So, you need a job? Man, do resumes suck

Since the economy is slowing down, I’m hearing of lots of you who are getting laid off and looking for jobs. Here’s my experience on the other side of that — being someone who is trying to hire someone.

Fast Company TV is hiring an administrative assistant. We advertised the job Friday morning on Craig’s List (which is where I got my job at NEC in the depth of the last tech bust back in 2002). So far I’ve received more than 90 resumes for a job that’ll pay $12 to $15 (not much, I know, but for a starter job not too bad — my first job back in 1993 paid $10 an hour and this one should be a good launch to a fun career in journalism or PR or any number of jobs).

It’s very possible that in the next two years YOU will need a job too and will be facing that kind of competition (when I got my job at NEC, it was even worse, they said I beat 500 people for the job that I got). How do you get past the first stage?

First, based on the resumes I’m seeing, realize that 80% are crap and will be rejected out of hand. How do you get put into the crap pile? Here’s some ways.

1. Include only an attachment and don’t write anything in the body of the email.
2. Include a misspelling.
3. Apply for a job which you are clearly unqualified for (it stands out like a sore thumb).
4. Include a Word document that can’t be opened (one person sent one in Microsoft Word 2007 format).
5. Include only a resume and don’t explain why you think you are qualified for the job (believe it or not, a well written letter puts you to the top 20% pretty quickly).
6. Send it from an email address with a goofy name. You should see some of them that I’ve gotten.
7. Apply for a job for which you are clearly overqualified for (I got one resume from a software engineer).
8. Have your friend send in a resume for you (I got one of these, actually).
9. Don’t test your email on a variety of clients (a bunch that I received were poorly formatted, had characters that didn’t display properly, etc).
10. Send it from free version of Hotmail, which puts an advertisement at the end of your email. Looks very professional when all I see is the ad and nothing else.

OK, I assume most people reading this will be in the 20% of those who didn’t screw up in some way and get rejected outright.

So, now how do you get into the final two or three pile which is what will earn you an interview? You need to stand out from the crowd somehow. Here’s some ways to do that.

1. Blog. Only one out of 98 included his/her blog address on the email. Make sure your blog’s content matches the job you are applying for, though. If someone had a blog showing how to be a better administrative assistant you can bet that I’d read every word. Same for a Twitter or Facebook or FriendFeed profile. But don’t send those along if they aren’t professionally-oriented. Do assume that I’ll Google you and search around for what you’ve done online anyway.
2. Include a customized video that demonstrates your skills and personality. No one did that yet.
3. Demonstrate you did some research on us. One person said “hello Scobleizer.” That was one of the few that was customized and demonstrated that there would be a human being on the other side who’d read all these.
4. Make sure you write for a human, but include tags and things for electronic scanners too. Do some searches on Google for “how to write a resume” and you’ll find tons of tips on how to do this. But always assume there’s a human reading these things first.
5. Don’t just apply for the job, apply for the career. I’m looking for people who don’t want to be stuck in a $15-an-hour job forever. I want someone who I can get out of that job as quickly as possible and into something more fun and higher paying. Even if that doesn’t work out, I’m looking for people who have a career in mind, not just a “job.”
6. Demonstrate that you’d be fun to have around. In this case you’re applying for a job at Fast Company with someone who does videos with innovative people around the world and who loves talking tech. No one put in there anything about their skills in using travel services like Tripit. No one put anything in there about their love of technology to be more productive. An administrative assistant who mentioned that they used David Allen’s programs, for instance, would get noticed.
7. Make sure your email is perfect in every way. Have tons of friends look it over for mistakes. I’d even pay a professional editor to do that because of how bad most of these resumes were. Even little mistakes get noticed instantly and usually get you rejected outright (there’s no excuse for sloppiness here).

Anyway, these are just some ideas. I remember at NEC that it was my cover letter that got me noticed (they had highlighted what caught their eyes) and my blog (they had printed out lots of my blogs and wanted to talk to me about why I wrote what I did).

Hope this helps one of you get a job quickly. Do you have any other ideas for how to help job seekers?

233 thoughts on “So, you need a job? Man, do resumes suck

  1. Great post! I work for a job site, and heard lots of tips on creating a resume, but this so far is the best advice. Will recommend to all job seekers. :)
    Can I use the Russian translation of this article on my site with a link to this entry?

  2. So Rob, did u ever find the perfect Admin Assistant? I am the 1 who commented about being overqualified 9 months ago & u responded later on.Also met u w/Steph &Marshall @the Stock Exchange & 140 Characters in June.

  3. This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone!!
    Definitely this is a strategy which every one wants to follow!!But this is not too wellknown hence there are a lot of confusions in it which will be solved as we go stage higher and read this article with new additions in it!
    —————————
    brad pitt
    cover letter

  4. This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone!!Definitely this is a strategy which every one wants to follow!!But this is not too wellknown hence there are a lot of confusions in it which will be solved as we go stage higher and read this article with new additions in it!—————————brad pittcover letter

  5. I have a very close friend, who graduated from Harvard. Worked for ML for over 8 years, recently he’s been “right sized” too, despite of his outstanding performance and the increasing revenue he generated. OMG, now the banking industry is badly hurt, how long it would take for those financial background guys like him get back to the job market. Banking jobs are not there as much as before as easily seen on http://www.joboutlets.com and other job sites in the region

  6. I have a very close friend, who graduated from Harvard. Worked for ML for over 8 years, recently he’s been “right sized” too, despite of his outstanding performance and the increasing revenue he generated. OMG, now the banking industry is badly hurt, how long it would take for those financial background guys like him get back to the job market. Banking jobs are not there as much as before as easily seen on http://www.joboutlets.com and other job sites in the region

  7. People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day’s news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not.
    And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And http://www.layoffgossip.com is providing you that platform.

  8. People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day’s news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not.
    And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And http://www.layoffgossip.com is providing you that platform.

  9. Excellent advice. It’s easier than ever to apply for jobs online – which makes the job of finding a job tougher than ever since there is so much more competition. Employers are looking for people that will perform well – and every step of the application process is a reflection of the quality of work you would end up doing for the company if they hired you.

    There is more advice in my book, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves, available on Amazon and at http://www.thegetajobbook.com

    You can also get free advice at my blog (co-written with Jim Stroud, author of The Job Search Strategist) at http://jobs.therecruiterslounge.com

    To your success,

    David B. Wright
    Author, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves

  10. Excellent advice. It’s easier than ever to apply for jobs online – which makes the job of finding a job tougher than ever since there is so much more competition. Employers are looking for people that will perform well – and every step of the application process is a reflection of the quality of work you would end up doing for the company if they hired you.

    There is more advice in my book, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves, available on Amazon and at http://www.thegetajobbook.com

    You can also get free advice at my blog (co-written with Jim Stroud, author of The Job Search Strategist) at http://jobs.therecruiterslounge.com

    To your success,

    David B. Wright
    Author, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves

  11. Very interesting post. I agree…resumes tend to all blend together – at least in the software development world. Everyone ends up looking exactly the same. I’ve thought a bit about this…I think the problem is the resume itself. It’s just a poor tool for communicating who you are (quickly).

    I recently came up with one solution to this problem – “how do you set yourself apart to get that first interview”. It’s essentially an interactive resume for software developers, showing a person’s skills and experiences from different perspectives: timeline, dashboard, etc. Check it out at:

    http://www.coderscv.com/

  12. Very interesting post. I agree…resumes tend to all blend together – at least in the software development world. Everyone ends up looking exactly the same. I’ve thought a bit about this…I think the problem is the resume itself. It’s just a poor tool for communicating who you are (quickly).

    I recently came up with one solution to this problem – “how do you set yourself apart to get that first interview”. It’s essentially an interactive resume for software developers, showing a person’s skills and experiences from different perspectives: timeline, dashboard, etc. Check it out at:

    http://www.coderscv.com/

  13. Is there a page or a phone # so I could talk to somebody at criagslist.

    the help would be cool.

    Thank you Tom

  14. I am not looking for a job. I am trying to run a few ads to sell a boat,a old
    train.a truck cap after I write my add it brings me to a code I put the code in the box then it says are you human I check yes and another box with about 75 # and letters it will not let me post.
    If any one has an idea please help.

    thank you Tom

  15. I am not looking for a job. I am trying to run a few ads to sell a boat,a old
    train.a truck cap after I write my add it brings me to a code I put the code in the box then it says are you human I check yes and another box with about 75 # and letters it will not let me post.
    If any one has an idea please help.

    thank you Tom

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