How not to apply for a job

A job hunter offered to come in for an interview because she was “needing a daytime job to fill my time.”

She will not be hearing back.

The applicant, a young adult, may well be reliable and honest, as she wrote in her email to a business owner. But there was nothing in her attached resume to indicate she was remotely experienced in — or even interested in — the owner’s particular business.

Her well-meaning offer to “let me know if I can be of any use” is the kind of application that makes employers laugh or cry. At nearly every business gathering I attend, employers talk about their biggest challenge: hiring good people. This applicant, as presented, doesn’t hit the mark as “good people” according to most criteria.

To be fair, the inept application isn’t totally her fault. The job hunter represents millions of young Americans whose education and career timelines were interrupted by the past recession. Countless millennials have been unable to pursue degrees and get started in targeted careers because of the economy.

It’s not uncommon for young adults — who at one time might have earned a degree, focused their job search and quickly landed — to still be grasping at employment straws. It’s not uncommon for resumes from applicants in their mid to late 20s to list a succession of short-term, low-skill, entry-level jobs.

The problem is that a resume listing previous jobs as a lifeguard, classroom assistant, medical note taker, dog walker and hotel maid doesn’t tell prospective employers anything about the candidate’s true skills and interests. And if the candidate still is pursuing a degree, hiring chances fade if the application is sent to a business unrelated to that field.

It is undeniably tough to get one’s first professional job. Employers seek the “perfect” candidate, one who will hit the job running and doesn’t need much training.

Also, competition for openings is plentiful. Young people with no relevant experience often are up against applicants with degrees, internships or work experience that directly apply to the job at hand.

That’s why the top rule for job hunting — using personal contacts — is always preferable to spraying the Internet with scattershot applications. If job hunters have someone who will recommend them to their employers, there’s a chance that hirers will look further into the applicants’ character, their will to work and long-term goals.

Job hunters should always tell a prospective employer, as specifically as possible, what they can do for the organization. Job hunters shouldn’t simply offer themselves to “be of any use.” Most organizations aren’t going to take the time or interest to figure out what that use might be.

About The Writer

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and

(c)2015 The Kansas City Star

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