Younger Job Seekers: 3 Reasons Why Your Application Will Be Put in the Circular File (a.k.a. Waste Basket)
January 27, 2009
By J.T. O'Donnell Two years ago, when I first started hiring interns, an eager application came in my e-mail inbox. I was excited. The college junior wrote a nice note explaining how he had heard about my internship and then attached a cover letter and resume for me to review. I immediately opened the cover letter and was impressed. The formatting was proper and the sentences were relatively well-written. I actually consider myself more lenient with college applicants because I know they aren't experienced in applying for jobs, so some of the word choices and tone didn't bother me as they would other hiring managers. But then.... There it was, in the very last sentence - the deal breaker that put his resume sight unseen in the "I don't think so pile." He closed the letter by saying, "I'd really love the opportunity to work for Bank of America." Hmmmm. Last time I checked, I was a online start up company, not one of the nation's biggest banks. Clearly, he had re-used his cover letter on me but had failed to proof it. After two days, I e-mailed him the mistake he made and gave him a chance to make it up by meeting with me. He turned out to be a great candidate and did work for me for a semester. However, I can tell you right now, most employers aren't that forgiving. Here's the deal: In this economy, hiring managers are literally getting 1000's of applications within days (and in some cases, hours!) of posting them. So, they resort to weeding out tactics to help them pull together a short list of people to consider. One common technique is to simply throw any e-mail, resume or cover letter with a typo into the circular file (a.k.a. the waste basket). Another is to weed out any on fancy paper or with crazy formatting or designs. And, I've even heard of one hiring manager trashing anyone who starts their cover letter with, "I'm responding to your ad as seen in...." Is this fair? No. But guess what? Hiring isn't fair. In fact, my colleague, the best-selling business author, Dale Dauten, says it best: "Hiring IS a process of discrimination." So, why do you want to decrease your chances of getting hired even further by making mistakes that can get you removed from the process? Here are 3 reasons why you won't get considered for the job: #1 - Sending out cover letters or resumes with typos and formatting errors.SOLUTION: Have a second set of eyes (that you trust) look at your materials. Then, save them as pdf files so that when you send them their formatting doesn't get screwed up in the event the hiring manager uses a different version of software to open your documents. #2 - Being boring, self-absorbed or pretentious in your cover letter.SOLUTION: Cover letters are NOT about you. They should be about the company you are applying to and why you think they run their business well. You should use examples from your personal experience to share why you are impressed by them - just be sure to use your own voice. Trying to use big words to sound professional is going to backfire. Be authentic, sincere and polite. #3 - Using a multi-page resume out of college.SOLUTION: Unless you started working full-time at age 13, you do not have enough experience to put on more than one page. Stick to the facts and list only quantifiable, relevant accomplishments. There are actually a lot more DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to resumes and cover letters for students and recent grads. What would you suggest? Post your thoughts below...