 9:21 am #

      Ha! I actually worked with a PR Director once who ROUTINELY sent out press releases that were signed, “Director, Pubic Relations.”

      • lexy3587 June 8, 2011 at 9:57 am #

        LOL… yup… just because it’s spelled correctly according to autocorrect, doesn’t mean it’s the word you wanted. And it might make you seem oddball.
        Also, no pressure about the versatility thing – get to it when you get to it!

    • pithypants June 8, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      BTW – I haven’t forgotten about the versatility award — that post is coming! 🙂

  2. Hoyt June 8, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    I looked at a resume recently from Jane Doe where the name in the header was <> Doe. Proofread fail.

  3. Hoyt June 8, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Interesting, it didn’t post correctly. There should be a FIRST between the

  4. Hoyt June 8, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    OK, I’m clearly not smart enough to post replies in this blog

    • pithypants June 8, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Hoyt — Maybe Doe moderates comments at WordPress and is using this forum to seek revenge?

  5. Michele June 15, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Great post Alison! I forwarded it to my sister who is looking for another job, wants to move up and just no opportunity to do so at her current workplace. I love when you provide great useful information like this. I love all your other posts too as they keep me rolling!

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