Getting a Job in a Recession

So, I’ve made no secret that I’ve headed in a different direction recently, starting up my own actual “thing” and enjoying every second of it. It has enabled me to slow down and enjoy my client work even more. As the new venture has a physical presence, we need staff, and over the last month have gone through the pleasures and pains of recruiting.

Well, that’s something you’re not usually exposed to in the web world as a freelancer. It’s been quite a roller coaster. At the time of writing this, there’s been over 100 job applications. As much as the volume of entrants surprised me, I was more surprised by the quality of the applications, and not in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some tremendous applicants, but the more applications flooded in, the angrier I got.

I was very fair on the job application, I don’t need an endless CV, I’m more interested in whether you can do the job beautifully and have a lovely personality to go with it. I also stated that both written and verbal English skills were of the utmost importance. You’d think that would be a clue, right? Wrong.

Here’s the list of things I’d personally say, to watch out for when applying for any job, because I’ve been on the flip side of that piece of paper now and can tell you the frustrating mistakes I’ve seen over and over.

1) If your job is public facing, whether that be via email or telephone, your new potential boss is going to be looking at your grammar and writing skills. Not just looking, scrutinising. At the very least, keep that spell checker close at hand.

2) If the application asks you “why do you want to work at *workplace*” they’re not looking necessarily for your personal reasons for getting out of your current job that you hate – which is what most applicants wrote about. Instead, look into the company, concept or model and find something about what they can offer you that appeals to you.

3) Don’t copy and paste answers from the internet. Especially don’t leave “best answer chosen by asker was:” in the application form (that actually happened). Your tone of voice never matches what you copy and paste and can be seen a mile off. You’ve just made yourself look silly.

4) Only list relevant qualifications. You wouldn’t believe the qualifications I’ve read through only to wonder how on earth they are relevant to the job at hand. One applicant even listed all their dance trophies. Keep it on topic.

5) Be careful about having an open Facebook profile. Before the applications started flooding, I was looking up every single applicant on Facebook to see what other information I could glean. One person who stated in their form they were “proficient on a Mac” had written, not 10 hours prior, that she was “so bad with technology (she) could barely turn on her iPad.” not exactly a confidence booster.

6) Don’t jump questions. The application form I put together was fairly short. There were questions on there that could, theoretically be jumped. They especially wanted to jump the “salary expectation” question for some reason. I then made it a “required” field so that it couldn’t be jumped and yep, you guessed it – the amount of application forms that then came back with a single character in there or just jumble to get them past submission, was quite absurd. If it’s in the application form, it’s there for a reason – don’t jump it.

7) Inject personality. There was a question that read “If you are called to interview, are there any special provisions we need to make for you?” – the amount of people who took this as an invitation to inject some personality, was quite funny. On the better applications it almost became a ‘given’ that something funny would await. Another applicant listed that the best thing about her previous employer was “they had nice cake on a Friday.” – sometimes a small giggle is exactly what the reviewer needs and makes you stand out from a large crowd.

8) Read everything properly. Twice if necessary. I placed an advert on a third-party job board, this advert read, in the first paragraph, “please don’t submit applications here via email – only applications submitted via our electronic form will be considered” – what happened? 8/10 applications came through via email, with a typical CV and cover letter. If you can’t read and follow instructions, it doesn’t give me much confidence as a potential employer.

9) Research the company or concept. It only takes a few minutes. We no longer have to trapse to the library and get out a book, it’s at your fingertips. The amount of people who wrote things that were completely incorrect was bizarre. One person stating that she wanted to work at the new business because “(we) already had stores in America” of which, we have none. A little research will never do you any harm and certainly will get you through the paper sift.

So, nothing groundbreaking at all and what would seem to many, outwardly, as common sense, but with so many people out of work, I wanted to be transparent as to why certain applications got turned down. Most of the time, it was because they fell into one of the above traps. Traps that are easily avoidable.