This one is for the job seekers

After many years of screening, interviewing and hiring job applicants, I have a few suggestions for those of you who are looking for a job.

1. When filling out an application or preparing a resume, focus on what you can do for my company. For example, if you have always worked in a factory or some other entry level position, rather than simply listing your job title, tell me something like, “record of 100% attendance for more than a year,” or “selected for prototype line because of quality record.” If you’re an accountant trying to move up to a management position, put your accomplishments or outcomes on your resume. “Met every monthly closing deadline,” is much better than “prepared monthly financial reports.”

2. Always give me a clear and accurate job history or record of school attendance. Details are important here, because if you become a finalist for hiring, I will definitely check your references. Make sure your employment dates are accurate. Don’t overstate your pay or job title; you’ll be eliminated immediately if I find you’ve lied or “enhanced” your work or school history. If you were fired for poor attendance don’t say you were “laid off.” There’s a big difference between the two. If you had less than excellent grades, don’t try to hide that, but be prepared to tell me why.

3. HR professionals who are screening applications and resumes look at each one an average of only 20 seconds before moving on, so it’s important to catch my eye and keep my attention. A generic resume or incomplete application will go in the “not now” pile, to be reviewed in detail only as a last resort. Answer every question on an application, specifically and honestly. “Job applied for” means a job title, not “Any.” For resume writers, if this is not your strength, ask for help. If possible, ask a professional recruiter to take a look and make suggestions. But don’t be tempted to pay $350 or more for a “professional” resume writer to build a resume for you. In my experience, the best they can do is write a generic resume, and that won’t help you get a job.

4. When you do get an interview appointment, take a shower and put on clean clothes before you go. Even if you go directly from work to an interview, find a way to clean your face and hands and change into clean clothes before you show up. That’s just simple courtesy. And dress appropriately for the position. Don’t wear a suit to interview for a factory job. Jeans and a tee-shirt are fine. For office and professional positions, wear your Sunday best so that I’ll “see” you as a professional.

5. If you can’t make it to your interview on time, I may greet you and thank you for coming, but I won’t interview you. My thinking is if you can’t show up on time for an interview, you won’t show up on time for work. It’s just another way to screen applicants.

6. As a hiring manager, my job is not to hire you, it’s to find a reason not to hire you! I have so many applicants that it’s impossible for me to see everyone who applies, so when I do see you, make sure you don’t give me any reason not to hire you. As a job seeker, it’s important that you follow all the hiring guidelines, be truthful, separate yourself from the crowd, and give me several reasons to hire you. And if I tell you that you’re “not a good match” for the job or the company, don’t take it personally, but don’t ask me “why not?” I won’t answer that question for fear of creating legal problems for my company.

When you’re looking for work, do everything you can to make yourself attractive to recruiters and to set yourself apart from other applicants. Otherwise, you won’t make it as far as an interview!

Readers, feel free to share this post with your children, unemployed friends and family. Comment below, or email me at

About Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR

Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR, is the author of three non-fiction books, including the Second Edition of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits. She is a retired Human Resources Director with more than 40 years' experience. Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, she is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
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