143 résumés sent in; only 8 led to an interview. Why?

This was written by Jim Pawlak, who writes a syndicated column titled "Career Moves." It ran in the Sept. 30, 2012, edition of The Palm Beach Post. The headline is shown above, in the heading. This is why you need a great cover letter and résumé.


In the hiring world, employers often find that truth is stranger than fiction. My daughter got a first-hand Twilight Zone hiring experience. She is the executive director of a downtown development authority. Its marketing director resigned a few weeks ago. An ad was placed.   


In part, it read, “bachelor’s degree required; marketing degree preferred; merchant/community event experience and excellent writing skills required; prior work experience in a nonprofit or municipality desirable; salary range $37K-42K; see www ... for a complete job description and submission requirements.”   


She received 143 résumés. Clearly, many applicants had paid no attention to the ad’s requirements, or to the information on the website. Seventy-two had no cover letter; they were immediately eliminated. Sixteen did not follow other address/ submission requirements and were eliminated.   


That left 55 — and she hadn’t even started reading cover letters or résumés. Upon review, 15 had no college degree; 12 had associate’s degrees. Of the 28 with a bachelor’s degree, only 15 were in marketing; many weren’t in business fields.   


Relative to “merchant/ community event experience required” ... 15 of the 28 (including four of those with marketing degrees) had no event experience at all. Of those who did, responses included: wedding planners, banquet managers, those who sold products through in-home parties, and a person who organized children’s birthday parties — none of these met the “merchant/ community event” requirement for the position.   


“Prior work experience in a nonprofit or municipality” was listed as desirable. Only eight had the experience; six of these had the marketing degree, too.   


Here are some other things she noted. People don’t proofread: “Dear ‘Perspective’ Employer” (prospective); “Please ‘except’ my application” (accept); “I look forward ‘too’ meeting you” (to); “I’d be an asset to you’re’ organization” (your); “Marketing — ‘Its’ my passion (It’s); ‘Manger,’ Special Events” (Manager).   


Grammatical errors were more frequent. Any candidate whose résumé contained a spelling or a grammar error was eliminated because the ad said “excellent writing skills required.” While this job is geared to written communication, many human-resources recruiters also believe that such errors in personal marketing materials are indicators of poor work habits.   


Résumé objectives included: sales, customer service, hotel catering, wedding planner, medical sales, social services, and working with people with disabilities. What do any of these have to do with a marketing director’s position? If you are going to put an objective in your résumé, customize it to the ad.   


My daughter’s favorite cover letter read, “I expect I’ll have your job within two years.” Her second favorite was the one that actually applied for her job. Neither candidate made the initial cut. The topper was the applicant who e-mailed a 63-page document package: a cover letter, a four-page résumé, college transcripts, copies of awards won, and copies of proposals she had written.   


It took my daughter and her staff eight hours to come up with a list of eight viable candidates. Their task was to trim that list to five “ready to interview” candidates. Their approach was simple: They came up with six phone-interview questions; three were based on the candidate’s résumé; three were based on information on the downtown development authority’s website.   


Each staff member would call two candidates. Then they’d compare notes and make decisions. If a candidate seemed a good fit, my daughter, as executive director, would conduct a second phone interview.


There was no need to do second phone interviews, as three candidates eliminated themselves. How? They stumbled over questions about accomplishments on their résumés and, apparently, had done no research on the downtown development authority; they could not even answer questions about its community-building mission.   


One also asked if the salary was negotiable. To avoid such issues, the salary range was clearly stated in the ad.   


All five remaining candidates met the ad’s degree and experience requirements. Three met the ad’s marketing-degree preference; four worked for a nonprofit. Out of 143, there were five. Soon there will be one.