Dear Applicant: Here's why I didn't hire you

Dear Applicant:

I want to thank you for your application to my business. Unfortunately, we ended up hiring someone else. That said, because you seemed very eager for the position, I thought it might be helpful to you to understand why we didn’t hire you.

Let’s start with your cover letter/ email. When employers put out a call for a job opening, what they are looking for initially is to create a pool of worthy, potential applicants from a much larger pool of everyone out there who is looking for a job. That in turn necessarily means that the employer will be scanning a lot of cover letters/ emails fairly quickly so as to winnow the list and make it manageable. Your job therefore is to 1) get noticed, and 2) impress.

That means a few things:

For starters, your email cannot have any typos and/or misspellings. That is a sure sign of sloppiness, laziness or both. Similarly, it is very important to understand that your email is not a text to a friend but a communication to a potential boss. “You” is not spelled “u”; “For” is not written “4.”

Other problems we see in cover letters include things like being

Too long: I know you want to sway us, but expecting a busy businessperson to read five full paragraphs of everything you have ever done is unrealistic.

Impersonal: I cannot tell you how many times we receive cover letter emails that clearly are just a cut and paste job. Of course you will have a template, but you have to make it appropriate for the person getting the correspondence. So, instead of, for instance, “Dear hiring manager,” try and find out the name of the person to whom you are writing and address it to him or her personally. If that is not possible, at least make it friendly and relatable to the extent you can.

Finally, as I said, you want your email to jump out in a positive way. I suggest making it short and pithy, to the point, highlighting your great fit for this position, explaining why you would love to work for this particular company, and sharing some of your personality and enthusiasm for the job. At least for me, that is what works.

The other problems we see with job applicants are issues with interviewing. You need to show us several things in the interview:

1. That you can do the job: Yes, highlight your experience, but more importantly, show us how smart you are. Let us know that you can think creatively and work independently. Business owners are really busy people. Some like to supervise their staff closely, but I bet most do not. What we want are people who are capable and responsible and friendly and smart.

2. That you would be a good fit: An old friend of mine once gave me a great piece of advice about interviewing that I want to share with you today: If you get to the interview, the company is obviously intrigued by you. Yes, we want to know you can do the job, but at this point in the process, as my friend explained, we also want to know that we will like working with you eight hours a day, every day. It is your job to know our company culture and show us why you fit our style.

3. That you will make our jobs easier: As we all know, Millennials have mad technology skills. Let the interviewer know that you can, and are more than willing to, help out in all sorts of ways. Show us that you can not only do the job you are being hired for, but that you are willing to take the initiative and help out as needed.

Finally, let me point out that (and this is not insignificant) you need to dress appropriately, look the interviewer in the eye, maybe crack a joke, avoid saying “like,” and have good manners. On that last point, a thank you note after the interview is a great way to set yourself apart.

Thank you for your time applying for a job with our company and I hope this helps you get hired very soon.

Very truly yours,

Steven D. Strauss

Steve Strauss, @Steve Strauss on Twitter, is a lawyer specializing in small business and entrepreneurship and has been writing for for 20 years. E-mail: Website: TheSelfEmployed.


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