Why I won't hire you - confessions of a hiring manager

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get a job that you thought was perfect for you? It’s easy to blame the employer for not giving you a fair chance, but the truth is, it might be your application materials or some other easy-to-fix thing that’s keeping you from your dream job.

Jarell and I are currently looking for a marketing intern for our parent company, Escape the Classroom. We love to hire interns because it makes us feel like we’re “giving back” for all of the help we’ve had along the way in our own careers. We know it is nearly impossible to break into most industries right out of college unless you have some sort of experience. So, we are happy to provide experience to students majoring in fields like education, marketing, graphic arts, and technology.

The problem is, a lot of intern applicants make giant mistakes that keep us from hiring them, and I don’t think they even know it—which is why I’m writing this probably-too-honest post. This list isn’t just for interns. If you’re having trouble getting a job, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are guilty of any of these very correctible job application sins:

1. Your Application is Incomplete

The number one reason we don’t hire a job applicant is simply because their application is too incomplete for us to decipher who they are, what their experience is, or what they want to do. We know job applications are annoying, so we try to keep ours rather short, but we still have applicants who don’t answer the questions we pose.

We have no choice but to reject applicants who don’t bother to fill out the entire application. We look at every application with a compassionate spirit, but not all employers do. Most are going to take your unwillingness to complete the application as a sign that you don’t really want the job…and they won’t bother to call you for an interview.

No matter what, always complete the job application in its entirety. It’s the first impression for a lot of employers and you don’t want their first impression of you to be that you’re either uninterested in the job or you’re lazy.

2. Your Resume (or application) is Unprofessional

When we see short resumes for intern candidates, we understand that they don’t have a lot of experience and that’s why they’re coming to us for an internship. What we don’t understand is why they list “JV Cheerleader” as work experience on their resumes.

Here’s a quick list of unprofessional things we’ve seen on recent resumes and applications that you should change immediately:

  • Parents or other family members listed as references
  • High School clubs and awards listed as work-related accomplishments
  • Traits like “punctual” and “hard worker” listed as skills
  • Email addresses like “PookieBear92” or “SandysSister34”
  • Missing contact information, like your phone number or mailing address
  • Missing “professional profile” that starts the story of your resume
  • Glaring typos and spelling errors (the obvious kind that elementary students would notice)

3. Your Resume Does Not Fit the Job Description

Employers don’t have a crystal ball. They can’t see how your skills and talents align for the job they advertised unless you show them.

You need to craft a customized resume for every job advertisement you answer. This means rewriting your professional profile at the top of your resume to include keywords from the job description, rewriting your job descriptions for previous jobs to show that you’ve done tasks that will transfer to the job for which you are applying, and rewriting your skills list to reflect the skills the job advertisement lists.

If you’re applying for a web designer job, don’t turn in the same resume you used for a chicken fryer job at KFC. You may be qualified for both jobs, but you have to reframe your resume’s story to show an employer you’re the right person for the job. Click To Tweet

4. You Didn’t Include a Resume at All

One of the most disheartening things we see in job applications is when a job applicant doesn’t send us a resume at all. Instructional designers like our Escape the Classroom mottos of rebelliously smashing boring educational experiences, so they often fill out the contact form and tell us how much they’d love to work for us…but that’s it. They don’t include a resume or cover letter.

We always answer our emails. We answer these well-meaning educators and ask them for their resume, cover letter, and online portfolio. They never respond.

You need a resume. It’s your argument that you’re the right person for the job. You can’t apply for a job (outside of retail or food service) without one and expect to land an interview.

We will makeover your resume for just $49!

5. You Didn’t Include a Cover Letter

Probably 50% of the job applications we receive do not have cover letters included. It only takes a few minutes to craft a cover letter, so why would you avoid it?

The cover letter is your introduction. It tells an employer who you are and starts your argument as to why you are the perfect person for the job. Not writing one for each individual job tells the employer you aren’t serious about the job and don’t really care if you get it or not.

6. Your Cover Letter is Rude

Believe it or not, the only thing worse than not submitting a cover letter at all is submitting a rude one. When you try to bully an employer into hiring you or making a quick hiring decision, you are not going to get the job. No way. No how.

I say this because we have applicants send us cover letters that end with a statement like, “I have many other job offers, so I need to know right away if you plan to hire me.” No, I don’t plan to hire you.

This kind of statement tells the employer that you are high maintenance, conceited, and trouble. You might think it shows confidence, but it doesn’t. Employers want confident employees, but they also want kind employees that they can trust to make good decisions and impress clients with their diplomacy and helpful attitude.

As a female business owner, the last thing I want to do is hire someone that tries to bully me into it. It’s just not going to happen.

7. You Don’t have Work Samples

We don’t expect our interns to have full portfolios yet, and we give a lot of thought into assigning interns to projects they will be able to use to build solid portfolios so they have something to show future employers. However, if you are applying for a full-time or part-time job in any sort of art, design, writing, or technology-related industry, you must have work samples.

If you don’t have anything you can show, make something. In instructional design, I always want to see finished projects from potential designers so I can have a conversation with the designer about how they planned and built the project. It tells me a lot about whether or not the designer is a good fit for the kind of work we do, because not all instructional design is the same. We focus on high-end projects with a lot of media. Some designers were only trained to plan instruction in text-based format. Both are important types of instructional design, but the skill sets are very different.

The same is true with graphic design. Every artist has her own style, so employers want to see if the artist style matches their needs. Samples are key to this sort of job.

If you work in an industry that requires work samples, make sure you have them!

8. Your Reference Leaves You a Bad Review…or Doesn’t Know You at All

When you list someone as a reference, make sure you have their permission. Believe it or not, we have potential employees list references without telling the reference they plan to list them. So, we call the reference, and they tell us unflattering things about the job applicant. Even worse, some don’t remember the job candidate at all!

Your references are your allies in finding a job. When you list a reference, you’re telling the employer that this person has nice things to say about you. It’s absolutely tragic when your reference trashes you. There’s no coming back from that one—we simply aren’t going to hire you.

9. You Don’t Answer Your Email Regularly

If incomplete job applications are our number one reason we don’t hire someone, number two is when a job applicant doesn’t respond to our emails. Once we’ve chosen our interns, we always email them and confirm that they still want the job and then ask them to attend an information session with us. After the information session, we send them a contract to sign, which includes a start date. Amazingly, at least 1/3 of the potential interns we select never bother to reply to our emails.

If you want the job, monitor your communication channels. You should check your email no less than twice per day.

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Who am I Going to Hire?

This post may come across as negative, and it’s not meant to be that way at all. Everything I’ve listed in this post as a reason I don’t hire someone is completely fixable on the part of the job applicant. I will interview the job applicant that completes the application in its entirety, attaches a resume that shows he or she is the perfect person for the job, writes a lovely, friendly cover letter that explains why he or she wants the job is qualified for it, and answers my emails in less than 24 hours. Most employers feel the same way.

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Why I Won't Hire You - Confessions of a Hiring Manager

If you’re still in college or just graduating high school, you’re probably looking forward to summer vacation. This year, instead of lying around the pool all summer, you could use your time to gain skills and experience for your resume.

The truth is, it’s hard to get a job right out of college if you don’t have both experience and a strong skill set. Use your summer vacation productively, and you could have both!

Here are ten things you could do this summer to prepare for your launch into the real world:

1. Get a job

The obvious thing to do to improve your resume, gain experience, make new contacts, and learn new skills this summer is to get a job. It doesn’t have to be a horrible, soul-sucking job, though. You can find a job that lets you enjoy the summer sun and have a bit of fun, too. Here are a few job ideas to get you started:

Lifeguard

You can make money sitting beside the pool or the ocean with a job as a lifeguard. You will need to take a Red Cross certification course, but they’re easy to find in most every area. This job comes with perks like getting to use the pool everyday, gaining valuable prioritization and life-saving first-aid skills, and a killer tan (wear sunscreen kiddos. Skin cancer is a bummer).

Camp Counselor

If you’re into arts and crafts, campfire songs, and s’mores, you could find a job as a summer camp counselor. Most offer on-the-job training, but you’re ahead of the game if you have first-aid certifications. You don’t necessarily have to live at the camp all summer, either. You can find day camps pretty much everywhere these days.

Theme Park Ride Operator

If you love roller coasters and cotton candy, you can find work this summer in one of the many theme parks across the country. Outside of Florida and California, most theme parks operate on a seasonal basis, which means they have hiring blitzes in May, just before school is out for the summer. The perks with this job include free theme park admission, unlimited rides, and discounts on food and merch.

Tutor

If the hot sun and summer mosquitos aren’t your thing, you can sit in the cool air conditioning with a tutoring gig. Check with your local library, community college, or high school summer programs for tutoring positions in your strongest subjects.

If you’re traveling this summer and looking for an online tutoring gig, try VIPKid. They help children overseas learn conversational English.

Retail

Online shopping hasn’t killed the retail market yet. A job in your favorite store can be a great way to spend the summer. You can network with people from all walks of life while scoring an excellent discount on your favorite stuff.

2. Take an Internship

Internships are one of the most valuable things you can do to improve your resume and network with people in your industry. It’s a great way to try on a career before you commit. You can find internships at places like internships.com, and if you’re majoring in education, communications, or graphic art, you can always intern online with our parent company, Escape the Classroom. Email your resume (no judgment) to info@escapetheclassroom.com if you’re interested.

3. Start a Side Hustle

You can show your future bosses that you’re a disciplined self-starter by starting a side hustle this summer. You could mow your neighbors’ yards, babysit school-aged children, teach senior citizens how to use their phones, or walk dogs. The business opportunities are endless, and we found 15 ideas in our Summer Side Hustles for College Students post.

4. Learn to Cook

Learning to cook will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine. First, you’ll save money by not eating out as much. Second, you’ll be able to impress colleagues at office parties with your baking cred. Finally, you will always know what to do to welcome a new boss or greet new clients—you’ll bake them something delicious!

Check Groupon for deals on local cooking classes. Your local community college likely has a few, too. If you’re looking for a solid cookbook that will solidify its place in every kitchen throughout your lifetime, pick up theBetter Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. I use the 1953 edition,but it’s very hard to find.

I recently discovered the Thug Kitchen cookbooksand love them! If you’re into tell-it-like-it-is language and very good nachos, try this cookbook series.

5. Volunteer

One of the best ways to beef up your resume is to volunteer for local charities. It’s a great way to network and help your community, and it shows that you’re willing to put yourself out there for a good cause. It’s also a good opportunity to explore your passions.

Help Disaster Victims

If helping people in crises sounds exciting to you, try volunteering with the Red Cross. They always have volunteer openings, and their trainings look great on a resume. You can volunteer as little as four hours per month!

Show Love to Rescue Animals

If you love animals, you could spend your summer volunteering with your local humane society. Humane societies take in animals of all sorts, including cats, dogs, horses, and livestock. They need help with everything from simply socializing rescues to bathing and feeding them.

Build Houses for Families

Habitat for Humanity has projects all over the country. Building houses can be a lot of fun, and you’ll learn skills that will help you as a homeowner later.

Help Your Local Charities

Of course, your local Rotary and Kawanis clubs have community interest projects, too. You can also Google to find local soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food banks, and special interest charities. My favorite places to volunteer are state and national parks. You’ll find plenty of volunteer opportunities if you do a little research.

6. Travel

We’re not talking about traveling two hours to see grandma this summer. Instead, think about traveling somewhere that you can volunteer, work, or meet people working in your industry.

A good place to start is with a Google search for “volunteer abroad.” You’ll find websites likeVolunteerHQ that put together trips abroad for specific projects like teaching, childcare, art, healthcare, community improvement, or wildlife conservation. The catch is that you have to pay your own way, which can cost $150-600 per week, plus a $300 registration fee.

7. Learn to Drive a Stick

Driving a stick is a solid life skill. If you can master this skill, it means you’ll be able to drive cars when you travel internationally. Some places reserve automatic rental cars for Americans, but they charge a small fortune for them.

Driving a stick opens doors to driving bigger and faster vehicles, and you’ll be able to drive any company car without the embarrassment of having to request an automatic. While it may not be a skill you list on most of your resumes, it’s still a productive way to spend a few hours (or days) this summer!

8. Build an Online Portfolio

Believe it or not, most people Jarell and I interview for our instructional design business do not have online portfolios. They rarely even have work samples to show us. Even though we’re open minded and glad to help those new to our business, we have a hard time hiring anyone who can’t show us they can do the job.

You need an online portfolio in a lot of industries. If you create anything at all, you need an online portfolio. The summer is the perfect time to start one.

If you don’t have a lot of web development knowledge, you can use a drag-and-drop tool to build your online portfolio. There are a lot of options, but our favorite is BoldGrid via our web host, InMotion Hosting. You choose a magazine-worthy layout and then just add your content to it. What could be better?

Other options include free tools like Weebly, or tools included with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Remember though, the more professional your online portfolio looks, the more employers will want to hire you. As soon as you have your portfolio up and running, link it to your LinkedIN account and other social media.

9. Attend Job Fairs

You can learn a lot about many industries all at once by visiting job fairs this summer. If you are undecided about your major and your career path, a job fair is a great place to explore ideas.

Put on your favorite dressy outfit, upgrade your resume, and hit the job fair with an open mind. You’ll find job fairs listed on social media, on flyers at your library and community center, in your local paper, and on Craigslist. Your morning news may cover them as well.

Shake hands, network, and grab business cards and brochures. Even if you don’t find a job you want while at the fair, the networking you do there can get you a job later. Don’t forget to follow everyone you meet on LinkedIN when you get home.

10. Learn a New Skill for Free

Instead of letting your brain rest all summer, why not spend it learning something you really want to learn? You can learn most anything you want for free with just a few good Google and Pinterest searches.

Is there a piece of software that’s used throughout your target industry? Grab a book about it from your library or watch Linda.com videos to learn it. Most schools have memberships to Linda, so check your college library for information.

Do you need quick roll-out-of-bed hairstyles to make your life easier when you go back to school this fall? Pin your heart out and watch YouTube videos to master any ‘do. The Freckled Fox is my favorite blogger for hair tutorials. She makes it easy with videos and step-by-step picture tutorials. In fact, here’s an easy bouffant bun for if you decide to take my advice and go to a job fair.

Your local library offers free classes every week about technology, books, and the community. Look at their list and see if anything appeals to you.

The point is, do anything but nothing this summer. Time is too valuable to squander. It’s the students who use their time wisely that will score the good jobs at graduation. Build your resume while you have the time.

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15 Things You Can Do this Summer to Build Your Resume Before You Graduate College