How not to apply for a job

I shouldn’t have to say it: don’t answer your phone in the middle of a job interview. But more on that later.

Anyone who’s taken a look at lately knows I’ve been super-busy lately — I’m still mentally exhausted from Town Meeting (I’m thinking the live-blogging may have to become a regular thing if I can track down a pay-as-you-go broadband card for my laptop) and now covers six towns.

A couple weeks ago,  I actually left Grafton and visited one of Dan Kennedy’s Northeastern University classes to talk about the changes in the news business that led to my unexpected career trajectory. It was really a rather interesting experience to be in a room full of journalists-to-be and it became a rather lively discussion (He talked about his recent class visitors on Media Nation this week. I need to read Steve Garfield’s book, by the way). I’m hoping a few might remember me fondly come graduation time and send a resume my way because, yes, I’m still actively looking for reporters.

How often do you hear that these days?

We’ve been looking for writers through Journalism Jobs and, I have to say — it’s a bit of a slog. My inbox is flooded with resumes, but a good portion of them are from people who are simply wrong for the job — they’re in another time zone, they have experience well beyond my fairly simple requirements, they have ridiculous salary demands.

And more than a few of them don’t appear to have even read the job listing. For me, the most important paragraph is this:

Writers who live in the area of Northborough, Westborough, Holden and all towns surrounding Worcester MA are encouraged to apply. Please send your resume, clips (links to stories are okay) and a cover letter that not only shows us you’ve looked at our sites, but leaves us wanting to know more about you.

I’m convinced most of these are generic cover letters that they are sending to every job listing, and then they wonder why they aren’t getting interviews. Shouldn’t job applicants, especially reporters, be doing a little bit of research into the company to see if they’d be a good fit, especially since that’s suggested in the ad?

The cover letters range from “hey there, here are my clips” to small novellas on their study abroad experiences in Nepal and dreams of becoming an entertainment journalist or NFL sportscaster. Some of the letters from recent graduates read like revised versions of their college entrance essays. Sell me on your qualifications, definitely, but tell me this: how are they going to help you cover Westborough?

I’m reading all of these applications as the picky editor that I am, keeping in mind that just a year ago, I was unemployed and thinking I wasn’t going to be working in news again unless I somehow managed to get a Grafton site off the ground (and really, what were the odds that one small town would have both a writer who wasn’t sure about the ad thing and a sales guy who wasn’t sure about the writing thing both thinking about websites?).

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I should gently explain to the guy who didn’t like my “attitude” when I noted he didn’t attach his resume that I can’t call him for a job interview if I don’t have his phone number. Maybe I really do need a fashion writer, a movie critic and someone to cover the rockin’ nightlife of Northbridge. Maybe the conceptual photographer and videographer would do a kick-ass job covering the GEA Spelling Bee.

But I draw the line on answering your phone in the middle of the job interview. Seriously?


2 thoughts on “How not to apply for a job

  1. Well first of all, it’s your job to staff, so you can be as picky as you like.

    I would think common sense should tell you to do some degree of customization before sending my cover letters, but that’s me. I’m not a writer, but I would see it as an opportunity to shine and show your writing skills, right? I’m a designer, so I’m certainly not going to use a MS Word template for my resume! “Nit picks” aside, answering your phone and calling an interviewer out on alleged “attitude” are inexcusable (along with typos).

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