Job Application Do's and Don'ts

citizenzen

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 22, 2010
1,433
11,628
We beat the email address question into a fine pulpy paste, but left a number of other issues unaddressed. An email address is a really, really small part of the impression that I get from an application.

Far more important to me is the layout of their resumé and cover letter. Are they well designed? What font(s) did they use? What size? What colors? Is it embellished with graphics or plain? Well before I've seen a portfolio I have a good or bad impression of the applicant.

I'm curious to hear both what we do to impress employers and what employers think about these efforts (or lack thereof). Did you ever receive an application that made you hire someone on the spot? Why? What do people typically do with a cover letter and resumé that relegates them to the "unhireable" pile?

What causes, big and small, conspire to paint a picture of an applicant that they may not be aware of?
 

iShater

macrumors 604
Aug 13, 2002
6,967
370
Chicagoland
Considering the fonts and look can come from a template, the design itself either makes it easy to read or not. I don't judge someone by "how professional this resume looks" but by the content and experience in it.

Make typos on the resume, and I am chucking it for the next guy.
Skip education information? I do the same.
 

miles01110

macrumors Core
Jul 24, 2006
19,264
30
The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
Considering the fonts and look can come from a template, the design itself either makes it easy to read or not. I don't judge someone by "how professional this resume looks" but by the content and experience in it.
This will depend on the field, but I took it one step further... the more ridiculous the formatting of the resume the more I felt the applicant had to cover up for lack of qualification for the position. Bold and Italics are OK when appropriate, but some people get way too cute with underlines, boxes, and sadly with colors.

The majority of the applications I saw were submitted via one of those web parsers in which the user uploads a file, the parser strips out all the important information, and then the user gets to correct what the computer thinks should go where. Unfortunately a great many people just assumed that the bot would do everything perfectly and clicked right through, presenting me with a mess which promptly got recycled.

...if you ever have to do one of those, take the time to go through each step. It's mind boggling to me why you wouldn't in the first place...

Make typos on the resume, and I am chucking it for the next guy.
Skip education information? I do the same.
Yeah.
 

CanonicalKoi

macrumors regular
Aug 25, 2009
215
0
Where the trilobites roam free.
Fonts? Really? It might come down to Helvetica vs Times New Roman for the decision?

Don'ts:
Don't use "text-speak".
Don't leave unexplained gaps in your employment history. If you weren't working from July 2007 to September 2009 because you were caring for an ill parent, just say so. If you make me wonder, please believe I'll wonder the worst possible scenario.
Don't get cute. Putting a picture of your dog dressed up as a pumpkin on your resume will, in fact, catch my eye. My next action will be to feed your resume to the Shredder of No Compassion +4.
Don't misuse first names. If you worked as a low-level, junior, part-time sweeper of floors for Senator Patty Murray, don't keep referring to her as "Patty".
Don't lie about your qualifications. You'll either be found out in the interview or shortly after being hired. Most companies have a probationary period that allows immediate dismissal for weasels who attempt that.
Don't call the day after you mail your resume demanding to know where you are in the process. Especially don't do that every single freaking day for a month. Be assured I will remember you and not in a good way.

Dos:
Do use proper capitalization, punctuation and standard (whatever the standard might be for your area) English (or the language of your country).
Do follow whatever resume guidelines the company has posted on their website (i.e. whether they want a cover letter or not, etc.).
Do use a resume template if you're not sure what's required and feel free to call the company's HR to ascertain just what information they want from you.
Do make sure your resume fits the job you're applying for. If your applying for a job at Ben & Jerry's as an ice cream scooper, they don't want to see a portfolio of your art. Contrariwise, a photography studio doesn't care that you can recite all the B&J flavors from memory. Make your resume appropriate to the job.
Do use spell-check and then have 3 or 4 people read it over to catch words that are spelled correctly, but still wrong. Personal pet peeves: "It's" for "its", the "their", "there", "they're" triumvirate, and "yours" and "your's".
 

citizenzen

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 22, 2010
1,433
11,628
Fonts? Really?
Ummm... yeah.

If we're hiring a designer and you've typeset your cover letter and resumé in Times New Roman, I will be highly suspicious of your ability to choose type. Not only the that, but if it's a horsey 14 points then I'll really begin to question your aesthetics... and if it's printed on plain white bond... well... then forget it.

When we hire new designers the quality of well designed cover letters and resumés make it easy to see who puts time and thought into the package vs. people who don't. Details matter in design. I don't want to have to teach you that... unless of course you're just looking for a job as a production assistant... and even then we get people who know how to present themselves well.
 

colourfastt

macrumors 6502a
Apr 7, 2009
884
523
Ummm... yeah.

If we're hiring a designer and you've typeset your cover letter and resumé in Times New Roman, I will be highly suspicious of your ability to choose type. Not only the that, but if it's a horsey 14 points then I'll really begin to question your aesthetics... and if it's printed on plain white bond... well... then forget it.

When we hire new designers the quality of well designed cover letters and resumés make it easy to see who puts time and thought into the package vs. people who don't. Details matter in design. I don't want to have to teach you that... unless of course you're just looking for a job as a production assistant... and even then we get people who know how to present themselves well.
And it's "résumé".
 

Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
10,132
4
Fonts? Really? It might come down to Helvetica vs Times New Roman for the decision?

Don'ts:
Don't use "text-speak".
Don't leave unexplained gaps in your employment history. If you weren't working from July 2007 to September 2009 because you were caring for an ill parent, just say so. If you make me wonder, please believe I'll wonder the worst possible scenario.
Don't get cute. Putting a picture of your dog dressed up as a pumpkin on your resume will, in fact, catch my eye. My next action will be to feed your resume to the Shredder of No Compassion +4.
Don't misuse first names. If you worked as a low-level, junior, part-time sweeper of floors for Senator Patty Murray, don't keep referring to her as "Patty".
Don't lie about your qualifications. You'll either be found out in the interview or shortly after being hired. Most companies have a probationary period that allows immediate dismissal for weasels who attempt that.
Don't call the day after you mail your resume demanding to know where you are in the process. Especially don't do that every single freaking day for a month. Be assured I will remember you and not in a good way.

Dos:
Do use proper capitalization, punctuation and standard (whatever the standard might be for your area) English (or the language of your country).
Do follow whatever resume guidelines the company has posted on their website (i.e. whether they want a cover letter or not, etc.).
Do use a resume template if you're not sure what's required and feel free to call the company's HR to ascertain just what information they want from you.
Do make sure your resume fits the job you're applying for. If your applying for a job at Ben & Jerry's as an ice cream scooper, they don't want to see a portfolio of your art. Contrariwise, a photography studio doesn't care that you can recite all the B&J flavors from memory. Make your resume appropriate to the job.
Do use spell-check and then have 3 or 4 people read it over to catch words that are spelled correctly, but still wrong. Personal pet peeves: "It's" for "its", the "their", "there", "they're" triumvirate, and "yours" and "your's".
I have a feeling that a huge gap in people employment history will be pretty common to see from Sept 2007 threw oh 2013. Lets faces it people are being laid off and hearing about people going 2 years with out work is getting more common by the day and with the current average being over 6 months and rising it means it is pretty bad.

I have read that for a few years employers will not bat an eye at it since it is safe to assume laid off and can not find work.
 

citizenzen

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 22, 2010
1,433
11,628
And it's "résumé".
Pardonez moi.

Don't call the day after you mail your resume demanding to know where you are in the process. Especially don't do that every single freaking day for a month. Be assured I will remember you and not in a good way.
Bingo. If you're an applicant you have to realize the process works at a speed that suits the company's schedule... not yours. I work in higher education and searches can sometimes drag on for months. While I understand that waiting isn't easy, it never helps your cause to become a pest.

For all the examining of qualifications, viewing of portfolios and checking up references the decision still often comes down to a gut-level decision of who among the candidates you think is a better "fit". You need to find every way to make your prospective employer comfortable choosing you. Stalking by phone or email will rarely accomplish that end.

And it's "résumé".
From dictionary.com...

ré·su·mé

1. a summing up; summary.

2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.

Also, resume, re·su·mé.​

I'll take half credit. But thank you for pointing out that I use a less than preferred spelling of the word.
 

RudyGrow

macrumors regular
Dec 12, 2009
170
0
Last year, we did a unit on making a job application form (in secondary 3).

The teacher could not stress enough that you have to have impeccable grammar, be in black and white and use an easy to read font (My personal favorite is Myriad Pro, but Arial/Helvetica works as well). Also, you should have it organized . My final application had the following "template":

Name and Contact Information
Education
Work Experiences
Volunteering Experiences
Awards and Achievements
Skills (I included my computer know-how here) and Abilities
References

Hope I could help :D
 

gauchogolfer

macrumors 603
Jan 28, 2005
5,556
5
American Riviera
Since you didn't say what industry you're considering in your opening, I'd say from my perspective (technology/engineering) that content wins over layout every single time. Saying that you are concerned that a résumé would get chucked in the bin because it's printed on normal white paper is just crazy to me, but to each their own.
 

Synchromesh

macrumors 6502a
Jul 15, 2009
578
48
SF
If the employer looking at my techie resume (I'm currently looking for software QA jobs) is really looking for graphic design and fanciness then I would probably chuck that employer. Easy-to-read and typo-free is a given with proper technologies, experience and education being listed but anything above that is overdoing it imho.
 

colourfastt

macrumors 6502a
Apr 7, 2009
884
523
From dictionary.com...

ré·su·mé

1. a summing up; summary.

2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.

Also, resume, re·su·mé.​

I'll take half credit. But thank you for pointing out that I use a less than preferred spelling of the word.
One point to you. :D

"Resume" and "resumé" are really just American bastardisations.
 

Ttownbeast

macrumors 65816
May 10, 2009
1,135
0
I guess teaching the skills to look for work, balance a check book, and file a tax return are no longer a required 2 semester course in high schools since this question is being asked to a bunch of anonymous users in an internet forum.:(
 

citizenzen

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 22, 2010
1,433
11,628
Since you didn't say what industry you're considering in your opening...
I didn't want to narrow this discussion down too early. While my experience is in graphic design I wanted to hear how other fields judge applicants as well.

Though in post #6 I did say...

When we hire new designers...
... I'd say from my perspective (technology/engineering) that content wins over layout every single time. Saying that you are concerned that a résumé would get chucked in the bin because it's printed on normal white paper is just crazy to me, but to each their own.
For a technician/engineer plain white bond paper may be quite suitable. But for a graphic designer paper is as much a part of the design as the ink that is put upon it. Any designer applying for a job should think twice before using the 20 lb. bond mom used to run through the typewriter.

In a designers world layout is content. And it all matters. It all tells a story about the applicant you're about to invite into your working life. In another thread we talked about email addresses and in this thread, paper. I've haven't even touched on portfolios, phone interviews and personal interviews.

But what I'm trying to say is that each little piece tells a part of the person's story and needs to be given proper consideration because the top candidates do. It is no accident. The people who get called in for interviews are the ones who've crossed their t's and dotted their i's and have a good portfolio and came across well over the phone.

These aren't unrealistic hurdles I'm sadistically asking people to jump over, they're the hallmark of good designers. And in a world where good jobs seem to be harder and harder to find, if you want to work in graphic design it would be wise to give yourself every advantage.

I suspect that if I applied for a job as a technician/engineer I'd probably violate 100 unwritten rules just as egregious as my paper example. Perhaps you could clue us in to what your eagle eye looks for when sizing up an applicant... besides the well maintained pocket protector. :D
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,830
30,335
Boston
In this day and age, it probably doesn't matter what fonts you use because you upload and apply to positions electronically. That is the recruiter will not even see your resume, but rather a parsed version of it.

Also make sure you check for typos.

I'd love to say what you should or shouldn't put in, but given the state of the job market, there's little advice that can help you. My wife has been out of work for over a year and nearly every position she's tried for, she's in competition with over 100 to 300 other applicants. I'm not saying this to scare you away but rather give you the proper perspective - its tough out there.
 

robbieduncan

Moderator emeritus
Jul 24, 2002
24,480
9
London
If you absolutely, 100%, must use colour consider how your beautifully designed document will look once it's been photocopied in grey-scale and then then copied again (and maybe again). Because that's how they mostly reach me...
 

Shaun.P

macrumors 68000
Jul 14, 2003
1,599
13
Omicron Persei 8
A very minor point:

In my work we get CVs now and again and a lot of them are sent second class mail (rather than first class).

To me that creates the impression that the CV was not important enough to pay the extra 12p (or whatever it is) to send it faster.
 

AdamA9

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2010
1,206
335
I've only ever gone for three jobs in my life (I'm 28) and I got them all. Did the resume get me the job? I highly doubt it. Did it get me an interview? Sure. I see the resume as nothing more than my own invitation to an interview. Once in, what I say will get me the job, not how my resume looks.

However, I do have a good looking resume, in Century Gothic. It was designed by myself so original too. It's spaced out and ordered as;

- Employment history
- Education history
- Skills and languages
- Other information

:)
 

mstrze

macrumors 68000
Nov 6, 2009
1,916
0
In this day and age, it probably doesn't matter what fonts you use because you upload and apply to positions electronically. That is the recruiter will not even see your resume, but rather a parsed version of it.
+1

At the very least, you might want to do a 'computer-formatted' mono-spaced version of your resumé that can easily be fed into an online application.