Friday, September 22, 2006
BY DANIEL B. KLINE
The pile of resumes on my desk suggests that either the American educational system fails to prepare students for getting a job or the rules of grammar, spelling and logic were changed without my knowledge. Of the hundreds of applications I received in my quest to hire an entry-level graphic designer, very few lacked serious flaws.
The majority of the applicants seeking to fill this particular opening actually possessed college degrees - some from reasonably prestigious schools. Four extra years of schooling may have filled their heads with facts about obscure literature and all sorts of scientific theories, but it's obvious that classes in resume writing were not part of the curriculum.
Forget the horrific grammar and spelling (for a job where the description includes being proficient in those two areas); the vast majority of applicants appear to lack the basic skills asked for in my help wanted ad. If you have no previous work experience at the job you are applying for, it's generally a good idea to explain in your cover letter why you still might be a good hire.
Apparently, most people don't bother to consider their qualifications; they simply send in applications for every job listed under "help wanted." As if they were entering a lottery or trying to win a raffle, these misguided folks assume that quantity matters more than quality.
Likely due to time constraints, this peculiar type of applicant tends to omit a cover letter. This leaves me, the person doing the hiring, guessing as to how her working as a dog-sitter preceded by a two-week gig as hostess at Applebees makes her a qualified graphic designer.
Many of those who actually write a cover letter do little to redeem their candidacies. Aside from the obvious grammatical deficiencies displayed in these documents, a surprising number of people consider it a good idea to share inappropriate personal information. You might be divorced, a single parent, a cancer survivor or lactose intolerant, but none of these things should appear in your cover letter.
As for your resume, while many experts debate whether you should include an "objective" section at the top, I've never read one article that suggests replacing that area with a quote from Oprah. Similarly, I'm pretty sure no book or magazine article has ever told a prospective job candidate to paperclip a sexy picture to her cover letter.
Unfortunately, this has not stopped actual job applicants, whom I must assume hoped I would hire them, from doing exactly those things. I've also received resumes that contained "Star Trek" quotes, one that was packaged with a mix tape and more than a few that contained multiple spellings of the applicant's name.
Just as applicants who are unsure of the spelling of their own names fail to inspire confidence, resumes that lack basic contact information aren't scoring a lot of points, either. Perhaps worse than the completely missing info might be the handful of resumes I've received where the phone number listed does not include the area code, or has too few digits.
Though it might be difficult to get a job even under the best of circumstances, a candidate who has a clean resume and a cover letter that concisely explains her qualifications has a huge advantage. Education and work experience matter precious little if your resume buries this information under a discussion of which Backstreet Boy you like the most.
Daniel B. Kline's book, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do," is available in bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at email@example.com.