Part I – The Resumé

As the CEO of a growing marketing and advertising firm, I read a lot of resumés. I believe that having the right people on our team is the most important step we can take to ensure the success of our clients and our company. So hiring our team members is probably the most important part of my job. I don’t delegate it to anyone.

In this season of new graduates looking bright-eyed toward the dawn of a new career, I have a few thoughts on the process of what it takes to get hired. And to get hired, your resumé has to survive the first cull.

“The first cull?” you ask.

That’s my term for the process of weeding out the unqualified applicants that inevitably apply to any job posting. Depending on the job description, it may include applicants who are under-qualified, sloppy, negligent, self-centered, etc.

In the hunt for your dream job, your first job is to survive the first cull and earn a phone call from the prospective employer. Here’s how:

  1. Follow instructions – If the job posting says to email your resumé to a certain email address, don’t look for clever ways to skirt the system. If it says to mail a resumé, cover letter, and salary history to the main office, be glad that you can pick out nice-looking paper and mail them. Resourcefulness is important in any job, but at this stage, it’s best to show that you can follow instructions so the employer doesn’t have to look in five different places to find all the candidates for a position.
  1. Send a cover letter – The art of the cover letter is dying, but shouldn’t go extinct. The cover letter is your opportunity to showcase your writing style and highlight your candidacy. If the job posting specifies that you email your resumé, in my opinion, it’s OK to combine a well-crafted cover letter and resumé into a single PDF and send it along.
  1. Address your response to someone (anyone!) – The internet is magical and you all know how to use it. Use social media, the company website, or company press releases to figure out who will be reviewing your resumé, and address it to that person. If you can’t figure out exactly who will be reviewing your application for employment, make an educated guess. Address it to the CEO if you have to. Whatever you do, don’t address your correspondence to “Hiring Manager,” “HR Professional,” or “Whom it may concern,” unless you want it to concern no one.
  1. PDF it – If you are trying to stand out in a crowded field of applicants, sending your resumé and cover letter as Microsoft Word documents is not a great idea. The formatting rarely translates from your computer to the reader’s and usually looks a little rough (like that last line that you tried to squeeze on the page that jumps to an otherwise blank second page). Don’t forget that your resumé and cover letter will likely be viewed on-screen first, so a PDF is the best way to ensure that it looks great on any device.
  1. Pay attention – Spend the extra time to make sure you are sending what is required, when it is required, and how it is required. Check everything at least three times before you hit send or drop it in the mailbox. See #9.
  1. Read the description – You will not be a perfect fit for every job you come across, nor will every job fit your experience, expertise, or career path. Spend a little extra time on the opportunities for which you are passionate and well qualified, and take a pass on those that you know won’t be a good fit. If you really want to change fields and don’t have the experience to support the job you’re applying for, anticipate those questions and use the cover letter to explain those deficiencies in advance.
  1. Think about the message you send – When I read a resumé and cover letter, I am searching for the one person out of 50 or 100 candidates who will add meaningful value to our clients and our business. You can bet I don’t view a job opening as an opportunity to teach you the business so you can go on to another job that’s closer to your house. In short, I want to know how you will help our clients improve their bottom line. So if your “Employment Objective” includes anything like: “to obtain valuable knowledge and experience in the advertising field while growing my professional network and improving my skills and abilities,” forget it.
  1. Be honest – Always. Don’t exaggerate your qualifications. It’s tempting to call your job flipping burgers at the corner McDowell’s a “Manager of Gastronomic Quality Control,” but save the BS. See #4.
  1. Proof it – I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. If you are trying to find a job, the most important thing you can do to survive the first cull is to proofread your resumé and cover letter. TEN TIMES. Beg your English teacher. Send it to your grandmother. There are even professional proofreading services that will proof it for you. It is well worth the cost and effort. You can talk all you want about your attention to detail, but there is no quicker way into the “no” pile than a resumé or cover letter with typos and mistakes.

I hope this information is helpful. Maybe it’s a little self-serving because it’s disappointing to see sloppy introductions. Remember that old expression, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” These simple steps will help ensure your application isn’t lost at the bottom of the heap.