Job Advice – What Not To Do

While I worked with my wife as a business consultant in the fall of 2009, her administrative assistant of 18 months unexpectedly quit her job. My wife is a financial advisor and because of the time needed to properly train a new staff member, a long-term commitment to her business was one of the most important factors in considering a candidate. In addition, because her assistant wanted to leave a week after giving notice, I immediately put an ad on Craigslist. Along with a long-term commitment, we wanted someone with good customer service skills, a self-starter with at least some administrative assistance experience.

In the first 2 days of advertising this position, I had received about 75 responses. It was many more than I had expected and it reinforced the idea that we are in a very tight labor market. After receiving about 150 responses for this position and assuming I had many qualified candidates, I cancelled the job vacancy ad. At this point, I thought it was only fair to seriously review all responses to this job posting. In the process of reviewing each reply, there were some lack of professional responses and interesting job foibles. It was not something I was looking for when I initially placed the ad but felt compelled to take some notes on some of the more egregious responses. Because I’m only helping my wife temporarily and looking for employment myself, I’m quite aware of the more blatant disregards to proper job search etiquette. This list is not to embarrass but to enlighten, entertain and maybe help educate others on what not to do when looking for work:

I found the one cover letter received which used all lower case letters quite disturbing. Maybe they can get away with that in the email but not the cover letter. My approach is to be as professional as possible especially when applying for this administrative assistant position.

In one job applicant’s cover letter, it says she had 25 years of business experience but then in resume, it lists one job encompassing 11 years and graduating high school in 1966. Too much incomplete information, which generates too many questions to receive a second look.

A different applicant mentioned her previous experience that she cut fruit, dip chocolate, create arrangements and prepare for pick up or delivery on a daily basis. Again, how does these tasks help prepare you the administrative assistant position? What specific take away from that position can you apply to this advertised job?

Someone with a fashion or design background forgets to customize his or her resume for the admin position. Perhaps they are looking for anything because of the tight labor market and I can appreciate that but take the time to think through what skills you have acquired from your education and job background helps prepare you for the new position.

I saw one candidate mention in the cover letter that she does not need health insurance because she is covered by her husband’s health insurance. I appreciate her honesty but not sure, if it belongs in the cover letter. Perhaps if the hiring person is serious interested in this candidate, you can discuss it then.

Avoid misspelled words in the email, cover letter or resume. Even with perfect grammar and all words spelled correctly does not guarantee an interview but with misspelled words, you are doomed from even receiving a call back.

A few applicants had their name abbreviated in the subject field. Some may interpret this as too relaxed and a carefree attitude.

One candidate mentioned they completed a computer certification program offered by present employer. Was it in programming, networking, IT support, or systems analysis? I may hire someone for an admin position with a computer certificate, especially if it pertains to MS Office or something related to the work but by not knowing and with limited time constraints, it’s highly unlikely this resume will get a second look.

Misspelled words and a questionable emotional state may be reason for automatic exclusion from further review. In one job applicant’s response, the applicant mentions she is thoroughly crazy but thoroughly is misspelled so she may indeed be crazy for a prospective employer to consider that type of response.

One job applicant who has a psychology background mentioned a six-month participation in doctoral thesis project of Dr. Krystal Mize, under Dr. Nancy Jones, studying infant jealousy and preschool moral development. I am not familiar with Dr. Mize and it sounds interesting but again, how can this benefit a financial planner.

Another applicant interested in financial services mentioned she was fluent in Korean. I have never met anyone who is fluent in Korean but anyway, how will she leverage that skill and help us with administrative work in financial services?

The name T Bone was in the subject field of one of the emails received.

One applicant listed the Illinois Nail Tech Academy as a previous employer without outlining her responsibilities. The first thing I thought was manicures and pedicures. If you worked there, specifically outline your work and job experience and show a prospective employer how you are qualified for that new position.

Another applicant used an email address used in her email reply had a Disney character reference. Cute, but not terribly professional.

One job applicant said that you would not be disappointed if you hire me. My question is, but will you be around more than 12 to 18 months?

One applicant was emphasizing her Japanese language study. Even though I find that intriguing, it certainly does not related to the job at hand.

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.

1 Response

  1. ThanhBGira says:

    I am just unclear where you’re having your information, but good topic.
    I needs to invest some time learning considerably more or understanding more.
    Thanks for fantastic info I needed this info for my
    mission.

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