Some ways not to get called for an interview

By Stephanie Abba


1. Forget that your e-mail is your cover letter
Not that a cover letter isn't a good tool, but these days, I tend to read the e-mail before - or even in place of - any cover letter you've attached. And I have to tell you: spelling and grammar are important. Yes, even in e-mail. It's my first impression of you, and you know what they say about first impressions! So think carefully about what you want to write in that e-mail. Do you really think that 'Hey there' is the appropriate way to address a possible employer in your first contact with them? Writing four sentences with no capital letters isn't going to impress many people, either.

So think it through, and run a spellcheck. Trust me.

2. Show me you can't follow directions (or worse, that you choose not to)
If the job posting you're responding to says to e-mail your résumé to a certain e-mail address, using a certain subject line, DO IT. I can't speak for all employers, but there are reasons we ask for your submission to be formatted in that way. One reason is that since we get applications for lots of jobs, we want to be able to sort submissions by job title. The second reason is that we want to see if you can follow simple instructions.

If your e-mail arrives with the subject line 'job posting' or 'résumé' or 'your search is over' or even your name, it creates more work for me (I have to open it before I can flag it for the appropriate manager), it casts doubts on your ability to follow instructions, and it just plain annoys me. Some friends of mine in human resources at large companies delete these kinds of mis-labeled messages without opening them. Don't let this happen to you - follow the given directions!

3. Don't be bothered with little things like spelling, grammar, and formatting
Spelling is important, and lots of people aren't very good at it. That's why people made millions of dollars inventing spellcheck programs. While we likely won't hire someone who doesn't have a good grasp of spelling anyway, having mis-spelled words all over your résumé isn't going to get you called for an interview. Use the spellcheck. And if your computer doesn't have one, do it the old fashioned way - use the dictionary.

Words I often see mis-spelled in résumés and cover letters include 'opportunity', 'definitely' and, sadly, 'English'. It has a capital "E". Every time. (So telling me you have great 'english' skills isn't going to get you an interview for an editorial or writing position.)

Most people send their résumés to me as Word attachments. That's great. No problem. What is a problem, however, is that your résumé tells me that you're an expert Word user but you have three blank pages of page returns at the end of your résumé. If you don't know how to clean up your formatting, you're obviously not an expert Word user. Then I wonder, what else did they exaggerate?

4. Don't tailor your résumé
To start, let me say this: I hate résumé objectives. They're hokey, they're cliché, they're a waste of time. If you're applying for a job, your objective is obviously to obtain the position of whatever we're hiring for. That's everyone's objective. Use those two lines of space to include information that might entice me to call you for an interview instead of including an objective.

But the résumé-writing books say to include it, and it certainly won't hurt your chances ... or will it? If you're going to have an objective, be sure to tailor it to the job you're applying for. I shouldn't see the words 'biology' or 'science' or 'fashion' or 'retail' or 'engineering' or 'design' in your objective if you're applying for an editorial position. Seeing that kind of thing tells me that your objective isn't really this job. For another, it tells me that you either don't care about the job description, or you don't have enough attention to detail to realize that your objective is at odds with the job we're hiring for.

5. How much time have you got?
I could go on and on, but here are some point-form suggestions for future job applicants:

  • No high school or post-secondary student should have a four-page résumé.
  • Don't have your résumé in all italics.
  • If I didn't ask for clips, don't send me clips.
  • Make sure you have our company's name right, or don't use it at all. Mis-spelling it, changing it, calling us by another company's name - especially that of a competitor - isn't going to help your cause.
  • résumé books tell you to be creative in your résumé, and that might work for a design or creative marketing job, but in editorial, I'm looking for logical and analytical people. Don't use every colour of the rainbow or eight different fonts. (I've talked about this before:


Good luck with your job search!

Modified on April 23, 2009