We asked a small business owner to give us tips on how you can impress HR—and how you can avoid making horrible mistakes when hunting for a job.
To ensure honesty, we’ve granted anonymity to yet another hiring manager. This new informant owns an art studio for children and adults. Here are his/her thoughts about cover letters and preparing for job interviews, as told to Aaron Weber.
EXPERIENCE IN OTHER FIELDS CAN BE RELEVANT
Prior similar experience is great, but how do you get that? A good cover letter that explains why your skills are relevant can overcome a lot of barriers.
When I was switching from gallery work to a law firm, I needed to explain how my experience organizing and marketing art shows, handling flighty artists, and doing basic bookkeeping pertained to the position at the law firm that I wanted. Make the connection for the employer so they don’t have to do it.
When I read cover letters now, I look for someone who sounds intelligent and doesn’t spew the same old trite lines about attention to detail, being a team player, yadda yadda yadda. Those are catchphrases that everybody uses, and I know they aren’t always true.
Be specific and concise about how your past experience or education has prepared you to work for me, and I’ll listen.
IF YOU DON’T PROOFREAD IT, I WON’T READ IT AT ALL
If you can’t bother to spell check something this important, then I don’t think you’re going to take the rest of the job seriously either. Have at least one other person proofread both your résumé and cover letter.
My favorite typo was from a cover letter that said, “My friends say I have ADT (Attention To Detail).” That one was priceless. I almost wish I’d kept it instead of throwing it away.
BE PREPARED, NOT AN ARROGANT JERK
Research the company before your interview. When someone comes in already knowing a good deal about my company, it shows they were conscientious enough to take the time to prepare thoroughly. Have at least one good question prepared to show you’ve thought about the position. And then listen to the answer.
Just yesterday, I interviewed a talented artist with no talent for human interaction. He came in the door already telling me about how his artwork was far superior to what we were teaching, which made me dislike him immediately. Then he would not… shut… up. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to find out the things that I actually wanted to know.
That’s three different deal-breakers: Not listening, not telling me what I need to know, and most importantly, being an arrogant jerk. Yeah, he could paint. But I’m hiring people who can teach painting, and he obviously couldn’t teach.
If you think you’re too good for this, you’re good for nothing.
Have a question for a hiring manager that you want an honest answer to? Leave it in the comments.