9 Killer Mistakes In Responding To A Job Post

Recently I’ve been recruiting for a social media / online marketing specialist for a well-funded start-up, and I’ve been shocked-SHOCKED-by the number of basic mistakes made in the email responses.  Normally I go through an HR firm, but I’m performing this search myself.  My theory is that I should be able to find a good online marketing specialist using social networking and inexpensive postings on popular sites.

My first action was to place a single post in Craig’s List. Within 24 hours I have already received over one hundred applicants.

It’s a blind posting so I don’t expect any kowtowing or in-depth research.  All I want is a short, professional letter.

To set the stage, I spend 8 seconds reviewing each email I receive.  During this time I am deciding whether to open  the resume or not. The good news is that I want to open your resume attachment, so all you have to do is not blow it.

Realize though that the few words you write in your email responding to my job post are telling me a lot about you as a “brand”, before I ever open your resume.

Here is an actual example of a typical mediocre email. The email’s original text is in italics, my comments are in red caps. Don’t worry Ted; I won’t mention your real name. Consider this tough love, I feel for each job applicant; I’ve been in your place before.

“Hello, GOOD START–SIMPLE AND NOT AWKWARD

I am writing in regards to the online marketing specialist position. SIGH, REALLY?

PLEASE DON’T BEGIN WITH SUCH AN AWKWARD AND OBVIOUS FIRST SENTENCE, THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO HOOK ME. IMAGINE IF EVERY TV AD STARTED WITH “WE ARE RUNNING THIS COMMERCIAL SO YOU WILL BUY FROM US”.

I am a writer and blogger with a strong background in social media. THIS IS THE STRONGEST PART OF THE EMAIL, YOU’VE NOW BEGUN TO POSITION YOURSELF. ITS A GOOD START TO ETCHING YOUR BRAND IN MY MIND.

I have attached my resume for your review. BACK TO BEING OBVIOUS AND TRITE, YOU SHOULD HAVE INCLUDED ONE OR TWO DOMAIN NAMES AS EXAMPLES OF YOUR BLOGGING SKILLS AND STRONG SOCIAL MEDIA BACKGROUND.

BY THE WAY, I WILL SCREAM IF YOU START ANOTHER SENTENCE WITH THE WORD “I”. DO YOU BLOG OR TWEET LIKE THAT TOO?

Please contact me if you require any further information. THE POINTS YOU GOT FOR POLITENESS WERE QUICKLY LOST WITH THE WEAK CLOSE. YOUR CALL TO ACTION SHOULD GET ME EXCITED ABOUT READING YOUR RESUME.

Sincerely…(Not Ted)”

Interesting that out of these hundred or so social media marketing applicants, less than 10% mentioned any blogs or Facebook pages by name.   Should I really take your expertise seriously? (My next experiment will be to tweet the job post and see how many quality applicants respond.)

Help Wanted

Now here is my list of pet peeves when it comes to responding by email to a job post.  They hurt your ‘brand’ in my eyes. Frankly I find myself less likely to open a resume attachment if I notice any of the following issues:

1.   Misspellings –  Do I even have to explain why this is a problem?

2.   You don’t use your full name in the “From” field

I’m hiring you for a marketing position, if you don’t get how important branding is for yourself then you won’t understand how important my company’s brand is to me, or my customers, or my future customers. On a related note, include your full name in the file name of the resume attachment. I may want to save your resume on my hard drive and find it later.

3.   You use a different name in the ‘From’ field than in your email signature

Who are you, really? A similar problem is if you use your spouse’s email address. Who’s the one sending out this resume and do you really want this job.  There are free emails available from Yahoo and Google in less than 30 seconds.

4.  No resume attached – Okay, I can’t even open the resume when this mistake is made.

5.   A long, boring email.   If you bore me, you’ll bore my customers. Boring is bad marketing.

6.   Too many “I”s

It’s not about you, it’s about me. How are you going to help my company? I don’t care that “you want a job in the marketing field” or “You were reading Craig’s List”; your writing is boring, self-serving, sloppy, obvious, and superfluous. I want to know how you are going make my company a success.

7.  Don’t include references, unless I requested them –  It’s our first date; I don’t want to meet your parents yet.

8.  Don’t try to “close” with this email

A good resume speaks for itself, therefore any email text that tries too hard smells of desperation. No one likes that particular odor. Just be friendly and pique my interest.

9.  Arrogance – Don’t treat me like you’re the boss when you’re applying for a job with me.

Remember to treat every email responding to a job posting as the most important email you ever write. It just may become the one that changes your life.

Here’s a special note to all you online marketers.  If you can’t take the time to triple check your emails then I don’t want you sending out our company’s marketing emails, posting our company tweets, or writing on our company blog.

If anyone is interested, drop me a note and I’ll forward the job description to you.

© 2010 MoneyandRisk.com all rights reserved

8 comments

  1. Jim, it was interesting to read this article. Do you have an example of good, well-done, from your prospective, way to answer on online job posting?

    1. Ellie, thanks for question. I’ve seen a number of good email responses recently. Look for a follow-up post on that very topic in the near future.

  2. Jim – you took the words right out of my mouth! Thank you. I would love to retweet this and give proper credit but I can’t find any info here for “Jim”
    Perhaps that’s by design! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  3. Jim,

    I was reading through your experiences since we’re going through the same as well. I just realized that you’re not even using Linkedin even though it’s hyped as the place for people to go and find jobs and connections.

    We posted on all the job boards on Linkedin and didn’t even get a single applicant. I know we’re not willing to go to that much trouble and time to research person by person. That’s what a recruiter is for if we decide to go that route.

  4. This article had a few glaring points I’ve failed to consider. Using too many “I’s” the email response as well the importance of the “call to action” at the end of the email were particularly eye opening. If I could change anything about this post it would be mentioning whether or not a cover letter is necessary when responding to a job posting via email.

    All in all, this was very helpful. Thank you sir!

  5. Interesting to understand your perspective. I wonder how many people are trying to be polite and professional, but when you’re looking for gigs on Craigslist – there you go!

  6. I am a drawing and painting professor. I stumbled across this article because I am searching for work. I assume it is meant to teach job hunters something. However, I can tell you from personal experience that standing in front of my class and expressing my frustration with all of the stupid things I have seen people do when trying to learn to draw doesn’t do anyone any good. You should add examples of good writing perhaps. It is actually quite easy to discover things that are wrong in the world. Finding things that are right and being able to verbalize why they are right is difficult.

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