If you are looking for work these days, especially if you are a recent college grad, or current student looking for an internship, I thought you might find it helpful to hear some tips from the Human Resources perspective.
About half of all job applications and all of the intern applications pass through my hands, and the mistakes are remarkably similar. I’m targeting college students with this because we are always looking for interns at my job and we get quite a few applications and inquiries, but only a small percentage get in. And since a decent portion of those interns end up being hired full time, it would be to your advantage to take these tips into account.
Use the website.
I know there are applicants with less computer experience than others, but life’s not fair: learn and adapt.
- Our website actually has a page called “how to get your application thrown out” We can always tell which people skipped this page when we see the application. Read everything on the page and make sure you understand what is expected of you. And then follow the instructions exactly as they are given, or else prepare to face the consequences. If we say “don’t write ‘see resume’ on the application” we mean it. And as soon as we see the words “see resume” we’re clicking off your information and it’s on to the next one.
- Plus, by visiting the website you can get an idea of if the company is a place you really want to be. Our clientele is pretty specific so if you aren’t comfortable working with certain types of people, then apply elsewhere.
Proofread Your Resume and Other Materials
The resume doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should look like you put some effort into it.
- Don’t copy and paste or retype anything directly from a sample resume- we know scripted language when we see it.
- Don’t embellish –we know a lie when we see it. One resume gave the person so many years of experience they would have to have started working at the age of 6; we catch the less obvious stuff, too.
- Don’t rely on spell-check. Part of our agency’s name turns into a dirty word if you misspell it by one letter (that happens to be near it on the keyboard). We discovered the hard way that the average computer’s spell check will not catch this word. It had been on one page of the website for months before anyone caught it and said anything. With an average of 1400 unique visitors per month to the page, a lot of eyes passed over the dirty word. Maybe they didn’t notice, but even if only half of them did notice, that’s a lot of people that either got a nice chuckle, or ran far, far away after seeing our services.
Get a real email address
If your name is Judy Jetson, try JudyJetson@yahoo[dot]com or JJetson100@aol[dot]com, but for the love of all things good, please do not use your school nickname on a job application. BigBootyJudy@partycollege[dot] com or BigThickCountryChick@msn[dot]com will get your resume handed around for all the wrong reasons.
You might be laughing right now, but email addresses like that are more common than you think. I don’t even bother to send the courtesy “thank you for your interest” emails to those. If you’re too dumb or too lazy to set up an appropriate email address, then we sure don’t want to hire you, and we certainly don’t think enough of you to be nice about it.
Answer the phone like it’s opportunity calling.
Black people have been joking for years about “using the white voice on business calls.” Call it what you want, but if you sent out even one resume then you need to ALWAYS answer the phone as it the caller is from that one job.
- A simple polite “Hello” works well. Avoid openers like “Who dis?” or “Yeah” or even “Heh-luh” (you know that lazy “hello”).
- Be conscious whenever you can of your environment. Yes, everyone uses cell phones and you might get the call anywhere, but step into some quiet as soon as you can. I called a guy once and heard porn very clearly in the background. When I said who I was and where I was calling from, do you think he thought to turn the movie off or leave the room? No. Do you think he got an interview? No.
- If you’re in an environment that makes it difficult to find some quiet, just let it go to voicemail. This would also apply to driving. If you’re on the road and the car is in motion, just let it go to voicemail
Leave the music off the voicemail
I admit to being guilty of this one when I was in school. And of all things I had the opening monologue from PM Dawn’s “Why God Loves You” on my machine. At the time I felt strongly that if anyone disapproved then it was just an indication that I didn’t want to work there. Boy was I stupid. On top of that, it’s a long monologue.
- What seems like 30 seconds of music when you put it on there is a long time to the person that has to call back 48 applicants that day. I usually just hang up when I hear any music playing, and I only call back if I have time and if I remember to do so. We might be missing out on a good worker, but it’s highly unlikely.
- Keep it simple: “I’m unavailable to answer your call at this time, please leave a message and I will return your call later. Thank you” If you want to leave your name, or have your number on the machine (You’ve reached Judy Jetson at 777-9311) that’s fine, too, but less is more.
Watch the company you keep
This one may seem a bit much but I can think of one time in particular when it was important. If you have roommates, housemates, or anyone else that might answer your phone, make sure they handle the call accordingly. I called a girl once and someone I presume was a roommate told me she couldn’t come to the phone because she was hugging the toilet and hung-over, and then she hung up before I could leave any callback information. I’m still not sure if I would have even left the information or not, but just the idea that I didn’t have the chance to made for a funny story for my boss who replied with “Well, I guess she goes on the ‘no’ list.”
Keep in Touch, but Don’t Over Do It
- It’s okay to call or send a message after the interview to say “thanks.”
- It’s imperative to call if your contact information changes or if you decide you won’t be working with us.
- It’s fine to call if you have any questions about the job.
- Do NOT contact us just to say “hi” or send regular emails like we’re old “pen pals” chatting about the kids, the dog, or your hot date last week. It doesn’t make you seem friendly or endearing or personable, it makes you seem annoying, not to mention disrespectful of our time, and email/voicemail space.
For some reason, I flashed back to learning this song in the first grade from our music teacher, Mr. Williams, earlier this week and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it!
PM Dawn's "Why God Loves You" (complete with monologue- I had the full first minute!)