How to get a job

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For those who are looking for work, let me sort of tell you how the process works these days. Last week, we posted a job (office admin/customer service) on Monster.com. In 24 hours, about 100 resumes came in. The ad is running two weeks so I can expect another few hundred resumes at least.

Out of those resumes, I probably called ten and am bringing four or five for interviews. Yes, only 5% of those people will even get a chance to interview. Assuming a lot more resumes come in, the average applicant will have well less than 1% of a chance of getting the job.

Those are bleak odds and I feel for you job hunters that are facing that. But on the other hand, I can give you a bit of insight into how you can greatly improve your chances of at least getting a phone call. It is simple really: just send in a perfect resume.

When I say send in a perfect resume, I am not talking about job qualifications. I am just talking about getting to first base: things like spelling, spacing and grammar.

Out of the hundred resumes I looked at, what percentage of them do you think were perfect? You would think that most of them would be. It is not like we are typing on typewriters anymore; we can fix mistakes. We have spell checks and grammar checks. There are resume templates online to get the spacing right. And everyone has a friend or two to double check their work.

And yet, I am very sure that of the 100 resumes, not more than a dozen were perfect. I did not have to look very hard. Most of them were written with MS Word and when I opened them in Word, I saw squiggly red and green lines.  What is going on with that? Do people turn off the squiggly red and green lines that warn them of problems?

And by the way, probably 90% of those resumes made the claim that the author was “detail oriented.”

Call me ridiculous if you want but you will not convince me that it is hard to get everything right on a one-page document. It’s not. It takes some effort but surely a resume is worth some effort. You will not write many documents more important in your entire life.

And furthermore, you will not convince me you are detail oriented if you don’t send me a perfect resume. You can tell me you are all you want but I will not believe it.

The good news of course for those of you looking for jobs is that the bar is set pretty low. You should have no trouble getting some attention in the job market. Here are some quick tips. I know this may seem mildly sarcastic but based on what I have seen, most people do not know these things.

1) Spell things right.

2) Capitalize the right words and just as importantly, don’t capitalize the wrong words.

3) Use correct punctuation and be consistent in punctuation. For example, if you put periods at the end of a list item, use periods at the ends of all other list items.

4) Fix any other grammar mistakes. (If MS Word puts squiggly green lines under a sentence, it means something.)

5) Be parallel in verb tense when you list things. (This is especially true for job responsibilities. Decide whether to use past tense or present tense for each job and then stick with it.)

6) Make sure spacing is consistent. If you double space between some jobs, don’t triple space between others. If you indent one space after some bullets in a list, don’t indent two spaces after other bullets. Don’t crowd things together.

Just doing these things will probably get you interviews. But here are some bonuses:

1) Get rid of the “Objective” paragraph at the top of the page. I know colleges tell you to do that but ignore them. The “Objectives” paragraph has morphed into a ridiculous competition of who can use the most pompous business jargon in the most inappropriate way. I see that section on almost all resumes and it basically never helps the applicant. Too many things can go wrong there.

2) Put a bit of effort into design. Not everyone is a designer but anyone can find a good template and make their resume look pretty good. Just a few little details make a big difference. When you look at a resume, it should look like it was done by someone who knew how to use MS Word and made an effort to use its design features.

3) Avoid meaningless cliche words. “Hard worker,” “great customer service” and similar terms mean nothing in that context. Rather demonstrate your attributes by bragging on successes. Saying you are good at sales is one thing; saying that you increased sales 30% in a year at your last job is quite another.

And above all, don’t say that you are detail oriented if your resume is full of careless errors. Because here is the honest truth: no one is going to believe you.

(The problem with writing a post like this is that people will be looking for errors in this post, and truth be told, you can usually find a typo in pretty much any post I make. I am NOT detail oriented; that is why I need a detail oriented office admin. Nor am I looking for a job. Trust what I am saying here though, typos and all, because I have been hiring people for a long time and I am speaking the truth.)