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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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Ever have those times in your life where time seems to just stand still? Time just doesn’t seem like a consistent idea to me – one minute, it’s flying by (generally when I’m having fun) and the next, every second is painfully long (generally when I’m dreading something). Here are a few times life has ticked by ever so slowly for me:

1.The seconds after my grandma died – Not to start out on a dark note, but it’s the truth. I was in the room when my grandmother died (my whole family was). As you may recall from my secrets post last week, my grandmother was one of the most important people in my life. She was my best friend. When she died, I remember thinking over and over in my head for at least a minute (probably 5 seconds in actuality) something like, “You can’t die. You can do this. Come back.” Moving on after that cheery note…

2. Waiting for pregnancy test results – Let me immediately avert the fears of any parental figures reading this – I am very, very safe when it comes to birth control. I’ve never had real reason to think that I was pregnant. I have had, however, a few health issues (UTI, stomach pain of unknown origins) for which doctors decided I should get tested, just in case. Longest. 20. Minutes. Ever. I knew I wasn’t pregnant and it was the longest 20 minutes ever. Yikes. I’d hate to take that test when actually worried about being preggers.

3. Running – After the dramatic nature of the first two, this seems mundane, but I hate running. Hate it. I suck at aerobic activity and I really need to work on it. I warm up every workout by walking, then running, for a total of 5 minutes. Every second drips by when I’m running. I’ll keep my stride, but it sucks.

4. Traffic when running late – I deal with this a lot of mornings. I only live about 5-10 minutes from work, but with traffic, it can easily take 20 minutes. Usually I handle it fine, but occasionally you get those days when you’re running really late. It’s those times when you scream at other drivers for making stupid mistakes, flip off really rude drivers, and do all those other things that we all do but judge other people for doing. Oh, traffic.

5. Waiting for the results of a major life change (i.e., grad school, job offer) – The worst part about this? The waiting game doesn’t just take a few minutes, it can take weeks or months. For example, I applied to grad school in October. I find out in March. I only applied to one school. Their decision affects almost every area of my life because I’d be moving cross-country. It also affects my boyfriend’s plans for the future. Waiting for something this exciting, this monumental, is painful. But it makes the result that much bigger.

When has time stood still for you, good or bad?

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