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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, 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?

Ever hear those crazy people who claim to have the cure for this or know the absolute answer to that? I’m one of those crazies today. You may notice that each item pertains to a different part of life. I planned that. Here are my secrets to some of the world’s most common plaguing problems:

My secret to…quelling job interview nerves: I blare music in the car and sing as loud as possible on my way to the interview. For some reason, singing has a tendency to calm me down or release energy. Plus you get the chance to rock out, and that’s always a good time. As much as I love public transportation, that’s one of the upsides to owning a car – it’s quite a bit awkward when you start belting out music on the subway.

My secret to…curing hiccups: Two words – lemon juice. I know everyone has all these various methods to cure hiccups and “they work absolutely every single time” for some people and not at all for the rest of society, but drinking lemon juice straight has almost always worked for me. The rare time it failed, I drank water upside-down on stairs and that worked. Of course, there were…repercussions to that one.

My secret to…not overspending at the store: I actually have two ways to combat overspending. I used to spend way too much money, and truthfully, I still do. But I maintain a strict budget that allows me to monitor my spending, so I’ve gotten better about it. That’s not my secret, though. When I started my budget, I realized I had to find ways to avoid spending so much money on things I didn’t need, so I incorporated two rules. First, if I’m not sure on the purchase, I’ll wait three days before buying it. If I really like it, I’ll still be thinking about it three days later. Second, I put it in my cart and walk around the store with it for at least half an hour. By then, I’ve either convinced myself it’s not necessary or it’s a worthwhile purchase.

My secret to…getting rid of that annoying stranger: Lily Allen was right – there are times that someone comes up to you while you’re out for the night or even just out and about and you just cannot get rid of them. It doesn’t matter how many times you say you’re not interested, you’re not available, etc., they stick on you like white on rice. How do you get rid of them? This one requires a friend. When all else fails, grab your friend and start talking to her/him instead. It’s rude, yes, but not as rude as forcing your conversation on someone who has repeatedly said they aren’t interested.

My secret to…getting to places on time: I’m the one who’s always late. Or I was, until I started incorporating my secret into my life. I set all of my key clocks ahead 10-15 minutes. Okay, it’s not a secret, but it really does work. Even though I know that my clocks are set ahead, I somehow always manage to get to where I need to be on time. It’s always fun when you can trick your own brain.

What are your surefire answers to life’s common plagues?

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