Applying for a Job is a Lot Different Than Buying a Lottery Ticket

Originally posted in February 2011


Recently I posted a job in craigslist for an Office Assistant position. The posting listed specific job duties and requirements, from administrative to accounting to human resources, as well as other desired qualities.

We were overwhelmed with the response. Over 120 applicants within the first 24 hours and 200 in less than a week. Nearly 300 in total. A very eye opening reminder that there are a lot of people in need of jobs out there.

Let me first say that there were numerous very capable, outstanding people that applied for the job. I was very impressed by quite a number of resumes and cover letters and we are still contemplating the best candidate for a job offer.

But at the same time I was SHOCKED at how many applicants didn't treat the process seriously. Many appeared to be applying for the job without reviewing the job qualifications and editing the resume.

APPLYING FOR A JOB IS DIFFERENT THAN BUYING A LOTTERY TICKET!! Purchasing a lottery ticket is easy. Buy a ticket and hope for the best. It sure felt like a lot of people treated the job-hunting process in an equally nonchalant way!

Getting your dream job is hard work. It takes more than just submitting your resume. You must review the job requirements and make sure your resume highlights your relevant work experience. Where your experience is lacking, you need to sell yourself in the cover letter and point out what you bring to the table.

Here are some observations and advice based on some of the resumes I received.

Typos: One important requirement noted in the job posting was solid writing skills. As kind of a test I indicated that candidates should pay close to attention to proofing their submissions for typos. I literally said “Please no typos or grammatical errors in your submission,” yet the majority of applicants had typos. Now I can understand one or two blatant typos as, heck, I’m often guilty of that myself. But when applying for a job, you’ve got to go the extra mile.  Use a Word or even Gmail editor and correct any typos, but better yet, re-read the resume several times. Or have someone else check it.

Example: "I am certain that my senior level executive/administrative assistant skills and experience when linked with thee vision of your company will serve to create dramatic,profitable,results. I enclosed resume shows my qualification capabilities and history of my career. I close what I could do for your company so please contact me on above telephone number or e-mail." ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

And another: "Interseted in job position. Please see attatched resume." I didn't even get around to opening the resume.

Email Etiquette & Selling Yourself: Remember that your email will be sitting in someone’s email inbox who is dreading the process of whittling down 200 applicants down to the top 3 to 5 for interviews. Here are some things you might want to do...or not do.

  • One applicant wrote her cover letter in the body of the email, which I actually like. But the name at the bottom of that email was completely different than the name of the applicant in the attached resume.  Bizarre. No explanation. Bad impression.
  • Another’s job objective said “To secure a supervisory challenging position in the retail industry” Say what? I didn't advertise a retail job.
  • In some cultures, sending a picture along with your resume is acceptable. But it ain’t here in the United States. Several emails I received included picture attachments. Maybe they thought they were applying to a personal ad. Perhaps not coincidentally, they were both pretty cute :>
  • “I am very interested. Please tell me where to fax my resume.”  What the? People actually use the fax machine to submit resumes? That’s very 1980s but in 2011 it is pretty much understood that an emailed resume does the trick. Especially when I have 137 other resumes in the inbox. Might as well use Morse Code to submit your resume.
  • Several people sent me the entire job description in the body of their emails. Why, why, why?
  • Think about how you "name" your resume. My advice is to use a simple, clear naming custom that links your resume to you, like "JSmithResume." When someone is scanning through 250 resumes, they are looking for an easy "out" to make the process quicker. So when you name your resume "Resume" or "Joe's NEW RESUME" or "CathyFinalEditresume" you are giving me yet another excuse to ignore you.
  • If you have no relevant work experience, do yourself a favor and at least tell me why you are applying and how your other skills can be applied to this job.  A brief cover letter will do. Sell me. It might actually work if you put some effort into it.
  • Anyone can tell me they answered phones, distributed mail, created spreadsheets, ordered office supplies, etc. My eyes start getting blurry when I read that. Sell yourself by elaborating a bit. Tell me what you accomplished.  What is special about you? I need to know this to distinguish you from the others phone answerers and mail distributors. Quantify things. How many people do you answer phones for?
  • “To obtain a position as a Public Servant” Huh?  Are you running for office?
  • Big bolded headline on resume: "Sr. Production Coordinator/Sales and Marketing Support /Customer Service" That ain't what I'm lookin for so would be a good move to do some editing.
  • If you’re talking about a past job, talk in the past tense. Don’t talk in the present tense, and don’t switch tenses between past and present. Same applies to your current in the present tense, unless there is something specific that was done the past. Doing this shows me you have good attention to details.
  • Objective: "To obtain a Medical Assistant position..."  Huh?

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS: The little things can have a quick impact on the person reviewing your resume. If you are applying for an office manager position, don’t use an email address of, say, as it focuses my attention on something that is of no relevance to the job that I posted. It takes minutes to create a second email account using Gmail. Do it. Seriously.

  • Back in the good ole' days, 7 or 8 years ago, people shared email addresses with their spouses, etc. Today it is so easy to create your own email address using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., that you might as well take 5 minutes to do that rather than using someone else's email account, which never looks good. In fact, it makes it look like someone else is applying on your behalf.
  • And when your email is submitted using one email address with a name that's not yours, and your resume has yet a different email address, it plants of seed of doubt in my head. It just kind of makes you wonder "Why?" as you are seeking reasons to move the resume into the "No Go" folder.

RESUME SUBMISSION TIPS: Some food for thought regarding resumes:

  • If you send your resume in the body of the email, also attach a copy to the email. A resume copied and pasted into an email often looks terrible due to formatting issues. You’re much better off attaching a copy of your resume in Word or PDF format, as that gives you the opportunity to write a brief cover letter in the body of the email.
  • When you do attach your resume, like a majority of candidates do, don’t write absolutely nothing in the body of the email. I’m amazed at how often people do this. It shows zero initiative. Take the opportunity to show me your writing skills and sell yourself to me.
  • Many people sent a list of specific duties that are not even bulleted. One of the easiest things to use in Word is the bullet function. Use it! It makes it a lot easier to read.
  • A handful of submissions had no subject line. Another no no. That’s like writing a book without a title.
  • One resume was entirely in ALL CAPS. I got a headache attempting to read it.
  • One resume had 2 inch margins that were so wide that they made what should have easily been a one page resume two pages. But that was topped by a resume that had a half page margin (see the pic).
  • Someone sent me a 4 page resume that read like a textbook. What's good for my insomnia is not good for your job prospects.
  • Lack of consistent formatting and use of tabs show me you are not familiar with basic MS Word capabilities that make documents look decent. Don’t use the space bar; use tabs. Don’t use multiple fonts. Don’t capitalize some words for no particular reason (I hate that). DO (hey , I can do that here because this isn't a resume, ha ha) capitalize words that should be capitalized, like the name of the street you live on. This is a resume, not a Tweet!
  • One resume was copied and pasted entirely into the email and was a light purple, almost pink font color. <delete>
  • "Attached you will find my resume" yet no attachment. When you receive 200 responses to an ad, I'm not going to ask you to re-submit your resume.
  • Someone sent the resume to 20 different email addresses, all displayed in the "To:" box. That's an email etiquette no-no.


  • I don’t expect any candidate to have 100% of the requested experience for the job. But if you are applying for an administrative coordinator role and 99% of your resume is retail experience, hair salons and lifeguarding, you’d best think about what skills you gained in those jobs and highlight how they can be applied….because I’m not going to bridge that gap for you.
  • Here is the employment objective of one candidate: "Seeking a challenging career position with a progressive organization that will fully utilize acquired skills, abilities, potential and past experience." ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz you had me asleep at "progressive." If you feel compelled to have an "Objective" section in your resume, for Pete's sake, at least customize it to the position you are applying for.  A bland, generic statement is a waste of space on a resume!

Well those are a few tidbits. Contact me with any questions. In the meantime, go check out this list of over 300 local area websites for jobs. And best of luck!