Practical tips for online job seekers

As I mentioned in a previous post, C3 is hiring. We have had 20+ applicants for our Policy & Grassroots Manager opportunity so far (in Washington, DC…who could imagine there would be a lot of interest in a policy job?).

As the person who has to receive and catalog these applications there are some things that I’ve learned are a huge turn-off to potential employers that applicants may not realize. I certainly didn’t think about it until I was on the other end. Mind you, this doesn’t apply if the job you’re seeking is with a larger company that has a dedicated HR department with the appropriate technology to scan/evaluate resumes. I’m talking about when you apply to that small business or nonprofit organization where evaluating candidates is a mostly manual process.

If you have a name that can go either way, identify your gender. I have set up an email template which replies to applicants to let them know that we have received their application and if they are a fit, we’ll be calling within 2 weeks to arrange an interview. At this stage of the game, I think it’s more appropriate to address them formally, “Dear Mr. Smith” instead of “Dear Joe.” On some, it is obvious whether the “Salutation” field should contain “Mr.” or “Ms.” but I have no idea on a Chris or Kelly. We can’t discriminate or make decisions on basis of gender, of course, but I appreciate those resumes that include contact information as “Mr. Joe Smith, 123 Street Address…” On one, the first name was Kelly and his email address was “mrkellylastname@…” Obviously, this person has had issues with this and I was grateful for the clue up front.

Keep formatting simple. I’ve heard this over and over again. Now I know why. Employers who receive your application electronically will likely be cutting & pasting the content into a database or other cataloging system. That fancy bullet font will look great in your Word file (assuming the recipient has the same font) but will make your text look horrible when it’s reproduced in plain text. Same goes with curly quotes. Turn them off, unless you want text in your resume to appear like, “Developed variety of legislative issue ?backgrounders?; coordinated ?Don?t Tax Food? state coalition efforts” when your resume is being reviewed by the search committee. Don’t assume that your resume will be printed out and reviewed on paper, make sure it looks great electronically in plain text.

Name your attachment in a way that clearly identifies you. Your resume document title should be something like, “TomJonesResume.doc” or “TomJonesCoverLetterC3.doc” When I am processing 20 applications in my inbox, saving the attachment to the designated folder on our server, it doesn’t help you if the file is named “MyResume_version365.doc” Yes, I rename as I’m saving, but I grumble while I’m doing it. You don’t want anyone who is receiving your resume to grumble.

Use Title Case for all contact information. Your information is going into a spreadsheet or database. It doesn’t make the recipient happy if they have to retype MR. JOSEPH JONES, 1234 STREET NAME, #452, WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 20008 into Title Case in the spreadsheet or use a formula in Excel to do it. Type your pertinent contact information in Title Case (capitalize the first letter in each word, everything else in lower case) and use the standard two-digit all-cap state abbreviations.

Double check your email address. If your email address bounces, it doesn’t look good.

The more time and effort you save the person who first receives your application, the more likely she will be to give your application the thumbs up later. Just sayin’.


One response to “Practical tips for online job seekers”

  1. Great tips! I recently helped my younger brother redo his resume. I caught many of these issues with his resume, thankfully I did too. I want him to get the job so I can use his discount. =)

    Length and formatting are really key in my opinion. If the resume is too long i.e. it takes 2 pages to get to “who”, “what”, and “why” it’s going in the shredder. Formatting is critical for not only electronic viewing but for reading. If the resume doesn’t flow well directionally or contains too much formatting it becomes a chore to read. Again, finding it’s way in the shredder.