Getting the Job: Tips from a Hiring Manager

Susan Wheeler, chief of staff for Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, shares tips and insights from a hiring manager’s perspective about looking for a job. A version of that post is printed here with her permission.

Susan Wheeler, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo's chief of staff

Susan Wheeler, chief of staff for Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

To my young friends who may soon be or are currently looking for a job (and maybe to some of my older friends, too): In the past few months, I have had the opportunity to hire for three positions and feel compelled to share these observations. Pardon the soapbox.

1) Read the job description. If it is really a position you want or think you are qualified for, please apply. If you are just shooting out resumes in the dark, hoping something sticks, you will be shooting for a LONG time. If you don’t fit the qualifications, please respect the employer enough to not submit your resume. Spend your time working on applying for positions you want, not just any position that gets your foot in the door of where you “sorta wanna be” soon.

2) Only submit the materials requested. Don’t submit a writing sample if none is requested. Write a cover letter. Take all opportunities to sell yourself, but don’t presume you are more special than anyone else and submit your master’s thesis or your article published at The Heritage Foundation UNLESS you are asked to do so.

3) Recognize your resume has a dollar value equal to what you want to make at that position. If the job pays $30K or $50K or whatever, that’s how much that paper is worth. Treat it appropriately. Spell words correctly. Use punctuation properly. Keep it succinct. I have never been impressed by a resume over three pages; actually, I’ve never read to the third page of a resume. You have lost me by then.

4) It is entirely possible your resume will look very similar to everyone else’s. This is not advice to print on pink paper or use creative fonts. Rather, put something on your resume that makes you interesting. It could be a hobby, an assigned work responsibility, an educational experience—just find something that makes you memorable, i.e. the girl who played lacrosse, the guy who was the lead in his high school play, that sort of thing.

5) A cover letter is another avenue to share why you should be considered for the job. It should not be a recitation of everything I can read on your resume. Don’t waste your second piece of paper telling me what I can already read on the first piece. And if you are given the name of someone in charge, please use it. Do everything you can to assure the person reviewing your materials that you are interested in THIS job, not A job.

6) Proofread your documents. And then proofread them again. And then proofread them a third time. And then give them to someone else who didn’t write them and hasn’t lived with them through several drafts to proofread for you. Some mistakes can be fatal, particularly if you tell me you are detail-oriented and then misspell “public” in your “Objective” section.

7) If you are applying for a job beneath your skill or experience level, explain why I should still consider you. If you are applying for a job that you are not trained for or have limited or no experience with, please explain why I should still consider you. Don’t assume I will figure it out on my own. Use your cover letter or your email to offer more information.

8) Bugging me every day or frequently about your application or materials is not proof of persistence to me. It is proof that you will drive me crazy if you work for me.

9) Be on time and adhere to deadlines. If the application deadline is tomorrow and you just learned about the opening, it isn’t my problem. It is yours. If you cannot be on time for an interview, get an explanation to the interviewer as soon as possible.

10) Know something about the company or organization. There is a vast amount of information out there. I don’t expect you to be an expert about my organization, but I do expect you to know something about it, enough to know that you want to work HERE.

11) If you get an interview, send a thank you note. In fact, you could just have the note with you. Finish the interview, step into the hallway and write the note, and then hand it to the front office staff or drop it in the mail. It is just good manners.

12) Do not just drop by to check on the process or for a short interview. That demonstrates a lack of respect for my schedule and my time. I rarely meet with someone who just drops by.

Jobs are hard to come by these days. Good bosses are hard to come by most of the time. Most good bosses will want you to come prepared to an interview, be interested in the job and have confidence in your abilities. And, they will want some evidence that you care about their time. All of that starts with a piece of paper or two that you most likely email to someone you haven’t met. Looking for a job is considerably easier when you take a little time and care about where you apply and what you apply for.

Climbing down from the soap box now.