How to Avoid HR’s Wall of Shame. Job Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs (advice from non-library HR pros)

by Josh Rimmer, Senior Editor, INALJ Missouri, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana

How to Avoid HR’s Wall of Shame. Job Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs  (advice from non-library HR pros)

JoshRimmer_INALJWVDefinitively not a prestigious accomplishment to include on your resume, but mistakes do happen. Did you come across an ideal job opportunity and rushed to submit your application? Overtired and missed an embarrassing typo? Wrong address or the wrong name of the employer? These silly mistakes, unfortunately, will reflect poorly on your application, and you will be flagged for both carelessness and a lack of attention to detail. No doubt about it!

Okay, so this may be completely obvious to you and every hiring manager on the face of this earth. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, mistakes do happen. However, being chronically careless cannot be an acceptable excuse! It would also be wise to know what the general pet peeves are for HR and hiring managers. So what are the common mistakes to look out for? I’ll list some of the common mistakes made by job applicants as noted by potential employers/HR managers, as well as their feedback.

What’s that smell? BS! Not meeting minimum requirements. Guess what, minimum requirements are there for a reason. If the listing asks for 2 or 3 years of experience and you simply do not have it (professional, internship, or volunteer). Or a specified skill set that is essential for the position. Don’t bother putting in! Sorry to be a downer, but potential employers can see your inexperience and that you lack the requirements of the position. It is a waste of their time and your time. Yea, it may be a position you really want, or maybe via your cover letter you can “talk”, and entice your potential employer into an interview. However, you will be exposed later on. Use these types of job postings as teachable moments. How can I attain the skills or a particular skill set in the immediate future? Is it a skill I can teach myself and practice, or do I need practical experience?

Don’t be an egit! Proofread! I am entirely self-conscious about my writing, I’ll admit it. I worry and fret over little mistakes. Am I using the word in the right context? Should I hit the semicolon button, as sweat pours down my face. Does my cover letter have a good flow? I am far from perfect, and certainly no English major. HR managers are probably not as well; however, if something comes across as wrong and reads terribly then it will make a difference in their opinion of you as a viable candidate. I highly doubt your application will be passed on. I’ve mentioned this before in other articles, but have a proofreading buddy! The ideal proofreading candidate would be someone not affiliated with libraries or information science. You need someone who can call you out if you are using too much jargon, or not speaking to the requirements of the position. More importantly, someone who can spot auto-correct mistakes. In this job market, you cannot afford to be careless. Take, or make the time to ensure your application is as close to flawless as possible. Read over your cover letter, resume and job application 2-3 times.

Tailor your cover letter to the job. Unless you’re a masochist, many of us have a cover letter template we use and edit, as we apply for different jobs. Yes, maybe certain job elements are redundant for reference or technical service job listings, but take the time to write your cover letter to the job! Maybe you’re enrolling in a course through ALCTS on Electronic Resources Acquisitions. Use this as an example of being active in the profession. Do not take your cover letter outline for granted! So a particular cover letter template received multiple hits from different employers. Do not bank on prior results to stay fruitful! Always use examples, be concise but be terse. Maybe even use the Library’s name in your cover letter. Show some effort, your hiring manager(s) will take notice!

Length. A topic I debate with people, as I think it is okay to go over a page on a cover letter. Now by over, I mean not quite a page and a half. A two-page cover letter, maybe you’re doing too much rehashing of your resume. You will find arguments supporting either side of the cover letter argument. To borrow a term from secondary school, employers suggest using your best judgment. If, at any point, it reads like your resume then you have missed the mark, would be my suggestion.

Professionalism. Know your audience. Now is not the time to be a comedian, swear in a cover letter, or tell your employer to contact you at Spanktastic@hotmail.com. Now is the time to establish a professional email account, if you have not done so! I think this advice on professionalism would be common sense for all, however take a look at some of the horrible cover letters on Google Images. Be respectful, timely –first consideration by, implicitly implies due date – and be polite at all times. Clarify at the end of your cover letter if they have problems downloading a document, or if they need to ask you an additional question, how they can best reach you. Let them know you are available and willing to engage in a conversation about the position!

  6 comments for “How to Avoid HR’s Wall of Shame. Job Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs (advice from non-library HR pros)

  1. January 26, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Very important point to add- advice coming from non-LIS hiring pros is often not a good fit for LIS applicants. Take with grain of salt!

  2. December 8, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks to the reader who submitted grammar fixes! All fixed!

  3. December 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I’ve got to disagree with your first point. Many employers tend to list their “wants” more than “needs” in their requirements, and these are often flexible in my experience. I’ve applied to several positions for which I wasn’t, technically, qualified…and as they say, the proof is in the pudding. If I’d followed your advice, I’d have missed out on three great, rewarding jobs.

    • December 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I agree and have had the same experience- I applied for a job that required an MLS when I was only half way through my program. And I got the job and started INALJ! So definitely agree.

      I publish contrary points of view but agree with you that often they are “wants” not necessarily “needs” and that is varies drastically employer to employer.

      – Naomi House, MLIS and INALJ founder

    • December 8, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      Carrie,

      Glad to hear your experiences have been to the contrary. The information in my article stems from the opinions and advice of hiring professional from articles I have read, outside of the LIS field. One common theme stressed was receiving applications from under-qualified candidates. I personally related to this advice, as I applied for a position and was told by the hiring manager I was not qualified. However, -not sure how common this is- I was given advice by the hiring manager, as to how I could improve my qualifications for a future application with the library system.

      Maybe I was a bit too negative Carrie, but I do feel that applicants having nothing to lose by “throwing their hat in the ring.” Anything can certainly happen, and I would never dissuade anyone from trying. However, in the case the job opportunity does not materialize. The point I was trying to make was to use the application experience, as a building block. Move forward, correct deficiencies and ready one’s self for the next employment opportunity.

      Thank you for your comment Carrie.

      Best Wishes,
      Josh

      • December 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm

        Nicely put :) – Naomi

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