Here is an article take from the Toronto Star on Tuesday, March 11, 2003, describing how NOT to land a job!
Handy tips on how NOT to land that job
Few graduates submit cogent applications
Letters range from strange to nonsensical
BART EGNAL, SPECIAL TO THE STAR (taken from the Toronto Star, March 11/03)
"I want to learn the skills on the job which I want to understand
the industry and physically doing the job and gain practical shills."
— From a job application submitted by a recent university graduate
So you're keen to find a position in this tough job market. You search online services and find a posting from a management consulting firm. The job is an entry-level position for a communications analyst. The position fits your credentials well. You need only submit a covering letter and a resume. You note that the company considers "a high level of attention to detail" important. That's you.
So you take great care in sending your application ... well, not really. If you did, you'd be in a distinct minority. When I posted this job on CareerEdge's Web site, I hardly expected the flood of poorly written responses that landed on my desk.
The job with a consulting firm had great potential. We were seeking someone who could grow with our company, which serves top-level executives. However, as I pored over 70 applications, I found there were few people who were willing, or able, to take the time to get it right. Here are some questions I asked myself about the candidates who submitted resumes:
Did you actually read the job description? Some cover letters were form letters, which earned the accompanying resumes a trip to the shredder. Other cover letters revealed writers confused about the position they were applying for. One applicant wrote, "It was with great interest that I read the description of communication analyst on http://www.workopolis. ... My advanced knowledge of Web development software ... makes me an ideal candidate for this positon (sic)." The "positon" was never posted on Workopolis, and Web development had nothing to do with the duties described. Another applicant said he was "excited about the idea of working for a White-Rodgers, a division of Emerson Electric Canada (sic)." I wasn't sure what "a White-Rodgers" was and his resume was shuttled to the trash. A third applicant wrote that he was forwarding his resume "with regards to the Telesales Professional Position listed with Monster.ca."
Did you sweat the details? More than 50 per cent of the applications had spelling and grammatical errors. For example, in answer to the question, "Why do you want this job?" one applicant explained, "Although my working experience focused mostly in the technology area but my long term goal is to become a consultant." We also asked, "What else would you bring to this company?" A candidate replied: "Above all I enjoy ... the challenge of meet new people." Some failed to answer the three questions asked in the posting. Some had no cover letter at all.
What's the relevance? Many covering letters were filled with information that simply didn't relate to the job posting. One applicant tried to impress me early in his covering letter with the statement, "I am a registered user of the CareerEdge Web site, which means I match the personal criteria required to apply for an advertised internship." I thought: yes, yes you are. And that puts you in the same group as the other 69 applicants. Next! Another applicant told me why he was such a strong communicator. He wrote: "With sports organization, I was the referee or umpire they wanted for the final games. Even the parents seemed to trust my calls, and I could maintain control of games." He'll get a call back when our office gets into team sports.
Did you just shoot yourself in the foot? One applicant told us he was excited about seeing how our firm worked — so he could leave after the internship and start his own business. Another wrote that "the knowlegde" (sic) he gained from the internship "would be usefull (sic) when or if I choose to pursue other work opportunities or a business of my own." These and other prospective employees must have thought our only priority was to help them with their future careers.
Nor was the appeal to sympathy the best way to make a case. There was no interview for the applicant who wrote that he "quite honestly is having a hard time finding a good job. B.C. is downsizing and even my dad's hospital is closing."
The poor quality of these applications came as a shock. I was able to immediately rule out 60 of the 70 applications. When you consider that new graduates are having more trouble finding a job than ever before (youth unemployment is almost double the national rate), it's amazing that more than 85 per cent of applicants didn't take the time to get their applications right.
If you're wondering — yes, I was able to find a winning candidate and we've hired him. And I'm grateful to all those who made my job easier by earning their applications a trip to the trash. If you're a grad sitting at home bemoaning your lack of job interviews, consider giving your cover letter and resume a re-read. Because sweating the details will make your application stand out from the crowd.
Bart Egnal is a senior manager at a Toronto-based consulting firm.