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While preparing to leave my office management job, I handled the hiring process for replacing me. We received about 30 resumes. A good portion of them made me want to cry. People didn’t follow the specific directions I had written in the email, such as not sending a cover letter as requested. On the resumes, layouts were misaligned and inconsistent. I saw more spelling errors and typos than I make in a year. A few people didn’t even introduce themselves in the initial email, merely attaching their resume instead.

During college, I spent a good deal of time working with our campus career center to prepare resumes and cover letters, attending job fairs, and learning about various career paths I may or may not want to take. I know what a resume should look like, and I’ve spent a solid chunk of my time revising mine throughout the years. Sending a resume where you clearly spent less than five minutes throwing random job history onto a page? Not going to get you a job. Here are some tips for submitting an application to a job:

1. Follow all instructions listed on the job posting – All. All of them. Every last one. If they want you to dance in a circle before sending in your application, do it. Here’s why – those instructions are often geared to see if you read thoroughly and can follow directions. When you don’t send me a cover letter after I ask you to, I assume that you either a) cannot read, or b) did not read my entire posting and therefore are not that interested in the job.

2. Have an introduction in your email – Your email application is likely the first introduction these people have to you. Do you really think a preset signature is going to make you stand out of a group of dozens, possibly hundreds of other resumes? Good luck with that.

3. Have a professional voicemail message and email address – This one is pretty obvious. If your email address is buttcrack@aol.com, you’re telling me that you’re too immature for my company. Along the same lines, if your voicemail doesn’t introduce yourself or politely ask me to leave a message, that’s not a good sign.

4. OH MY GOD, PROOFREAD – Seriously. Why is it so difficult to spend a minute rereading your resume and cover letter to make sure that you don’t have any typos or misalignment? This is a reflection of you! When you send me a resume filled with typos, you’re telling me that you’re careless.

5. Tailor your response to the job posting – This one is really important and will make you stand out from your competition who ignores this crucial step of the application process. Many times, your skills will not perfectly align with the job posting, but you can point out the areas where you do fit the job requirements. Talk how you are a great fit for this position based on your skill set and experience.

6. Fix your damn layout – Maybe I’m being harsh here, but there is no reason that you can’t have an aligned, clean resume. No, really. None. If your resume is misaligned, I’m not going to look on it very positively, period, because it shows that you didn’t take the small amount of time necessary to adjust it. And unless you have publications to list, keep it to a page. I’ve played with margins, font size, and white space, but my resume has always been one page.

7. Send documents in a common format with a standard font type – I had one candidate try to send me her information via WordPerfect files. Few computers can open WordPerfect documents and I don’t have the time to download adapters to figure out how to open them. I suggest using Microsoft Word document files (not 2007 document files) or PDF files. You may also be tempted to make your resume stand out by using a funky font style – don’t. Many companies use software with only basic fonts, so they won’t be able to read your resume. Use a standard serif font like Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana and make your qualifications stand out on their own.

Or you could just write this.

By the way, we did hire somebody – she had a lovely resume, a strong introduction/cover letter, and a very pleasant demeanor. I think she’ll be a great addition to the company.

Do you have any application submission tips?

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