These Are Important Small Things That Make an Impression with Employers

Potential applicants complete paperwork for security guard positions at a job fair held at the Federal Fire Department on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy/Nardel Gervacio)
Potential applicants complete paperwork for security guard positions at a job fair held at the Federal Fire Department on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy/Nardel Gervacio)

I recently conducted a round of hiring for my company. During the process, I saw many outstanding applications from attentive candidates.

The ones that stood out to me had personalized their cover letter to the job description and my company, were realistic with their expectations, and clearly showed how their experience related to the job I was looking to fill.

Many other applications fell flat. Was the candidate rushed, lazy or non-observant? Maybe they didn't know there was a "right" way to apply and a "wrong" way to make a first impression?

Here are some of the issues I noticed. Some on this list were shared with me by other hiring professionals:

1. Email signature. Your emails should close with a professional email signature that is accurate and simple. Your email signature should be your name (spelled out) with a phone number and email address listed on separate lines underneath. If you choose to include your LinkedIn profile URL and other online materials, be sure to spell out the URL since it may be printed out (losing the hyperlink).

2. Email name. Are you still using the email name you set up during deployment when you were messing around on the internet? Today, that email address can send the wrong impression if it isn't professional and easy to type in. For instance, an email address of "BigDaddy4U@gmail.com" is not professional. Using Steveeedwards7462710@hotmail.com would be hard to manually type in if a recruiter wanted to contact you. Instead, use your first and last name, including a middle initial if you need.

3. Typos. Typos in your resume, email, application -- anything -- will present a red flag to an employer. Take the time to proofread your materials several times. Then, have a colleague, friend or spouse proofread your materials to be sure they are accurate. Mistakes happen, but we need to avoid them whenever possible in the application process.

4. Poor grammar. Similar to proofreading for spelling, make sure your grammar is polished and professional. Avoid using slang or overly familiar language. If a candidate starts a cover letter with "Hey, Lida …," I find it unprofessional. Remember that your materials may be forwarded on to several people, or printed out and shared, and you want to make a good impression throughout the interview process.

5. Asking for the obvious. Yes, I've had candidates ask me for my mailing address or website address. I've also had them start the interview with, "So, what do you do here?" In today's information age, you are able to learn a lot about a company online, reducing the need to ask questions that can feel like a waste of time to the hiring manager.

6. What you state you want should match the job. If your LinkedIn profile and resume say you are passionate about working in health care, don't write that your dream job is to work in real estate on your application. Recruiters can spot insincerity quickly.

7. Timeliness and responsiveness. In the military, you learned that early is on time and on time is late. In the civilian sector, we'll settle for on time. When a candidate doesn't submit information in a timely manner, is not responsive or is late for meetings or calls, it signals a lack of respect for the interviewer and the opportunity.

8. Look like you could work here. When you apply in person for a position, you should dress as if you work there. When you apply for a position online, consider how your online profiles show the same alignment with company culture and values.

9. Don't get too personal too fast. Whether it's from nervousness or a sense of familiarity, be careful about being too "chummy" with the hiring team too soon. It's acceptable to reference that we both went to private, liberal arts colleges, but if you make jokes about university sororities, thinking we'll bond over shared sentiments, you may cross a line.

10. Don't text the employer unless given permission. Unless the recruiter or hiring manager encourages you to respond or contact them by text, use only email and phone to communicate. For some, texting is still seen as for personal communications.

11. Accept there are costs with finding a job. Unless the job requires out-of-town travel or extraordinary measures, resist asking to be reimbursed for parking, dry cleaning, resume copying costs, coffee or meals etc. needed for the interview. While some employers will validate parking, they don't expect to financially support your job search.

12. Don't ignore the receptionist. This front desk person is likely going to be asked how you conducted yourself while you waited for the interview to begin. Making a good impression with the receptionist can go a long way!

Do these tips sound nitpicky? Maybe. But they can make an impression that is not in your favor. Don't chance it: Focus on being polished, relatable and professional, and you'll do great!

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