In the spirit of my posts over the past couple of days, I thought I’d share some of the things job applicants shouldn’t do (but seem to do with alarming regularity) when seeking a job in my agency. I suppose these same “don’ts” apply elsewhere, but frankly you can have the crummy applicants and I’ll take the smart and savvy ones.

  • Don’t address your cover letter “To Whom It May Concern.” If you really want a job, show you have the initiative to make a call to get the name of the appropriate person to whom your letter should be addressed.
  • Don’t write a long cover letter that simply rehashes your resume or tells me what a great asset you would be. Instead, keep it short. Emphasize what skills/experience you have that would be useful in the kind of work the organization does. Be careful of recycling cover letters — it can be a deal killer if you inadvertently leave in the name of another agency you’re applying to. Better to write a fresh one.
  • Don’t include in your resume that you are proficient in MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Duh! Aren’t we all? Better to say you know Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and have had your own blog for five years. More specialized skills such as proficiency with online media databases or bulk e-mail programs should be included.
  • Don’t include an objective statement on your resume, á la: To obtain a position in international marketing/public relations which will utilize my education experience and skills which will provide an opportunity for growth and advancement. Every applicant I have ever met has had the same objective — to get a job.
  • Don’t proffer a letter of recommendation. They invariably focus on the applicant’s wonderful attributes and amazing abilities. The only kind of letter of recommendation that carries any weight with me is one that describes how the applicant overcame an insurmountable obstacle, learning disability or personal loss to go on to become a better person and excellent job candidate. Still ….
  • Don’t proffer a fancy bound portfolio of things you wrote in Com 201 or the brochure you produced in desktop publishing class or an actual graded exercise with an actual grade on it. School’s over. This is the real world. Tell me about what you learned in an internship or direct me to your blog where you’ve been writing your innermost thoughts and feelings in flowing, grammatical prose for years.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne to an interview. Job applicants should be seen and heard, not smelled.
  • Don’t describe yourself as a “people person” to the interviewer or reference your abiding affection for humans as the motivating factor in wanting to work in public relations. Liking people in general does not mean you’ll be successful in influencing them.
  • Don’t miss an opportunity in the interview to ask what a typical day would be like for the person in the position for which you are applying. You might learn that you’re actually applying to be the boss’ personal assistant in charge of coffee and dry-cleaning fetching.
  • Don’t forget to send a note — mail or e-mail is acceptable — following the interview. It can be short, but should reference something that was discussed in the interview: I was thinking about your description of the job, and I must say my countless trips to Starbuck’s and the cleaners make me an excellent candidate for the position.
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