8 Tips When Applying for a Job

I hate applying for jobs. You find one that you are decently qualified for, go through half an hour of filling out their application form, tweaking your cover letter and resume, checking all the other documents they want, sending it off and then . . . very often, nothing at all, until much later when you receive a form rejection letter from the HR department.

That, unfortunately is the way of things. All places receive way more applications that they can even give interviews to, but I always wondered what they were looking for. What could I do to get an edge?

Well, now I know a little more since I am on the other side of things. I am now in the position of hiring people and that has taught me a lot about the whole process. Of course, I can only speak for myself, and there is unfortunately no perfect formula for getting a job: if someone else is more qualified, they will probably get the position. However, here are 8 things that I can suggest that will help you put your best foot forward. I won’t include proofreading your cover letter and resume because I really hope you do that anyway.

1. Include everything in the job description

The whole point of your cover letter and resume is to get an interview. Remember that the people going over your application do not know a single thing about you besides what you put on those few pieces of paper. Your resume is just a list of what you have done and can’t really change much. However, the cover letter is a chance to show how that matches the job you’re applying for. Mention every single thing in the job description and why you can do it. If you don’t have direct experience, talk about transferable skills you have learned at other jobs. If the job asks for someone who is proficient at email, mention that you are. Don’t just assume they know you are, just because everyone should be. They probably have a checklist to make sure you have all the qualifications and you want them to be able to check all the boxes for you, not have a question mark next to some.

2. Be very specific on the cover letter, but don’t rewrite your resume

There is a very high probability that the people going over your application are going through a ton of them and that after a while, they all tend to blend together except for the very good and the very bad ones. Maybe it’s Friday afternoon and they’ve already picked out some to interview. Yours is the last one before they can go home. That’s bad news, especially if your cover letter has a lot of generalities, such as “In my last position, I excelled at the work and I am committed to working hard in this one as well.” That doesn’t say anything, unfortunately.

In the cover letter, lay out very succinctly why you are qualified for the job on all points. Lay out an orgy of evidence that not hiring you would be insanity, but be specific. Give examples from your past jobs. Personally, I don’t even mind bullet points because it makes it faster to get to the meat of the information. A warning, though, about bullet points: if you use them, do not just rewrite your resume in the cover letter. If you just list your education and work experience in your cover letter with little else, you might as well not even have one.

3. Make everything  on your resume as applicable as possible

This is hard to do sometimes, but whenever possible, make everything on your resume applicable to the job you’re applying for. That might be hard if you are, say, a certified backhoe operator and you’re applying to be a chef. It doesn’t hurt to have unrelated jobs listed, but it doesn’t help you either, and you need every edge you can get. This is a chance to highlight your transferable skills. In the above example, delete all references to dirt-moving ability, and say something like “worked well under pressure.” It’s not super persuasive maybe, but it’s something.

job application 3

“Works well within a time limit” [Source]

4. Make file names very clear, include your name in all of them

This is for applications where you need to attach a lot of documents. This maybe isn’t a deal breaker, but odd file names can cause confusion and you don’t want any negative feelings attached to you or your application. I recommend every file be a PDF with your full name, a hyphen (-) and what it is: either resume, cover letter, references, etc. PDFs are cleaner than Word documents and can’t be altered by anyone else.

Also, make sure the file name doesn’t say anything like Resumefinal.doc or coverletter-(company name).pdf or anything else. People know you are probably applying to tons of places, but it’s not good to remind them of that. Make a separate folder on your computer for every place you apply for so they don’t get mixed up (the worst thing you could do is send a letter to someone addressed to a different company), and so the resume and cover letter look like they’re your only one.

5. Use only English, don’t abbreviate place names people wouldn’t know

This is a minor one, but a pet peeve of mine. There should not be anything but English on the documents (unless, of course, you’re applying in another language, of course) except for names of places and people. If you do need to use words in other languages, make sure that they are transliterated into the English alphabet. It might make you look sophisticated to have Arabic or Chinese on your resume, but if the person doesn’t speak that language, it can only hurt you.

Also, do not use place name abbreviations outside your country. Everyone in Canada, for example, probably knows that ON means the province of Ontario, but if you are applying for a job outside of Canada, don’t use the abbreviation.

6. Be professional but don’t be scared to have some personality in your cover letter

This is probably the hardest line to walk. On one hand, this is a very formal process and not the best time for “’Sup guys, how about giving me a job over here?” Still, you don’t want to write a cover letter that sounds like it was written by a soulless robot, or even a soulful one.

The best approach, in my mind, is to avoid all slang and contractions to give it a formal feel, but use simple, conversational language and avoid buzzwords and jargon unless absolutely necessary. This will make it more readable and also come across as more natural, hopefully. It’s possible that the person going through your application may have to work with you if you are hired, and if they can get the impression that you would be great to work with, that can go a long way.

7. Don’t include a picture

This is just my opinion. It is pretty rare, but some people do include a picture of themselves. It may also be a cultural thing, where in some countries you might be expected to include a picture. However, it is not normal in the United States and to my mind, it can only hurt you. The best case scenario is that it won’t have any effect, but you want the people reviewing your application to judge you on your qualifications, not make snap judgments about your appearance. I was going to say that including your picture might be okay if you were extremely attractive, but even that could work against you if the person has some prejudice about beautiful people being less intelligent. You never know who will be looking at your application, so it’s a situation best just to avoid.

8. Do your research

It is amazing how many people know very little about the places they apply for. This could be seen as understandable if a person is putting out hundreds of applications, but I would argue it is better to put out half that number of good applications than just shooting them out blindly into the void.

There was a time when doing research on a potential employer was pretty difficult, but there is a lot less excuse nowadays where an Internet search can bring up a lot. I’m not saying that name-dropping the HR director will necessarily win you brownie points, but if you can mention some specifics about the employer that would be applicable to your job, that is very impressive, if only because it’s so rare. For example, you could say, “I noticed from photos on your company website that you use the HR400 series recombobulator. I did tech support on that line for two months so I would be comfortable operating them.”

As long as it’s actually true, that really helps you stand out from the crowd. Definitely don’t lie, especially about specifics. It’s too easy to catch that, and you will definitely not get the job if you are caught lying.

 

Again, these are just some things from my own personal experience and I cannot guarantee that all employers will think the same (I can guarantee they won’t, actually). However, I hope these tips help if you are looking for a job in the near future.

Do you have any other do or don’t tips for job searches that you’ve found to be true? Let me know in the comments.


Oranges for ET

FF182 Jan Marler Morrill

copyright Jan Marler Morrill

Traitor.

That’s been my nickname for six months now. Hey, I’m just a fruit seller, making a living. Maybe even a profit.

“Morning,” I say to the first alien. Twenty are lined up behind him. He slings his rifle, holds up twelve fingers, and I bag up a dozen oranges in exchange for a glowing cube which I guess is money. I’ve got 518 so far.

Later when the aliens all die, scientists discover that the Vitamin C was slowly poisoning them. Suddenly I’m a hero.

The government is really curious about those glowing cubes.

Now the real profit comes.

 


Bunny & Crackerberry

This is all true.

When I was young, I got a stuffed rabbit from a relative. For Christmas, I think, but I was too young to remember exactly when. I named it Bunny, since children have a very straightforward way of naming things.

It started out pink, but eventually was just pink-ish, since I carried it around everywhere. Through a thousand hugs and a thousand nights being gripped by a young kid as he slept, the pink all left, leaving only the –ish and Bunny has been –ish colored ever since.

Some animals come with a smile permanently pasted on their face. I have this little black bear that my sister gave me called Andre. He looks like he’s scowling if you see him straight on, but if you tip him up a little, you can see that he’s really grinning. Bunny, however, doesn’t have a smile. He may have at one time, but most of his mouth got worn off. Now it is more a look of longsuffering. He looks at you with his big eyes and small, worn out mouth, not smiling exactly, but always being there for you.

Those aren’t his original eyes, by the way. I chewed off his plastic eyes when I was young, so my mom sewed on new ones. I’m not sure how many sets he’s had, actually. I think he might have that expression for a reason.

Bunny also wears a little shirt made out of an old sock. It’s got little holes for his stubby arms but since it’s a sock, it’s always rolling up, revealing his belly. I spend half my childhood rolling it down and straightening it out. But, like that one cowlick in the back which is impervious to hairspray, gel, curses, and tearful invocations, it only takes a minute each time for that shirt to pop back up.

Bunny’s most distinctive feature is his neck. Originally, he had a normal neck, but the neck is the perfect place for a young child to hug a stuffed animal, and eventually his neck got all thin and stretched out, so it wouldn’t support his head any longer. He spends his days with his head permanently flopped over at a 30-degree angle, a longsuffering look on his –ish colored face.

You might think that Bunny has had a pretty rough life, and on some levels, you might be right, but he’s also had a pretty charmed life. After all, he has two lucky rabbit’s feet. I used to bring Bunny everywhere and we used to travel thousands of miles every summer to go visit family. Several times I left Bunny at hotels and relatives’ houses, but he always got shipped back to me, much to my relief.

Somewhere along the way, I got a stuffed dog named Crackerberry, which was good because that gave Bunny a friend. He was much more robust than Bunny and since he missed the terrors of toddlerdom that Bunny endured, Crackerberry has stood up much better over time. I used to sleep with the two of them pushed together, which was pretty much all that saved Bunny from totally disintegrating over the years.

For the last few decades, Bunny and Crackerberry have enjoyed a quiet retirement together at my parents’ house. Who knows if another generation will eventually play with them and love them, although Bunny might have gotten all the love he can handle for one lifetime and should probably sit the next generation out. Sometimes I think they might be lonely and sometimes I even wish I were young again and back in my little attic room with the two of them. But that’s life, and at least they have each other.


My Life’s Dream

dreams

(This is true.)

Not to sound too much like Donald Trump, but I have the best dreams. They’re fantastic, really. No one has dreams like me. Absolutely no one. Sad, really.

The problem is, I can rarely remember them when I wake up. I wake up knowing that I just had a fantastic dream, no idea what it was about.

However, there is one dream that I have had over and over again. For decades. It is one of the defining features of my life, although almost no one knows about it. Until now, of course. You are really privileged, dear reader. I just hope you realize that.

It’s more of a location than a specific dream, but I keep coming back to it and referencing it in dreams so often that it’s as real to me as, say, New York City. Actually, I’ve been to this place more often than I’ve been to New York City.

It’s a large warehouse or industrial complex, up on a hill with trees around it and reached by a long winding road. Sometimes it’s abandoned, sometimes not, but there are almost never any people there.

I first dreamed of this place when I was a teenager, I think. It was abandoned then, and I sneaked in and started digging in the floor. What I found was a large open space and then more space under that. There were man-made tunnels going out in all directions and further down and further down, it went, maybe forever.

Every dream is slightly different, but it’s always the same kind of place with empty tunnels and dark spaces going down and down out of knowledge. Just a few weeks ago, I dreamed that I was camping with my family and we drove past that place. I saw it up on the hill and knew it was the same place I’d been dreaming about for half my life. I wanted to bring them all up to show them the place, but we didn’t because dreams frustrate you just as much as they enthrall you.

Anyone who has read my (still unpublished) novels will be able to see this love of vast, dark spaces pretty easily. It is a theme that excites and fascinates me and make me feel that heartache longing, redolent of nostalgia and homesickness for a home I’ve never seen. I’m not sure why, but that’s me.

It’s why I love the work of H.P. Lovecraft or House of Leaves or Empire of the Ants. It’s why one of my favorite parts of Lord of the Rings is when they are in the mines of Moria. I am at home in huge, dark spaces. It’s what I dream about when my conscious mind takes a break and I let my subconscious out of its box, to play and plot. To dream.

The-House-house-of-leaves-692472_800_600

The House, from House of Leaves (Source)


Prodigal

FF181 Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Night sleet timpanied against the café windows. Jenny sipped her last two dollars in coffee form.

“He’ll come, hon,” the barista said. “He’ll get your message.”

“He wouldn’t want me back. It was a stupid thought.”

“Just wait.”

Jenny stood. “Thanks anyway for using your phone.”

The door banged. A man in soaked clothes hurried in and spotted Jenny.

“Listen, I’m sorry I ran away, Dad. I’m so sorry I took the money—” Her words were cut off by the man’s crushing hug. Cold tears like night sleet ran down his cheek onto hers.

“Thanks for calling,” he said.

 


Onion Gum: A Thank-you Note

Dear Gus,

Thank you for the onion-flavored chewing gum you gave me. What a great gift to get for your best friend for his birthday. It really helped my life out a lot. I’m not being sarcastic, by the way.

You see, I didn’t notice the little clues on the package that would have indicated it was a gag gift. I just put it in my pocket before I went to my girlfriend Jessica’s house for dinner. I knew her father liked gum so I gave him the pack. This is my girlfriend’s father who doesn’t really like me since he thinks I joke around too much and don’t have any purpose in my life.

Well, I found this out later, but he just left it in his pocket until the next day when he was going to work. He takes the ferry across the bay to get to work and he was standing by the railing on the side and struck up a conversation with a woman and pulled out the pack to have some gum. He offered the woman the first piece.

She took one bite and started to gag and cough and was flailing around so much that she fell overboard. They stopped the boat and since there weren’t any life preservers nearby, Jessica’s father held his camera out for her to grab the strap. He is an amateur photographer and that camera is his pride and joy. He named it Desiree, I’ve heard.

Anyway, the woman grabbed hold and pulled herself aboard, but she ended up breaking the camera strap. Jessica told me that he got that camera strap from her grandfather just before he died.

There was a coast guard cutter nearby, and it came over to see what had happened. All in all, the ferry got in 40 minutes late, which means Jessica’s father was late for work. That might not have been a big deal normally, but he had a huge presentation and totally missed it. Turns out that the CEO of the company showed up unexpectedly too. They fired Jessica’s father on the spot.

Well, he blamed everything on the gum, which means he blamed everything on me. He’d never liked me much anyway, but now he was furious at me and forbade Jessica from seeing me. I was thinking of marrying her, but after that, things looked pretty grim. Actually she was pretty pissed at me too, so when he got home and said he’d been fired and it was my fault, she suggested we take a break apart for a bit.

I swear I wasn’t being sarcastic when I thanked you for the gum. Just bear with me.

It turns out that Jessica’s father was looking at the pictures on the camera that night and noticed one he didn’t take. Apparently, when he was reaching over to let the woman grab the camera strap, buttons got pushed and he ended up taking a picture of her. It was unplanned but it was perfectly framed and showed the angst of human existence as we struggle to stay afloat in a boundless sea of existential toil. Or whatever. That’s apparently what Time magazine said when they bought it from him for a ton of money. He said the word Pulitzer was mentioned a few times. Also, his portfolio is getting more attention now. He’s actually going to start a freelance photography career, like he’s always dreamed of.

Jessica’s mother really believes in signs so she convinced him that all this happened because of me and the gum. He called me himself to apologize and to thank me. Then Jessica called and so we’re back together again. I’m thinking of proposing, since her whole family loves me now.

So again, thank you for the gum. It really changed my life.

By the way, if you ever give me anything like that again, I’ll kill you.

Your friend,

Andy


My Terrible, Horrible, Heroic Summer

Writing Prompt #1: Write about going back to school after summer vacation.

Writing Prompt #5: Write out the best or the worst day of your life.

I dreaded going back to school after such a summer, dreaded seeing the breathless looks of admiration and hearing the praise from teachers and students alike. I didn’t want to endure the fame when all I felt inside was agony. Finally though, the day came, and I went.

“There he is!” I heard a girl whisper to her friend as I walked down the hall.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. I saw him on TV.”

Everyone had seen me on TV. I must have given a hundred interviews in the last two months, but the worst was the one they played over and over, the one right after it had happened, when I was dirty and out of breath and wearing that blood-stained T-shirt that I couldn’t bear to wear again, but couldn’t bear to throw out.

My first class was English with Mrs. Robins. “I want everyone to write about what they did this summer, okay?” She giggled slightly and glanced over at me. “When you’re finished, maybe I’ll get a few of you to read yours out.” She glanced over again. Other kids were looking too now. We all knew who would be the first person “randomly” chosen to read.

I played baseball with my friend Terry, I wrote. There, I was done. I’d done that.

Mrs. Robins walked by, looked down, and frowned. “Write about the most important thing that happened to you. You know.” She gave me a meaningful look and walked away.

I closed my eyes and for the first time in more than a month, I let myself go back to that overcast Saturday morning when it had all happened, when I had become a national hero. The worst day of my life.

*        *        *

It had rained the night before, on that day, and when I left my house before dawn and walked the mile and a half to the bus stop, the air smelled clean and freshly showered. It took the bus forty minutes to get to the city and then fifteen minutes for me to walk to Precious Angels Orphanage. Lily was waiting for me outside. She took my hand, almost shyly, then leaned over and kissed me softly on the lips.

“Was it hard to sneak out this time?” I asked as we walked down the street, heading downtown.

“Nah, Frances was fast asleep. Easy.”

“Will you get in trouble?” I asked. She shrugged and squeezed my hand.

We walked all the way down to the harbor and had ice cream at a small parlor. My ice cream melted as I watched Lily savor every bite, letting her eyes close in silent pleasure.

“Do you ever get ice cream in there?”

“Of course.” She snorted. “It’s not Oliver Twist.” Then, grasping her bowl in both hands, she crossed her eyes and in a terrible British accent said, “Please sir, may I have some more Rocky Road.” I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. It was then, when I was gasping for breath and trying not to pee myself, that I realized how much I loved this girl. It made me glow inside, like I was Ironman with an untouchable arc reactor, powered by Lily.

“So what do your parents think of me?” Lily asked, as we walked along the beach, watching the waves roll in. There was an odd smell of rot in the air coming from somewhere out to sea.

“They’re dying to meet you,” I said.

“What did you tell them?”

I shrugged. “The truth.” I looked out to sea, not looking at her. Lily coughed and wrinkled her nose at the smell but I felt like it was at me, as if the stench of my lies were rolling off me.

No one knew about me and Lily. It wasn’t that she was an orphan. It wasn’t that her mother had died of a drug overdose when she was five and she had never had any other family. I knew that wouldn’t matter to my parents, that they would love her like a daughter. They would love her so much they might even try to adopt her and then . . .

And then she would have parents who loved her and everything she’s ever dreamed of and I would have lost her forever because you can’t date your sister even your adopted sister, ran the frantic undercurrent of thought I would never allow to be voiced, not even in the lonely sub-basements of my mind. If no one knew, no one could ever call me petty or selfish, or accuse me of maybe, just maybe taking everything away from Lily because boyfriends might come and go, but parents are a strictly limited commodity.

The smell was getting worse and I was just about to suggest we get back to the city when the ocean started to recede, like watching the tide go out in fast forward. The word tsunami bolted through my mind, and I looked out to sea, dreading to see that mountain of briny death rushing towards us. What I saw was even worse.

It was some sort of thing rising from the water, taller than any known animal, crawling on four legs out of the sea until its vast barnacle-encrusted bulk was swinging free of the water. It was not heading directly for us, but towards the city.

Lily was smarter than me. She was already pulling at my hand, trying to run not towards the city but away from it down the beach. I ran with her, but turned back to take one last look. A tail whipped out of the water and sliced towards us, four feet above the ground. I dropped and pulled Lilly with me, but she stumbled and fought to stay upright. I screamed at her, “Get down, Lily!” but as I said her name, I heard the sickening crunch as the tail hit her and threw her across the beach.

The next moment, I was kneeling beside her, praying with all my might, although I could see it was hopeless. She had just enough life left to squeeze my hand before she died.

No cameras caught the next five minutes and so no one knows how I did it. They’ve even tried to hypnotize me to find out. Here is all I remember: wet, foul-smelling scales that went up and up like a mountain. It was like a dream, just climbing that mountain of horror, fueled by rage, hoping to find Lily at the top, knowing it was all in vain, climbing anyway.

They tell me that I must have climbed up the creature’s back and stabbed it in the eye with a piece of driftwood. I have to take their word for it. They found me lying on the dead creature’s head, my arm up to the elbow in its eye socket, still clutching a three-foot piece of driftwood like some poor man’s Excalibur. I’ve seen video of that, so it must be true.

Four people died that day on the beach in the space of five minutes, including Lily, but they were practically forgotten as people breathlessly calculated and exclaimed on how many lives I had saved. No one connected me with Lily. No one questioned the blood on my shirt; they didn’t know it was hers, and I didn’t tell them. It was like I still wanted to keep her all to myself, even the bloody shirt and the pain that ate away at me like cancer. I couldn’t go to her funeral. I held one for her by myself, the night after my appearance on the Late Show. I thought about joining her, decided against it.

*        *        *

I opened my eyes. Everyone else in the class were still writing, describing in detail that one camping trip they took, the girl they met at the movies, the swimming party they went to. Mrs. Robins was still glancing my way every few seconds, silently urging me to write the glorious hero story they were all expecting.

I took out a clean piece of paper, took a deep breath and began to write:

This summer I lost someone I loved. Her name was Lily.


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