My current job as an HR rep can be challenging at times. By that, I mean it’s a challenge to remain calm and have patience during the hiring phases we experience. I see a great deal of “blunders” being made by applicants, and wonder “What the hell are they thinking?” Let me put it to you straight: if you want to land an interview, you must pay attention!

1. Get an email address that makes sense. Free email is available from many sources from AOL to GOOGLE (gmail). Here is why you need a good one, and why you  must be able to access it: many HR reps simply don’t have time for the telephone. We’re busy analyzing staff, posting ads, running background checks, filing forms from here to Timbucktoo and back. We need to contact you to come in for an interview or ask a question about your application, but we can’t spend time calling you, only to receive your voicemail. When we have time, we have it. When we don’t, we can’t be bothered wasting it. So email is sometimes the best way for us to communicate with you. We use email during periods of time constraints, but we also use it to find out about you. Can you spell? Do you know how to form a clear and concise sentence that answers our question? Email is a tool we use to evaluate you.

That being said, choosing an email address which includes your name, such as RobertB@whatever.com will help us remember you. Having an email address such as SEXYGURLBICH will NOT get a response. I am not joking with you. The other day I was about to email someone with a similar address, and guess what? I did not. Although the name may have gotten a chuckle from me, I tossed that application right into the REJECT file. As a professional, I cannot even type such an address into my company’s email server. Every key stroke we make on our computers is recorded. Can you imagine if someone from my Corporate office (like the IT guys) saw that address? Not cool. Really, I’m serious here. POTHEADSRULE will also not get you an interview (unless it’s for High Times Magazine, perhaps). So step one: have a proper email account.

2. Change your voice mail message to something that is appropriate. Your two year old, singing “You Are My Sunshine” while clapping his or her hands out of beat may seem cute to you and the kid’s grandparents, but it’s annoying to the professional world. Having your 9 month old babbling on and on with uninteligible gooble-y-goo while a dog barks and then you come on and say “Hi from Mommy, Daddy, Babyboo and Fido” is just beyond frustrating, and I don’t have time to even listen to the rest of your message. Futhermore, a message saying “Hello!” and then waiting to say “Hi, I gotcha!” ?  That’s not cute either. I don’t have time for games, I’m trying to schedule interviews! Oh and lastly, “You’ve reached the Loooooovvvvveeee Master. Give me a ring later, Babe” — well, I might call you later, dude, but it’s not going to be to offer you a job with my company. If you are seriously seeking work, then seriously work on your outgoing voice mail message.

3. If your handwriting sucks, PRINT. I have to read through many applications. If I cannot read your information because I cannot make out what the heck you have scripted on the application, it all goes right into the REJECT file. I don’t have time to discipher your penmanship.

For example, I know that my handwriting is bad. I can’t even read it. Also, many people have told me so (especially those loving relatives). I try to combat that by p r i n t i n g. Even then, it is sometimes hard to read my small type. But in today’s world, many companies post their application on a website (our company does this). Pay attention to that resource, and use it to your advantage. Go online and complete the application. Print out a copy, and bring it with you to the interview. If they ask you to complete another application, you can simply hand in the one you have printed off of their website, and it will be accepted. Only use your bad penmanship when you are forced to do so (like, after you are hired, for example).

4. Pay attention to the job description and apply only for jobs that match your skill level. I know that many people are out of work and are collecting unemployment benefits. As a condition to receiving that check, you may have to show proof that you’ve actively been seeking work. So you apply for jobs that you know are not a match for you. I understand.

But I wonder why someone would take the time to write a cover letter describing the job that we posted in an ad, (clerical) and then go on to write about how he has many years of management experience and is looking for a management job? Buddy, get a grip. You aren’t going to be called for an interview. This is a CLERICAL job, as you stated yourself!

Now there are some people who, due to the economy, have lost their middle management jobs, and now have to start over. That’s fine. I’ve been there myself, so I know the deal. If that is your situation, you may want to BRIEFLY explain that in a cover letter. Otherwise, do not mention all of your management experience. If you are starting over, you are probably not going to be a manager of anything but getting yourself to work on time. You sort of have to “dumb down” as I call it. Take the blow to your ego now, accept your situation, and prepare to “WOW” them at your next job. People with great management skills will be recognized and may even quickly move up. But you have to get in the door first. Referring to yourself as a “top notch” manager when applying for a clerical position is not going to get you passed the doorway.

5.  Take care of your personal junk before applying for a job. Here is an example: the other day I received a call from an applicant who had an interview scheduled for the next day. “Do you mind if I bring my baby to the interview?” she asked. Uh, yeah, I do mind. I’m not going to sit and discuss your qualifications while a baby whines in my ear. Neither am I going to put up with your lack of attention, as you check the baby and keep placing a pacifier in her mouth. Now don’t get me wrong, I love babies. And I like Moms and Dads. But I’m not going to sit in an interview and wonder “why did she take her newborn out in this weather? or “Is that a dirty diaper I smell?” Get a babysitter. Unless you are applying for a job at Babies-R-Us, of course, and even then I wonder if they’d find that an acceptable practice.

Be prepared when you walk into an office to apply. I see so many people who just seemed to have woken up, rolled out of bed, and walked right in to apply for a job. Listen: a shower and brushing of the teeth goes a long way. (Once again, I’m not kidding here). If I am considering you for a job where you will be working closely with people, and you walk into my office smelling like you just got out of a van with Cheech and Chong (yes, I’m talking about WEED) or the splatter marks from last night’s beef and bean burrito are still on your shirt, I’m not going to hire you. Brush your darn hair, for Pete’s sake! And please, pop in a breath mint or two. Just sayin’.

Here’s another tip regarding personal things: if you have just had eye surgery and cannot see well, please don’t try to complete an application in the employer’s office. Yes, it happens, and it makes me wonder. How can I read this person’s writing on an application if even HE can’t read it? And how did this person drive himself to our office if he can’t see? And how will he get home? It makes me question this person’s decision making abilities. I actually did have some sympathy for that applicant, (it may have been the red marks I actually saw in his eye, uh, gross!) and I sent him home with the application to return to me when he had recovered and was well enough to take our pre-employment tests (one of which involves TYPING and the other, READING). 

Your personal time is yours and you can do whatever you want with it, but don’t take up mine. Find out ahead of time what the office hours are, and show up within that time frame. Coming to my office at ten minutes to five on a Friday afternoon, when I am trying to clean up my desk and start my weekend, is not going to go well for you. First of all, I will be mad that I even have to explain this to you. Secondly, if you make it passed my highly annoyed facial expression, you may get a piece of my mind that you’d rather not have known about. Thirdly, you’ve just shown me that you are not attentive to my needs, and since I may be the one who decides to hire you, ignoring my needs is never a good thing.

Now, I am sure that there are several more tips I can give you. In fact, whole books have been written on this subject. So I can’t possibly cover everything in this one blog post. But I think I’ve given you some things to consider when you are seeking employment. My best advice is this: Pay attention.

A little attention goes a long way to landing that interview. From a short and well written cover letter, to a bright and minty smile, give much attention to details. Your potential employer will appreciate the efforts and reward you with an interview. And then the fun really begins!