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How To Turn Off A Potential Employer
Adventures in Babysitting
My wife and I are looking for a sitter for our brood. We are using a service, Care.com, to find qualified people to watch our kids. We post a help wanted ad of sorts on the website and interested sitters apply for the job by sending us an email expressing their interest. Applicants have profiles where they outline their experience just like a resume. They have the opportunity to upload a photo, list their availability, and also list any relevant certifications such as CPR or AED.
They are also given ample opportunity to really turn off a potential employer.
Key words here: help wanted ad, apply, resume. We (the potential employer) need a sitter. We post a (help wanted) ad. You (the applicant) apply for the job. You send your profile (resume) for us to review. No different than applying for a job at Walmart. So why on earth would you treat your profile a.k.a. resume like an ad posted on a dating site?
Employers don't know what they need, but they know what they want. Through this, they eventually boil down a candidate that has a suitable mix that meets the need and fills the want. As an employer, I want a person who is reliable, well mannered, experienced with children, certified in CPR, has a background in early childhood development, has a spotless background check, has references, and has a positive personality that will not frighten the crap out of my kids. That is what I want. What I need, I think, comes close to that. (I really want a nanny but my wife disagrees.) Reality: what I want doesn't matter. What I need does.
If you were applying for a management job with Mega Corp, what would you put on your resume or in your cover letter? Would you note that your were a faith based manager? Or that you were ethnically diverse? Would you specifically state that you were male or female? Would you fill your cover letter with political, religious or philosophical rhetoric? Not likely. And I can tell you based on my experience as a hiring manager for a mega corp, if you did, your resume would quickly find its way to the circular file. For my new manager, I may want someone who closely matches my political, religious or philosophical views, but that's not what I need. (I can't ask questions about your religious or political views in the interview.) What I need is someone who is going to effectively manage my group and follow standard operating procedures. I need someone who is going to communicate well, take initiative, be in charge, handle problems, and ensure that the work of the group gets done on time, within budget and at the quality standards set forth by my mega corp.
You need to be able to tell employers that you will satisfy their wants and needs without crossing any lines or bringing up subjects considered taboo in the interview room. Look at what I want: reliable, well mannered, experienced with children, certified in CPR, has a background in early childhood development, has a spotless background check, has references, and has a positive personality that will not frighten the crap out of my kids. How do you translate that in to your resume or cover letter in terms of meeting my needs? Tell me you fit the bill by detailing your experience, your skills, your education, and tailor your information to closely match my want list. If you look at the job description or "want" ad, you can easily translate that in to a list of needs and requirements and tailor your resume to meet the need and want at the same time.
My search for a sitter is akin to a dating game, and the dating game shares many of the same traits as searching for a new job or new employee. I have had a job listing on the site for 2 days and I have received over 30 inquiries (applications). I have to narrow down the choices by what I see first. In this case it is the profile photo. In the case of Mega Corp, it is your cover letter.
My photo pass criteria: no cell phone pics in vehicles, no cell phone pics in front of the bathroom mirror, no pics from last night's party at the dorms, no ridiculous piercings (ridiculous is in the eye of the beholder), and definitely no crazy eyes. (We all know what those are, except of course for the people that have them.) Mega Corp's cover letter pass criteria: no mis-spelling, no "to whom it may concern", be on resume paper not copy paper, don't say "thanks" at the end, provide a general overview with one or two highlights, don't talk about what you have done or like to do, talk about how you will meet my need. At the risk of sounding trite, you need to put your best foot forward on the cover letter so the potential employer will look at your resume.
In the end, if you are careful in your approach and remain professional, you should survive the first round of electronic filtering and the next round of cover letter filtering. Making it seem like you are both what they want and need at the same time will help you get your foot in the door.