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by SixFigureStart | October 22, 2009


Let's start this with a confession: I didn't work all that hard to find today's quote of the day. In fact, it was pretty much the first thing I saw upon opening my email this morning—it was embedded right in the "Quotation of the Day" section in the New York Times' morning news email. Rather than proving my own laziness, though, that just proves that it's a particularly intriguing, enigmatic quote, right? I mean, it persuaded me to read the article, so it must have something going for it. Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

"It was just shocking," she said. "I had never seen anything so big."

OK, OK, enough sniggering at the back. The quote is attributed to a woman by the name of Stacey Ross, "a corporate recruiter in Salt Lake City, who received 500 applicants for a single $13-an-hour job," according to the Times' email. The thing she's referring to in the quote is the stack of resumes that came spilling out of her fax machine in response to the job posting (which was for an administrative assistant at a truck driving school in Indiana).

As indicative of the rough times we're going through as that is, the story of how the winning candidate was eventually selected contains some great lessons for all jobseekers, and makes the full article well worth reading.

Lesson one: get in early…
When faced with a giant pile of resumes, the recruiter simply started at the beginning and forwarded on the most suitable ones from it until she felt she had enough. Any that came late by fax therefore didn't even get looked at.

Lesson two: …or get lucky
Despite that, the successful candidate applied later than most. The difference: she did it via the company's website, rather than by fax, so her resume didn't end up—literally—getting lost in the shuffle. As lucky as it may have been that she still got considered having applied at a late date, her experience underlines the importance of targeting your application rather than blindly sending your resume out there.

Lesson three: Employers do care if you're overqualified
Despite the low salary and menial nature of the work, the position attracted candidates with backgrounds including "a former I.B.M. business analyst with 18 years experience; a former director of human resources; and someone with a master’s degree and 12 years at Deloitte & Touche, the accounting firm." None of them got an interview, much less the job. The reason? They were all overqualified—the company was worried they'd leave as soon as the economy turned, so they selected for "the fair and middling talent that will work for the wages," and that could be groomed from within.

Lesson four: Take initiative (and all the crap the interviewer throws at you)

The guy who eventually made the hiring decision asked each interviewee a list of more than one hundred questions. At the end, he still hadn't made up his mind, so he threw in one more about whether you'd run to catch a foul ball at a baseball game or wait in your seat and hope it came towards you. The winning candidate was the one who chose the former, demonstrating that even among "fair and middling talent," employers value initiative-takers.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
--"Your resume? It's in here somewhere."

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer


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