Thursday, January 18, 2007

Job Advice - Focus on the E-mail, not the Resume

It's that time again, I'm looking to hire again (interested? Read this post, then drop me a line!). Last time I was going through this process I used the resumes submitted to me to make some recommendations on how not to get a job.

This time, I'm in just as much awe at the poor candidates that I'm getting so I thought I would offer some more advice to anyone out there looking for a job*. Maybe you can learn from other's mistakes?

Here goes...

  1. Your resume isn't the most important thing you are sending me. Why? Because chances are, it looks just like the one I got 10 minutes ago, and will get in the next 10 minutes. Sure, the dates will be different, and the companies will change, but the list of skills will probably be just as vast, and the list of accomplishments just as impressive.
  2. Attaching a cover letter as a word document misses the point. Back in the day, a cover letter was used to give context to your resume. It effectively introduced you and explained why I should care. It was the first thing I would read. But nowadays, by attaching it as Word doc, you are guaranteeing that I won't see it first. Sure, you'll be able to check the box that says send cover letter, but you won't have accomplished your goal: introduced yourself and add context.
  3. The text of your e-mail that delivers your resume is the most import part of applying for a job. Face it, the e-mail delivering your resume may be your only few seconds to win me over. Think about it: you have my attention while I make up my mind if you are worth pursuing or not. You've got seconds here, so make them count. Do you want to jump up and down and explain to me why you are special, or do you want to silently sit there and point to your resume (which, as I said, isn't that special.). Provide me with high quality e-mail, and you've gone a long way to making a good first impression.

And here's the sad part: of all the resumes I've gotten from Craigslist, not one had a good introductory e-mail. And by good I mean:

  1. Relevant: The ones that did provide text in their resume e-mails (and a bunch were totally blank, with a resume attached!), made it seems like the same cut and paste text that they send off to everyone. If just one person had said something like: as a developer with over 4 years of UI experience I would enjoy the opportunity to apply my skills blah blah blah, they would have my attention in a big way. At the very least, I won't get the sense that they are desperate spammers trying to get a job.
  2. Show your skills: This might come across as cheesy, but still, it's worth a shot. If just one person had said: I understand that designing for SEO and humans can be a challenge, and this is exactly the kind of challenge I love to take on, I would have fallen out of my seat, gotten up, and called that person in for an interview.

There's a bit of good news in all of this. Apparently, most applicants haven't figured this out. So, if you take just a few minutes and craft a relevant, spell-checked, and interesting e-mail when applying to a job, you just might get on the radar screen, when everyone else is falling off.

Update: Apparently, I'm not the only one who's frustrated and surprised by awful cover letters. Dumb Little Man just posted on the same topic. He was really generous and provided 100 ways to write a great cover letter. Make sure to check them out.

*Warning: this may be terrible advice! It may only make sense for small businesses, or if you are applying to a job that I'm offering. I really don't know. Like all free advice, it's worth what you paid for it.


  1. You didnt like my resume Ben????

  2. When are we going to see the published book on how to apply to a small business with examples of resumes, interviewing, etc by Ben Simon. As long as your referencing the other sites, you might as well write a small how-to book. You could market it to business schools.

    Anyway, I just think its a waste to have so much significant and relevant data and not have it published (where you can make some cash, and not just for the good of mankind on a blog). But maybe that's just the Yid business side of me mixed up with the scientist.

  3. Ben, I promise I didn't pay Dave to say that!