There’s simply no science that a career and job search expert can refer to that can be used to guarantee that a recruiter will call you once your cover letter (if you’ve actually sent one) and résumé hits their Inbox. Even a spot-on performance match can’t get past the dumbass biases – or just plain dumbassability – that many recruiters and hiring managers carry with them to the office each day.

Where do people get their job search advice from? Do they even ask these experts if they actually know any recruiters? Or do they confuse “marketing gurus” with “talent scouts”? (Another reason for recruiting to never report to marketing)

Seriously:

To Whom It May Concern? Nothing says “lazy jobseeker” more than this salutation. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re going to ask me how does one identify the recruiter or hiring manager – and I’ll show you how freakin’ easy it is.

Dear Sir or Madame? Oh, this one is so much better – if you’re applying for a job at the Alien Area 51 Cathouse in Nevada (cut out the comments – I Googled “legal brothels in nevada”).

Dear Recruiting Professional? This one always makes be cringe. My – that last word is an awfully big assumption; might as well just use Dear Recruiting Rockstar.

Hi,? I seem to get this one quite a bit from overseas jobseekers. Makes me check to see if they have a first name. Yep – every time.

Dear Bob? My name is Steve. Douchebag.

What does get me to reply?

I know I’m different but as much as the five examples might turn many off and cause these turned off recruiting professionals to pass on a candidate, a very wise mentor long ago informed me of Weinberg’s Second Law of Computing and how it related to recruiting:

If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. ~Gerald M. Weinberg

As it applies to recruiting, companies who “assess to exclude” rather than assess to include do more harm to their short and longer-term bottom line than any lying-on-their-résumé-weasel CEO could ever do. The only thing I can say for certain about any jobseeker with a perfect cover letter and résumé is that they have a perfect cover letter and résumé. I can’t determine their expertise or performance-ability from reading their collateral – only speaking with them can get me to this end.

Some of the best performers I know have résumés so bad that even career services consultants would puke a bit in their mouths ;).

This is why I don’t read the cover letters first: The battle against cover letter stupidity is still tough to overcome, even for this recruiting graybeard. So I wait. I’ll read the résume´; if this is promising, it’s off to the LinkedIn profile or some other secondary source. I’m looking for signs of gold rather than the presence of coal. In other words, I'm looking for performance, not just the presence of accomplishing tasks. Stuff that makes me think, "Dang, this person is special." Tell me – what's your special?

Finally, the cover letter.

And if it’s really, really bad, I’ll call. I just have to find out what compelled someone to write such a horrible job search tome (on a more philanthropic note, those who know me, know I make these calls to help jobseekers out).

Even if my name isn’t Bob…


On Monday, 10/27 at 10AM PT (1PM ET), I'll be joining my friend Dawn Rasmussen on her Google+ Hangout, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know From Recruiters… And Were Afraid to Ask." No  holds barred, no fluff. Just stuff you should be able to use to convince that recruiter or hiring manager to call you back. Here's the link to the event.

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