Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Impressions

So I am ALSO at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash today talking about... among other things... BIRTHDAYS! (also the Summer Solstice and Harry Potter), but HERE, I wanted to share some of my observations from the last few weeks of hiring.

For the record, I think we've found our man... ironically, literally a man... (I say ironically, as men are pretty rare in the position which is functionally a secretary.)

But in screening letters and resumes I noticed a couple things that I thought fit the WRITING thing, too...


A cover letter and a resume... bio... anything that goes the first time you contact someone has to be ABSOLUTELY typo free. No misspellings, no formatting SNAFUs.... Heck, I rejected TWO different letters for misusing WHOM. I don't need to say it HERE, but there are definitely people who missed the WHO is a subject, WHOM is an object part of the lesson.

On that formatting thing, I had a letter that was single spaced for ONE paragraph and double for the rest... (for the record, business letters are single spaced within paragraph and double between)


Now in a resume this CAN be tricky because you aren't quite sure what they want and you definitely need to be inclusive, BUT there are a few tricks. And they apply to the writing contacts as well.

Read what they are LOOKING FOR! Reinforce these points, even if they are already there—especially if they are not absolutely clear. This is especially important if your credentials don't speak for themselves. Mention the keywords in their description. If they say they like edgy, reiterate what is edgy about your work. If they say they like character growth, doesn't hurt to point out the lessons your character learns as part of your hook.

Make it easy to LOOK at. Sounds simple enough, but paragraphs have sort of a sweet length... three to six lines, maybe... more than that and you might lose the point. Less than that, and they might think you are me (I am lousy for short paragraphs)


I had a letter from someone wanting to work for my FIRM. Hello, large academic department of a university. I do NOT represent a firm. It's disrespectful to not edit your standard letter with the tiny details for each and EVERY specific case. This isn't as bad as 'dear agent' but SHEESH... if you are bothering to apply... take the extra time to not get shoved to the 'yeahno' pile right off.

I mean in MY case, I GET 'dear hiring manager' or some such thing, because the specific contact is not available, but for pete's sake, you can mention the DEPARTMENT.

So there you have it... Advice a la Tart.

Keep in mind the lighter hearted blog IS linked above

And just because it was sorta serious, it does NOT mean it is not ALL NAKED, ALL the TIME this week. It's BIRTHDAY WEEK!


Crystal Pistol said...

Thanks for the sound advice. I may still have a problem with the whole whom/ who thang. It's a good thing i'm employed by my parents. :)

KatieO said...

Great post and great reminders for all of us, job seeking or agent shopping.

Happy Birthday Week!

Jan Morrison said...

Excellent points. And why I need a line editor even for my query letter! Luckily I live with Mr. Grammar Fanatic. He keeps me straight - except when he doesn't.
Keep up the nakedness my Tartlette, you are an inspiration. You may have some folk thinking this is the first day of summer.
Which reminds me that we FORGOT my dad's favorite saying on the first of May - Hurrah, hurray, it's the first of May, outdoor screwing begins today!
Ah well, better late than never and besides, if people had used that as a guide this year, in this province, we would have had a lot of frost bitten bits.

erica and christy said...

Yay birthday week!! (mine's Saturday)

Old Kitty said...

Being NAKED is not work - it's FUN!!!

Yay for finding your NAKED man!! :-) Take care

M.J. Nicholls said...

When I send cover letters I usually have to put "dear magazine editor" since they almost never give a name, or make it clear who'll receive the email. Same with jobs, sometimes you address Mrs Pieface and and Mr Cheesehead ends up reading it. Ah well. Love the Swiss cow.

Hart Johnson said...

Crystal-it's easiest to just only use whom if you have a preposition in front of it... TO whom or FOR whom. teehee

Katie-thank you!

Jan-Nice to have a live-in grammar guru! And That is a great phrase! Nice opening of the season--better a whole season than just the one day (the 8th of May)

Yay, Erica!

Jenny- teehee--let's hope he gets me, eh? I'd hate to have to get dressed to come to work.

Mark-and Mr. Cheesehead is always so touchy if it's misaddressed, eh? teehee

GigglesandGuns said...

Very sound advice from a Birthday Girl. Some of the applicants must have really frustrated you. ;)

Claire Chilton said...

I like Dear Sir/Madam - it leaves no room for error on the minefield addressing people incorrectly :)

Well unless the potential boss is another species, but that only happens in marketing ^^

Great blog Hart! Loving your work :)

Wild Child said...

Happy birthday to you, too!

LOVE this post. I, too, see lots of cover letters and resumes as part of my job. YES! First impressions do matter, though I do often forgive bad resumes if somehow I can see they've done some of the things I am looking for.

Don't forget consistency! If you are writing a resume, make sure your list starts with the most recent job and moves backwards. Also, make sure when making that list, all the information is formatted in the same way. That way I know you took the time to make it good.

So agree with the FIRM assessment. To me that says desperation and someone who is not taking the time to think about the job. As with agents, editing each and every cover letter to suit the job properly is the best bet, because it makes me think you care.

*steps off soapbox*

Sorry, such a pet peeve of mine. Have a great birthday week!

Siv Maria said...

Happy birthday week :) So busy burrowing that I have not been getting around as much as I would like, gotta lurk less and write more :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've had to sift through resumes before - some are sad. Makes you wonder how that person walks, talks, and breathes. Not well I guess.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great tips! I agree that personalization is really *key* and so is scannability (and I'm pretty sure I made that word up....)

Cold As Heaven said...

That cow in the picture reminded me of Atom Heart Mother,remember that bizarre and psychedelic album by Pink Floyd? I'm listening to it now on my iPod, for the first time in several years >:)

Cold As Heaven

Ca88andra said...

Great post with really good advice! I end up writing my sons' resumes because I'm such a perfectionist - but they have gotten the jobs!

Deb and Barbara said...

It's never a bad time to stress this kind of advice for the job-hunters out there. I say, "Thank you, Hart". With two daughters navigating the job market, it reminds me to remind them to be diligent!

Donna Hole said...

Wonderful post topic. The two - cover letters and queries - do go together like peas and carrots.

I work in employment services and I hear all the time from my clients that the cover letter is just something to fax over the resume. Yeah, thats like says the query is just something to put before the chapter samples.

Happy birthday Hart :)


Michael Di Gesu said...

Good evening your Royal Tartness.

You are so head on about this. So many people don't realize how important it is to have everything sent out as perfect as possible.

Thanks for the reminder.....


sue said...

Well said, and attractively illustrated too! I work in the field and assist people with their resumes. Sometimes they'll phone to ask the fee for working with them on a resume and greet the answer and explanation with "nah, it's too much effort and not worth the cost". I think the ones who really need to read your blog wont, and will then grumble about not getting an interview.

Happy birthday!

Lisa said...

That job posting was gone when I tried to apply. Fiddlesticks! (a word I would never include in a cover letter, btw)