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by by Eileen M. Levitt, SPHR | March 10, 2009


I have recently been recruiting for positions at my firm (as opposed to recruiting for clients). I must admit, I am looking for a rare individual, what I consider the cream of the crop. The interesting thing is that I am not lacking applicants (we have 500 to date), but I feel as though I lack quality applicants. In addition, I have noticed a few things that might be beneficial for job seekers and employers alike:

1.     Cover letters - To me they are a mirror into the soul and thus the person. What is the person telling you? Are they sending a form letter? Did he/she read the ad? Is the cover letter relevant to the position? What is his/her personality? Can he/she write? Why is he/she applying? All these questions can be answered from that one letter - which is why I like them so.

2.     Attachments - The interesting thing is that for our most recent ads, we have specifically requested no attachments. Why? They take too long to download, and too long for our virus filters to sort through them (mind you, my firm gets about 1,000 resumes a day between all our clients). Plus, we still get viruses (albeit accidentally) from the attachments.

3.     Functional resumes. I really like to know what someone did and where he/she did it. I find that the functional resumes can really hide a lot. As a result, I don't read them the way they were intended and find myself passing on the applicants.

4.     Simple directions - If your ad states to include salary or salary history of some kind. Did the applicant provide it? Did you ask for references? If you want the cream of the crop - I really believe that to weed out applicants, having some kind of test is critical.

5.     Faxes and mail - They seem so antiquated now. I tend to wonder whether the person is techno-savvy.

6.     E-mail and mail - Did the person send the resume/cover letter from his/her work email? Is he/she using his/her company resources to find a new job? I once received a cover letter (snail mail) on company letterhead. I have also received (many times), resumes with cover sheets that have company information (logos - thus telling me it is company property). Yikes!

7.     E-mail - Did they send it from their own email, but have an email address like sexkitten or beerbuzz? I wonder how they would behave at the company picnic.

8.     E-mail - Who is sending the resume? The e-mail address says one thing, the resume says another. How do you find that person later?

9.     Error of omission - Many times, applicants leave out jobs from their resumes that are relevant to the position they are applying for, yet mention those jobs in their cover letters and/or interviews. In these cases, I always wonder why. What is he/she hiding?

Just a few thoughts. Happy hiring!

Eileen Levitt, SPHR is our Vault recruiting expert and president of The HR Team, Inc. in Columbia, MD. She can be reached at (410) 381-9700 or Keep up with human resources trends and issues, subscribe to "The Team Player," The HR Team's free monthly newsletter. Just click the link to send a subscription e-mail:


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