There is no question that there are a lot of talented, capable and intelligent young people out there. I've been interviewing and hiring people for various positions for a while now, and on the surface, it seems like it should be a pretty standard process. But it's the little things that stand out to me that can make the process frustrating and a waste of time for both me and potential candidates.
In an effort to give qualified job seekers a true advantage, I offer a few notes below. Everything here is really focused on creatives or developers in the design and marketing industries, although a few could cross over into other professions as well.
So, let me start out by saying that I was taught many things in college about searching for a job, and many of them I now see as unnecessary and, quite honestly, have the potential to backfire on an otherwise very qualified candidate.
Things You Were Taught in School But Should Forget
1. When I was in school, I was taught to save the best for last in my book. These days, you have about 30 to 45 seconds to grab my attention via email or a link. My opinion is to lead with your strongest stuff. Don't make me comb through a 10- to 15-page PDF. Grab my attention immediately. Why would I want to see more of something that doesn't interest me?
2. Don't feel like you have to spend hours developing your own personal brand or ID system. Kudos for the effort, but it is probably not going to be the deciding factor for me. A clean, well-organized resume and communication goes much further.
3. If the ad says "no phone calls," that means no phone calls … major points off for calling.
4. Please do not show up 15 minutes early for your interview. I'm more impressed if you show up right at the scheduled time.
5. Unfortunately, enthusiasm doesn't go a long way unless you have what we are looking for; then it could be a deciding factor.
6. A thank-you card is not necessary, though you will stand out from the pack if you send one. It is a very rare occurrence these days and a fresh gesture.
7. If you are going to present your work as images, have them professionally shot by someone who really knows what they are doing. Grainy, blurry images tell me that you do not understand the importance of good presentation.
8. Always leave something behind: your resume, business card, etc.
Some Obvious Things to Consider
9. Don't send me a link to a Flash site. Whether at home or in the office, I'm probably mobile and looking on my iPad or similar device. Chances are I can't view it. You have just gone to the bottom of the pile.
10. Do not be late for your interview.
11. Don't send me an email asking for my email (yes, this happens).
12. If you're going to send me a form letter via email or snail mail, at least take a minute to look it over and make sure if doesn't say “Dear Robert” or “Dear Jessica” … especially if my name is Christopher.
13. Don't send me a 15MB PDF. Send me a 3 to 4MB, compressed PDF that has a few really good pieces in it so I can get an understanding of what your strengths are.
14. Did you get an interview? Then you should probably send a thank-you email. You can even SMS your interviewer if you have their mobile info. Just an acknowledgement that you appreciate them taking the time out of their day to talk to you is important.
15. Don't send me a one-line email that says, “PDF attached” or “Here is a link to my portfolio.” Is that the level of engagement, professionalism and interaction I can expect from you on a daily basis? I don't care if you are the second coming of Saul Bass, if you don't show some respect to the process and demonstrate competency, then forget it.
16. And last but not least, for heaven's sake, if you do one thing: Spelchjek, spelcheck, spellcheck!!!!
17. I am going to get 200 to 300 responses to a job posting. You need to get my attention quickly and be courteous about it.
18. Take a minute and read the ad carefully and reply as requested. If the ad requests salary history, include it. If it asks for a cover letter, write one. I’m probably trying to figure out if you can follow directions.
19. Appearance at an interview: Check out the company or site before you go in. You can probably get a vibe for what the culture is like and dress accordingly.
20. Spend 5 minutes researching what it is we do so we can have a conversation at the interview. I would love to hear you ask questions and see what your thoughts are on topics and ideas. I'm not only trying to see if you are qualified, but if you are a good fit for our team.
20.5 I would love it if your resume was only one page.