Alchemize with Lauren

Take a #2 pencil and print, don’t write.

After a local firm ran a classified advertisement seeking a marketing director, my company was hired to weed through the hundreds of prospects that had submitted their resumes. The wanted to see only “the best of the best” and call them in for interviews.

It’s always interesting to be on “the other side of the fence”. Reviewing piles of resumes for the same position and comparing and contrasting to find the best fit both for the job description and the culture of the company.

What surprised me the most were how many of the basics were completely ignored.

These are areas where the applicant has complete control. Some applicants didn’t bother to even proofread their resumes! Blatant typographical errors, missing contact information and erratic formatting. This was just from a quick visual perusal, prior to getting into the actual content and skill level. Any, or all of these were grounds for immediately landing in the “no” pile. (Just as your teachers told you throughout your academic life, “Yes, spelling counts!”) The sad part was that with some time and effort these small problems could have been eliminated. And, while any one of these prospects, theoretically could have been ideal for the job, and now they didn’t stand a chance.

There are plenty of aspects in a job search where the control is out of your hands. The competition IS fierce. One applicant has a better education, or is a stronger match. Or has a brother-in-law in the finance department. But an impeccable, properly prepared resume is well within your power. And so is following directions to a “T”. Read the instructions thoroughly and follow them! If they want a cover letter, send them a cover letter. If they say “no phone calls”, don’t call. If they want the resume e-mailed, do so. Don’t bend, fold, staple or mutilate. Many of the instructions are placed in the ads are nothing more than a siphoning device, seeing who actually can follow directions. In essence, this is the start of the interview process.

Were you the kind of student who didn’t “round your answer to the nearest tenth when it was requested? Or the person who wrote in ink, when a pencil was clearly requested? Or vice versa?

Woody Allen has said that “80% of success is showing up.” It’s an off the cuff type of one-liner, and one of the reasons that so many people giggle and relate to it is that perhaps we all suspect it’s the bottom line truth. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Ask around. Look around. Everyone has at least one example of how they, or someone they know succeeded in something simply because they were there. And being there and following directions can get you one shot closer to your goal.

Lauren Castle is the owner of Impress Express, a professional image firm, focusing on career development, resume preparation, presentation skills, etiquette and interview coaching. We are members of the Professional Association of Resume Writers. For help with your image, posting your resume, or preparing your internet-friendly resume, contact Lauren directly at 858-459-7400. And, as always, please forward your image and career-related questions to for further information.