Do you really want that job you are applying for?

by Frank 26. August 2012 06:00

I own and run a software company that builds, sells, installs and supports an enterprise content management solution called RecFind 6. As such, I employ programmers, support specialists, accountants, consultants, trainers, pre-sales people and sales people to name but a few categories. This means I am always hiring and always reviewing applications from candidates.

Basically, most of the applications I receive are rubbish. They are badly written, badly formatted, not ‘selling’ documents and almost never focussed on the position I am advertising.  This is very sad but it does make vetting an avalanche of resumes pretty easy. I would probably spend no more than a minute or two reading each resume in the first pass to separate the real candidates from the flotsam. I move the results into two folders, one called possible and the other called ‘No way’.

This may sound a little impersonal but I have no patience with people who waste my time by firstly not reading the advertised job description properly and then by sending in a non-selling document. In fact, most resumes I see are great big red flags saying, “Please don’t hire me, I am a dope who didn’t read your ad properly and then couldn’t be bothered even getting the spelling and grammar correct or trying to sell myself in any way”.

So my first advice is if you are too lazy to allocate the time and effort required or can’t simply be bothered to sell yourself in the most professional manner possible then don’t bother because all you are doing is wasting your time and the time of any prospective employer. Prospective employers also have long memories so rest assured your next application to the same firm will be instantly relegated to the waste bin.

I only hire professionals and professionals do not send in a non-professional job application.

I only hire people who respect my time and I only hire people who manage to convince me that they really want the job I am advertising and are the best person for that role.

I figure that the effort you are prepared to expend on what should be your most important task at this time (i.e., finding employment) is indicative of the quality of work I can expect from you as an employee. If you send me a poor quality application then I assume everything you would do for me as an employee will be of a similar poor standard. If you are too lazy or too careless to submit a winning application then I can only assume you would also behave in this manner after employment so I have zero interest in you.

This is the bit I struggle to understand. How come the applicant doesn’t understand the obvious correlation any prospective employer makes between the quality of the job application and the quality of the person?

Please allow me to give you some simple common-sense advice that comes from a very experienced employer of people.


  • Read the job ad very carefully. Note the prerequisites and requirements; the employer put them in for a reason and he/she would really appreciate it if you didn’t waste his/her time by applying for a position you do not qualify for.
  • Always include a cover letter personalized for each and every job application. Your objective should be to convince the prospective employer that the job advertised is perfect for you and that you are in turn a perfect fit for the job.  If your past experience or skillset isn’t a perfect fit, use the cover letter to explain why it isn’t a problem and why you are still the right person for the job being advertised. All potential employers are impressed by someone who takes the time and trouble to align their skills and experience to the job on offer. Most importantly, use words and phrases from the job ad in your cover letter. This helps convince the potential employer that you have really thought about the position and have put intelligent time into your application.
  • Clean up your resume, spell and grammar check it and convert it to a PDF for a much better and more professional looking presentation effect. All potential employers can’t help but appreciate a well presented and professional looking resume; it sets you apart.

In the end it is all about the initial impression you convey to the prospective employer. You have one shot so make sure it is a good one.

You need to convince your prospective employer that you selected their advertised job to respond to because it really interests and excites you and that you have the attitude, aptitude, character, experience and skillset required to make the most of this position. You have to convince them that you would be an asset to their organization.

It doesn’t take long to write a personalised cover letter, maybe an hour or two at the most and it should never be more than one page long. My final advice is that if you don’t think the advertised position is worth an hour or two of your time then don’t respond because you will be wasting your time. Don’t ‘shotgun’ job opportunities with multiple low-quality and non-selling applications. Instead focus on just the jobs you really like and then submit a smaller number of high-quality and personalised applications. I guarantee that your success rate will be much higher and that you will be asked to more interviews and that you will eventually get the job of your dreams.

The simple message is that you will get out of the process precisely what you put into the process. It is a tough world but in my experience effort is always rewarded. For your sake, please make the effort.

Comments (1) -

Andrene R Johnson
Andrene R Johnson United States
5/27/2013 2:02:35 PM #

Mr. Frank McKenna,

This was quite helpful.

Ms. Andrene R. Johnson


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