HR: Human Remorses

Currently, I am doing a full-time job and a full-time degree. In this economy, that’s not bad really, but it’s probably a bit much for my wee brain. It also goes some way towards reinforcing the stereotypes of people doing Arts degrees that they have all this time on their hands, but… shhh.

Officially I am a Recruitment Assistant (Intern). I like to put the ‘Intern’ bit in parentheses just to emphasise that I do get paid for it and I’m not some crazy person trying to survive in London with no income whatsoever, nor do I simply harvest my parents’ funds. Well… I do do that a bit, but I feel bad about it afterwards.

This job title basically means I do the dogsbody work, getting job applications in, compiling job applications, thanking people for applying to our job but informing them that, unfortunately, on this occasion, their application has not been successful, but perhaps they would be interested in future roles, in which case they should keep an eye on our website.

A large part of the reason why many of these people get rejected is that, even in the year 2013 when nearly everything is done through a laptop or an iPad, people have no idea how to do a job application on a computer.

Part of this is me being pernickety; I get riled when somebody has copy/pasted a phone number into their application form and not changed the font to match. Seriously, the option appears on MS Word to ‘Merge Formatting’… Just press it…

Nevertheless, some things I think are objectively evil and wrong. I obviously won’t divulge details of any of the applications I have received at my present job – I have signed all sorts of confidentiality agreements – but still, now that I have experience reading them, let me share with you my Top Tips for Not Looking Like A Tit When You Apply for a Job:

  1. You know that Hotmail account you started when you were twelve? Like, XoX_rubylips89_XoX or bigdaddy2k? Stop using that. In fact, that probably doesn’t just go for job applications, that’s just a general life tip, but if you really insist on allowing all of your family and friends to think you have the intellectual wherewithal of a gnat or a gnu or a… gnome, at the very least don’t let your potential employer think the same. My personal view is that Hotmail in itself sounds unprofessional — nowhere near as classy as Gmail or even having your own domain name, like plenty of people do now — so why not just switch to something smoother? You can’t go wrong with firstname.lastname@gmail.com, especially if your name is Firstname Lastname. If that is taken, try some other variation on your name, but I’m gonna take some convincing that you chose bieberslover69 because it was the closest to your name you could get.
  2. If you’re emailing your application after having forwarded it between yourself and someone else, make sure to delete the email trail. When you have an applicant whose form and CV are all very professionally produced, but then you scroll down and read the conversation he was having with his girlfriend about the other jobs for which he is applying — what is more, written in text speak — it hardly screams ‘HIRE ME!’.
  3. If you write in your CV that you spent time teaching English as a second language, it might help to make sure your CV is written in good English. Or confess to yourself that your English isn’t really as good as it’s cracked up to be and have a native speaker check it for you. I seriously felt like going a bit Simon Cowell on this guy to save him from future disappointment.
  4. If you sign your email with ‘Thanx’, not only will I not hire you, but I will call your present employer and encourage him/her to fire you.
  5. Do not send a corrupted application form and then complain that there is something wrong with our form. Our form is fine. Get a new computer.
  6. When a job advertisement says ‘Do not send a CV; CVs will be rejected in all cases’, I can guarantee that the employer does not mean it in the same way that your mum says ‘Don’t buy me any presents this year, I don’t need anything’ whenever her birthday rolls round. This is especially true when your CV makes you look like as much of an idiot as your application form.
  7. It’s a good idea to read the advert, in particular the salary. We had a guy who pulled out because the salary was ten grand less than he thought, and would have meant an eight-grand pay cut for him. You don’t want accidentally to end up having to sell your car.
  8. If you are asked for one email address, give one email address. When your potential employer wants to congratulate you and invite you for interview, he/she shouldn’t have to be making a decision between your Gmail and your work email and the BT Internet one you share with your other half. It’s not like a phone, where you might be out of the house. Pick one, stick to it, check it. I don’t understand why you would want to make things more complicated for the person who is looking to hire you.
  9. When you’ve typed something up or filled in a computerised form, print it out, have a look at it, and ask yourself if you would hire you. I’m not talking so much about the words, but just about whether you can actually read the thing from start to finish. You’re not writing concrete poetry. Your recipient shouldn’t have to interpret what the form of your CV is trying to say about the human condition. If in doubt, play it safe.
  10. Don’t send photos. It’s not match.com.

I get that the job-hunting process is daunting, and I get that it’s possible to go too far the other way and obsess over tiny details too much — I have spent far too much time on the typeface and spacing on my CV — but all in all it’s worth paying attention at least to the medium-sized things.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a job right now, I hope I’ve at least made you think about things. If not, good luck anyway! Just don’t apply to me.

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