How NOT to Apply for a Job

Dear Applicant;

Your words, actions, and efforts will guarantee a immediate dismissal of your application for a position. Want the secret? Read on… If you don’t care (well, you’ve already stopped reading… so I won’t bother).

What Not do to?

  • Do Not write a letter that starts with “To Whom it may concern”
  • Do Not write a letter that tells me about you. If every sentence starts with the personal pronoun “I”, you are sunk
  • Do Not write a letter that lists skills that are a complete mismatch to the skills the employer requires
Cover Letter

“To Whom”

Listen, we are a high-tech firm in the third year of a start-up cycle. On the first internet search, you will find our website. Get through the Wikipedia entry about the bird after which we took our name and boom, our website! Mine the website and associated blogs for key contacts, job postings, and perfectly tailored information about the firm. Guess who wrote that website? The employer! Pretty much everything you need to put in a cover letter can come from the employer’s own information.

Take that information, search LinkedIn, search news media, search technical communities, search publications, search Twitter. Wonder if the employer and it’s leaders have a presence on Ye Olde Internet. If you can’t find a personal name, and some means of making personal contact then you’re targeting: (a) a hermit (b) a dead person (c) or a really big organization. If you are applying for a job in technology and use words like HTML, CSS, programmer, interactive media, then I have a 100% expectation that you know how to navigate basic corporate social media venues.

Even with Really Big Company, you’ll find contact information for sales people, sales engineers, public-facing engineers, and others who carry the firm’s banner. While they may not do the direct hiring, can’t hurt to build a network. Want a job with Really Big Company? Find public meetings they host, follow community postings on Twitter, chase Meetup engagements.

Start your letter with a personal greeting!

That demonstrates that you did three things:

  • Found the company website
  • Found information on the company website
  • Found a key contact person

“I”, “I”, “I”

I don’t care about you, not one bit. I care about my company. I must solve customer problems. I must increase revenue. I must deliver products in a highly professional manner. You need to put yourself into my equation. How do you help me execute my mission? How do you make my business better?

Want a hint? I need people to help me solve customer problems. I need people to help me increase productivity and increase revenue. I need people that my customers will trust to bring them great solutions. Show me something!

This letter, a real letter, has five sentences in the first paragraph while using the word “I” six times. What I see is someone who is all about himself and his needs and her growth. It is that simple. How about “while my programming skills are untried, my attention to details can be aid your …. [fill in the blank].”

Show the employer how they benefit by hiring you

Mismatched Skills

Dude, RTFM! Somewhere in this world exists the job description for the job you’ve just applied for. Read it first, then apply. This employer has one posted- been up for more than a year. It is always up. Why? Because if the right person finds it, fantastic. But so far… it sits there as if written in Latin. A simple word count illustrates that SQL, PL/SQL, Oracle are the most frequent words in three paragraphs. If your letter states “I know object-oriented programming”, I don’t care. Oracle PL/SQL is not an object-oriented language. It is a procedural language.

Are you an object-oriented game developer applying for a position as an Oracle database application programmer? Ask yourself two questions. First, Why? Why apply? Really, Why? You want to be a gamer guy and we write numbery/columnar/webby stuff. You won’t be happy here. Second… there is no second question. Just reframe your training and experience to broad-based and inclusive. Don’t paint yourself into one discipline and beg access to another. Be ecumenical and demonstrate an ability with the skills required.

Every good database developer writing SQL and code in procedural blocks knows how to develop software in an object-oriented context too.

Lead with matched skills

Guess What?

I will work just as hard as you did on your application. A well-researched and intriguing effort will garner a reciprocated effort. I will perform internet searches on you. I will look at your on-line profile at Oracle, at Linked-In, on Twitter, and your personal blogs.

If you did very little on your effort, I will do the same. Guaranteed.

-/qed