How to get yourself hired: Start by reading the job post.

It’s amazing what applicants get wrong. The number one mistake? Failing to read the job posting properly…

We’ve done a fair bit of hiring for Triggertrap this year, most recently for a Head of Happiness. Behind this fun job title hides a really challenging and important job: Being the face of the company, an educator of photographers, and the first port of call for just about any customer queries.

If you think about it, how your company is perceived by the world is a really important part of a business-to-customer company. As such, we’re trying really hard to find the right person for the job.

Wading through the dozens of applications, I’ve realised that a lot of people simply don’t read the information about the job they apply for.

For Head of Happiness, the job ad is riddled with hints that we need a good communicator. Among other things, we mention “crisp communication skills”, “flawless command of English” and “a snappy turn of phrase”. So, you’d think that anybody who reads this would put a bit of extra mojo into their application, right?

In most cases, the applicants had spelling and grammatical errors. One person even managed to spell both my name and the name of the company wrong.

The other thing that astonishes me is how few people actually bother reading the instructions. We ask for no attachments (Basically, I want a cover letter, a link to Flickr or other photo portfolio, a link to a blog or writing site, and a link to LinkedIn), but a full 75% of the applications had the CV attached as a Word or PDF file.

I get it, applying for jobs is hard work, and who has time to customise cover letters to every company you ever apply to, right? Well, no. Wrong.

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It takes an absolute minimum of research to make sure your cover letter is relevant. Failing to do that very basic thing will end your application’s journey in the nearest litter bit. Relevance is important. As ilustrated by this photograph, which is not. But it’s tasty, so it actually got your attention for long enough to read this frankly ridiculously long caption.

Generic cover letter? In the bin. Typos, grammatical errors, or spelling mistakes? Bin. Attachments when I specifically ask for them not to be included? Your cover letter had better be amazing, because otherwise I won’t open the attachment. Cover letter also an attachment? In the bin.

When you’re applying to any job, but especially a job in a small company like ours, you have to understand one thing: There’s only five of us, and we’re all run ragged. If we didn’t have other halves to go home to, we could easily work 20-hours days, and still barely make a dent in our to-do lists. That’s why we’re hiring another member of staff: We need more help. But hiring is, in fact, another load of work that someone has to take on.

In the case of Triggertrap, we don’t have an HR department. That means that I have to spend time reading and responding to each of the applications personally, in addition to all the work I do as a CEO, tea-boy, and general busy-body. If the very first impression you make on me is that you’re unable to read and follow a couple of really simple instructions, you’re in essence giving everybody else a head start. If you fail to run a quick spellcheck on your e-mail before you hit send, well… That’s just daft.

On the other hand, if you craft a great cover letter, you have my attention. If you make me smile, you’re half-way there. If your cover letter is so good that I actually read some of it out to my co-workers, you’ve practically guaranteed yourself an interview. One example of this is the applicant who started their application letter with “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t apply for this job for the free beer. Although the rest sounds pretty good too”.

With an opener like that, I might even be tempted to overlook a spelling mistake or two. Not three though; that’d be pushing it.

Haje is a founder coach, working with a small, select number of startup founders to build exciting, robust organizations that can stand the test of time. Find out more at Haje.me. You can also find Haje on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by

CEO of Konf, pitch coach for startups, enthusiastic dabbler in photography.

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