Something to think about when applying for a job


Hiring people is a risky business

I am part way through hiring an additional customer service person for Myfreight. Hiring is one of the most important tasks a business undertakes. The right people in the right positions are priceless, whereas bad staffing choices will cause you to lose customers or worse.

I hire well – just ask the people I hired!

I work with a terrific group of people. For most of them, I’ve been the one to read the resumes, manage the interview process and negotiate agreements. My philosophy of finding people we like and then teaching them the skills they need has been an unmitigated success. We frequently receive feedback on the professionalism and capability of the staff along with positive comments about the culture at Myfreight.

The hiring process

When I’m hiring Developers, I run that through an agency ( – check them out, they’re brilliant). That saves a lot of time filtering out the skills on my shopping list. Also, Melbourne’s a competitive market and sometimes the good developers don’t know that they want to come and work with us.

Customer service and administration staff are another matter. Our process is:

  • Ask the staff if they can recommend any friends or family
  • Ask again
  • Try and poach a good person we know
  • Advertise online and wait for the rain

Once we receive the applications online, the next step is a quick and brutal cull. Even with only 100 applications, I don’t have more than 1-2 minutes on each application to file to “Not suitable” or “Shortlist”.

The only information I have to make this decision is the cover letter and the resume.

The cover letter

I am as likely to grant an interview from a cover letter as from a resume. Writing a cover letter shows you have at least given a passing thought to the particular job for which you are applying. It indicates that you want a job with me, not just anywhere.

Your cover letter should be designed to prompt someone to read your resume. It’s a brief window into who you are. You have a chance to highlight the reason you are applying for this particular job. This is relevant information.

For an employer, hiring a new staff member is risky. This is especially true in Australia where it is almost impossible to fire an underperforming employee unless they have been given counselling sessions and written warnings. Your cover letter starts to tell the employer a story about whether you are a safe person to hire.

When writing your cover letter, don’t just rewrite your resume. If you do that, you are wasting an opportunity to engage with the person who has to decide whether you make it past the initial culling process.

Perhaps using a little intrigue is helpful. You have interesting stories, and you have had any success that makes you a good hire. Tell the story, or a few snippets.

If you decide not to provide a customised cover letter, you have reduced your interview chance by 50%. You are putting all the bets in the resume basket.


The resume should be a relevant snapshot of your career as it pertains to the role for which you are applying. If you are 40, McDonalds as a teenager is not relevant. Your resume is a substantiation of your suitability to either do the job or grow into the position.

Your education is important, your work history is relevant and your achievements, both personal and career, are important.

Here’s some quick Do’s and Don’ts:

Four things you should do on your resume

1. Use spellcheck.

Please. If you have spelling mistakes in your resume, it shows that, not only you can’t spell, but that you don’t have the basic computer knowledge to use spellcheck. Or it means you didn’t think to have your resume proofread. It possibly indicates you don’t care enough about your resume to spend 5 minutes reviewing it.

2. Say why you left.

If you were at one job and are now not at that job, you have left. An employer can figure that out. Do not be afraid to indicate the reason you left a former position, such as “position was made redundant”, or “decided to travel”.

It’s okay; people leave. Don’t leave mysteries. Your potential employer hasn’t got time for mysteries and wants to reduce risk as much as possible.

A caveat to this. If you left a previous position for a bad reason, then you can leave that out. My MD fired a guy who threatened to kill me. Don’t put that on your resume.

3. Present your resume as a PDF

Even in this connected age, some browsers and Operating Systems and programs do horrible things to documents. Protect yourself from a Windows/Apple/Chrome mismatch by saving your resume as a PDF. This means it will always appear the way you want it to look.

While I’m on that, resumes where a person has spent a few minutes on formatting stand out. Just use a simple template that is easy to read and presented in a logical manner.

4. Use a big, bright font.

Some employers are old, others have bad eyesight, and all of us work long hours and get tired eyes. You have no idea how difficult it is to read some resumes. The cursive script goes straight to the “Not Suitable” bucket.

Three things you should not do on your resume

1. Too many adverbs and adjectives

You did not “diligently” enter data into the ERP. You just entered it. Using too many adverbs and adjectives seems like you are trying to bulk out dull or tedious tasks.

Some tasks are straightforward and boring! That’s okay, employers know it, too.

2. Do not over qualify yourself

If I think someone is going to become bored in the role I’m hiring them for, I won’t hire them. If I believe that they are going to leave as soon as a more challenging or better-paying job comes along, I won’t hire them.

This is tough on the candidate. They may say that it is up to them to decide what jobs they want, and what career options are attractive.

My advice to you, on your resume, is not to include your MBA or Doctorate in Mathematics if you are applying for a data entry role. Don’t include your time as a commercial airline pilot if you want to drive a forklift. Just don’t do it.

These things may come out in the interview, but then you’ll be able to explain your reasons for wanting the job, rather than the career path you have been on.

3. Do not use clichés

“Is a team player and can work independently”. Google that and you will get something like About 1,990,000 results (0.64 seconds).

Don’t write it.

Instead, indicate where you have succeeded as part of a team, or independently. Show, don’t tell.

“Can use Windows, Word, Excel, etc., etc.”. Yes, you can. And that’s because everyone can now. It’s 2016. If you are an absolute software guru and the job calls for it, then list your proficiency or qualifications. Be careful and don’t oversell.

“Passionate”, “Dynamic”. Yes. Great. Back to the point about too many adverbs and adjectives. If you are applying for a position with a refugee organization and your previous experience involves three years on the Syrian border, you probably don’t need to write that you are “passionate” about refugees and humanitarian causes.

Final point – be yourself

When applying for a job, be prepared for the consequences of success. If your application does not reflect who you are and the career you want, then neither you nor your employer are going to be happy.

Ensure that your cover letter and resume are an accurate reflection of your history and the future you want.

Good luck with your ongoing search.

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