Lately, I’ve been recruiting to fill a job in my department, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when job seekers don’t follow instructions. Before they click the “apply” button on the website, applicants are advised that they must be prepared to upload a resume and a cover letter and that their cover letter should express their salary expectations.
My estimate is that less than ten percent of applicants meet all three of those simple requirements. Because the system requires two documents, about half load their resume twice – once as a cover letter and once a the resume. No more than one-in-ten mention salary.
Job seekers – when you fail to follow simple and explicit directions in the application process, it makes it extremely hard to convince the employer that you will follow simple and explicit directions as an employee.
You must read and follow all directions in the application process. Even if you think the directions are silly, if you think they ask for information they don’t need, or if you think answering the question will negatively affect your application, you must follow the rules. If you don’t, you run a strong risk that your application will not even be considered.
I’ve written before about the importance of a cover letter, and you should never submit a resume without a cover letter (unless they specifically instruct you NOT to submit a cover letter – which I’ve never heard of). A cover letter is a necessary tool in framing your resume.
Now, you don’t just have to follow the rules. For example, if they don’t require a cover letter, you should still send one. They might tell you to apply via human resources – and you should – but you should also attempt to get your cover letter and resume directly to the hiring manager. You may need to explain why you can’t supply something they have requested, but at least that is better than simply ignoring their request.
So, simple lesson for today, follow the rules. And then find ways to expand the rules in your favor.
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I was working with a friend who was in a tizzy. She was trying to apply for a new job that she really wanted, but she was stuck on one blank of the application – “Reason for Leaving.” She had been fired from her last job for performance reasons and she was afraid that if she said that on this application then she would not get hired. But, if she didn’t say that, and they found out, they would fire her for lying on her application. What to do?!?!?
First thing – honesty is the best policy. You should never lie on your resume, cover letter or a job application. Making false statements is a lousy way to get ahead and will ultimately come back and bite you. However, not telling a lie is a long way from telling 100% of the truth. There are some options – any of which might be the right thing for you.
Be straightforward – “Terminated for performance reasons”. Hopefully the company likes enough about your overall qualifications that they still interview you and you can explain (assuming you have a good explanation).
Misdirection – “Involuntary Separation”. That could mean fired, RIFed, Laid Off, or anything. Again, it gives them the opportunity to ask and for you to explain.
Avoidance – leave it blank. You should not assume that because you leave it blank they will assume you were fired. Leaving it blank gives them an opportunity to discuss the situation.
You can even try “Mutual Decision” approach – “they fired me before I could quit.”
The bottom line is you need to be prepared to explain why it didn’t work out for you at that job plus how you’ve learned from that so whatever happened won’t be a problem at your new job.
You also have to be honest with yourself. If you were fired because you really were not any good at your job, save yourself the trouble and don’t apply for that kind of job again. Find something your good at and do that.
Finally, here is what I have found to be true. If you were meant to get this job, then you will get the opportunity to explain yourself and that explanation will satisfy the interviewer. If they choose to be so short-sighted so as to pass on your resume just because you were asked to leave a job, then that is their loss. Not only will they not have the pleasure of working with you, but there are lots of other good people they are going to miss.
Bottom line – tell the truth, as briefly as you can, and be prepared to explain. That’s all you can do.