Copyright 2006 Ed Bagley
Power Secret One: Do Not Fill Out Job Applications
Job candidates should not fill out job applications because applications contain so much potentially incriminating and damaging information.
While it is illegal to ask you your age, a business can legally ask you your salary history, how much you want to make, reasons why you left jobs, your medical history, and specific references. This information alone is worth much to a business but can only hurt you, the potential hire, 99% of the time.
Job applications can be the “kiss of death” because the company (or organization) controls your information flow. They ask the questions and you are obliged to answer, or your possibility of being hired can be trashed.
When you use a resume and cover letter, you control the information flow, you tell them what you want them to know, and nothing else. While it is never a good idea to claim an untruth about yourself, you can liberally practice the sins of omission. When you have a back problem, you want the company to know about it when you place an insurance claim as part of your benefit plan.
When you reveal too much information too soon, you can create a seed of doubt with your potential employer. Once the interviewer or employer senses a seed of doubt, they begin checking for a chink in your armor, and who among us, if put under intense scrutiny, does not have a chink in his or her armor?
Like a pit bulldog on the prowl, they search for something, anything, negative about you to validate their suspicion, whether their doubt is justified or not. You are then thrown upon the scrap heap of rejects, and they move on to another candidate.
Any information about you that is a lightning rod should not be revealed, even when they demonstrate an indicated interest in you as a prospect, and you, in turn, are genuinely interested in the opportunity.
Many potential hires read an ad in the classifieds and then approach the business with this introduction: “I read your ad in the Sunday paper (or online) for an Administrative Assistant (or whatever the position is) and would like to fill out an application.” This approach misses the mark in that it invites filling out an application, which is a mistake.
When you feel you must go to the business with your approach, use this language exactly: “I’m interested in your Administrative Assistant (or whatever the job is) position. Here is my resume.” Then hand them your resume; it is hard not to take your resume when you are handing it to them. Give your resume and cover letter to the most important person you can reach.
A decision maker is much more likely to take your resume, peruse it, decide to interview you, and set an appointment to do so. On occasion, he or she may even interview you on the spot. In any event, you want your resume–and not a job application– in their hand.
When applying for a public service position (such as a state job, or a classroom teacher position), filling out a job application will be mandatory. When put under stress and placed under a time constraint, candidates unwittingly and inadvertently rush through the process, putting down any answer that comes to mind.
When confronted with this situation, never fill out the job application on scene. Take the application home, read the questions carefully, and think before you answer. When answering any question on the application, ask yourself this question: how could this answer appear negative, or damage my chances of getting an offer?
Most businesses in the private sector appreciate a resume and cover letter far more than an application, as the resume generally gives more and better information about you (ever try to describe your duties and responsibilities on a job application in one line where only seven words will fit if you print in small letters?).
You would not normally be filling out a job application in the private sector unless you are applying for the lowest of entry level positions. You should not be asked to fill out a job application at the management level, and if you are, there is something terribly wrong.
Power Secret Two: The Most Important Factor in Writing Resumes
Judgment is the most important factor in writing a resume. We can teach people a lot of things but there is at least one thing we cannot teach people: judgment. We develop judgment from the life experience of making judgments, and what experience shows us is that some people simply have better judgment than others.
People without good judgment keep running into brick walls because they have not figured out how to climb over them, walk around them, dig under them, or blow them up and walk through. This reflects a lack of judgment.
We raise our children to have a sense of right and wrong and to make good decisions when it counts. But try as we might, there comes that day and time when we are not there, and someone offers them cigarettes, or drugs, or something worse.
At that point in time, we hope and pray that our child makes the right decision because the wrong decision might lead them down a road from which they may never return. Their decision involves judgment. They cannot acquire good judgment by you simply telling them what to do, or not to do; they also need modeling, the power of whatever influence you may have with them, and osmosis: the process of making judgments, recognizing the results of the judgments, and making better choices.
Judgment is the most critical factor you are going to come to terms with in writing a resume, or judgment may be your most telling weakness when you go to the job market to test its effectiveness. Always remember that it is not just what you say, but how you say it that counts.