Hiring is without question one of my most important jobs. Period. End of Story. I am extremely grateful that our business is expanding. And I am stoked to bring another superstar into our little work family!
But hiring is one of my least preferred things to do (if you aren’t from Seattle, “least preferred” means most hated 😉 Nine years in Seattle will make anyone stuff their lingo full of euphemisms and indirectness). Reviewing 100 resumes and conducting a couple rounds of interviews is going to take a lot of time that I don’t have. But, making sure that we hire the right people is the most important thing I do. So, here I go. I’m about 25 resumes in and wanted to share a quick insight with you. Somebody is procrastinting by writing this post!
The practice of screening applicants is an exclusive process. My goal is to cut 100 resumes down to 10, which is no easy task. In the first round of resume review, I am not looking so much to find my 10, but to exclude those that I know will not be in the 10. The process is unavoidably designed to exclude applicants. I can’t speak for all employers, but my number one most reliable method for excluding applicants is whether you connect with me in your cover letter. It doesn’t matter if I am hiring a writer or a graphic designer. You need to be able to communicate in writing. And, you need to make me feel like you are genuinely excited about this prospect. And, if I can tell immediately that you are sending a standard cover letter, especially when I ask for a “thoughtful cover letter” in the job ad, then your resume is in the “not interested” folder as quickly as I can drag it over there. Here are some cover letter excerpts to drive home this point.
“Dear Sir, I have read the add posted on Craigslist.org, concerning your need for an office assistant.
This letter is to express my interest for this position, since based on my skills and abilities,
I am confident I could be the right person for this job. Below you can review my resume.”
The above letter obviously is sent for every single job. You obviously aren’t interested in the job, so why should I read your resume?
Now, check out this one:
“I believe that I am the undiscovered superstar that you are looking for to be your new foodie office assistant. After some investigatory navigation around the Marx Foods website, it became clear that an opportunity to work for your company would be a chance to become part of a fun and exciting team. Food has always been a passion for me, but in my twenties I have truly started to subscribe to the belief that your company professes, that “a meal can never be better than its ingredients”
OK, now we’re talking. Or:
“When I saw your ad for a Foodie Office Assistant, I at first thought I was witnessing a mirage. An interesting and perfect opportunity for this lady who loves her food, and has mad office skills to boot!”
Perfect, you are really excited, you are a foodie and you have office skills. Check, Check, Check. Or:
“I got really excited when I saw your call for applicants for the Foodie Office Assistant position of Craig’s List. I love food and cooking, and I am an incredibly organized and efficient person.”
With so many people looking for jobs, you really need to figure out how to stand out. Instead of sending everyone the same exact letter/resume, consider applying only to jobs that you know you are interested in. Then follow the application instructions very clearly and take the time to write a compelling first few sentences to let the employer know that you are really excited about the prospect. Quality, not quantity. Or if you have time for quality and quantity, then do that.
To be clear, a good opening cover letter doesn’t guarantee an interview. But, if the cover letter connects with me, then you will be one of the 20 applicants whose resume I look at. And that gives you much better odds of being in the final 10.
Now if you excuse me, I have 75 more resumes to go through.