If you’re on the job hunt, the best skill you can actually have is empathy: The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others (particularly those of job recruiters). It doesn’t actually matter if nepotism is in your favor, if you’re most qualified for the job, or if you send a handwritten thank you note. What’s most important is being able to gauge what each recruiter wants and delivering it to them. If you make their job easier, they’ll be more inclined to “reward” you with a job offer.
The first step is figuring out exactly what’s going to get your application sent to the slush pile—and the slush pile is always much bigger than the “maybe” or “got to have them!” pile. While it will vary from recruiter to recruiter, and industry to industry, there are some general faux pas to avoid. Let’s start with the basics. If you’re up for a laugh, you can also check out Salary’s worst resumes ever and ensure you don’t get inspiration from slush pile regulars.
1. A non-customized resume and cover letter
It might be easier to craft a generic cover letter and resume for your industry, but any recruiter worth her salt will see right through it. Take the time and personalize your resume and cover letter for each job you apply for. Pepper in the exact same keywords and phrases used in the job description and ad posting—remember that many recruiters use software to pinpoint candidates well before a human sets eyes on the resumes. You could be in the losing pile before you even get a fair chance.
2. Gaps in employment with no explanation
“But the Great Recession should be reason enough to have a spotty job history recently!” That’s the thought process of many job seekers, but it’s not good enough. Employers want to know that you’re reliable, have loyalty and commitment, and won’t leave them after they’ve spent oodles on training after just a few months. According to a report covered by Federal News Radio, even when Millennials like their jobs, they don’t stick around very long. If you fall into that demographic, it’s unfair but you need to show how you’re not like the rest.
3. Not following simple directions
Does the job ask for a resume pasted into your email, a cover letter in PDF format, or a certain type or size of font? Many times recruiters will include these remedial directions not just to make their job easier, but also to see how recruits do with directions. If you can’t follow something so basic, how are you going to be able to take directions as an employee? While BusinessInsider reports many reasons why people can’t or won’t follow directions, your recruiter doesn’t have time for that nonsense.
4. A lack of gratitude
You’d be surprised by how many job candidates write cover letters that make it seem like the employer should be thankful they’d even bother to apply. You’re asking for someone’s time and professional assessment of your suitability for a job. Show a little gratitude, humility, and modesty when applying. It’ll take you a lot farther than you think.
Even after several years in the field, recruiters are still baffled by some flagrant and obvious mistakes from job candidates. Whether it’s typos galore or pink, rose-scented hard copy resumes, brush up on the latest resume trends and don’t make obvious errors. Otherwise, you’ll be on the job hunt much longer than you think.