Select Page

Please take ten seconds and try to avoid screwing yourself over! Or not…

A few weeks ago, I wrote an advertisement for a management-level job opening at our business, and I posted it on The second sentence of the post was this:

Please read this ad carefully, and write a cover letter explaining how your experience qualifies you for this position.

The fourth and fifth sentences of the post were this:

You need to have experience with horses, and with horse people. If you’re not sure what that means, then this probably isn’t a good fit for you.

In two days, we received 48 applications through The results were so amazing that I feel that I have to talk to someone about it, because it’s too much for me to keep inside my head. Here’s a breakdown of the applicants:

Total applications: 48

Number of applications with no cover letter, or a cover letter consisting of 3 sentences or less: 30

Number of cover letters with 3 or more spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation problems: 11

Number of resumes with less than four sentences on the entire page: 1

Number of applicants with no horse experience listed: 37

Number of reasonably-qualified applicants: 7

Number of excellent candidates: 3

This is the first time I’ve taken the time to put all the stats together. I’ve been through the hiring game a few times now, and each time has been similar in the number of people who screen themselves out instantly. While I appreciate them thinning the list for me (said with a fake smile, because it really makes me sad), I feel like there is a major breakdown somewhere along the line. The fact that so many people don’t carefully read the job posting before applying is disappointing, but the fact that so many do read it, and follow the directions, and turn in a cover letter or resume loaded with spelling and grammar errors is just unimaginable to me.

I don’t want you to think that I don’t understand the struggles of job hunting, because I know them intimately. I got caught up in a mass lay-off (1,100 people) in an army town that didn’t have much else to offer in terms of employment, and I spent months and months trying to get a job interview somewhere along with all those other people. I know the process of brewing coffee first thing in the morning, and cruising through the internet job boards for two hours to see what new jobs have been posted since yesterday, knowing that I’ve got to apply for 2 jobs this week to keep the unemployment check coming so I don’t lose my house. Been there, done that.

It’s almost impossible to find a job without a computer these days, and the days of written applications are long gone. If you want to apply for a job, you write a cover letter and attach your resume and apply online. I don’t think there is a single program you can use to write your cover letter that doesn’t have some sort of spell check and grammar check built into it. I don’t expect everyone to have perfect grammar and spelling, but I do expect them to pay attention when there is a red line under a word, especially when applying for a job that lists written communication skills as necessary! If ever there was something that you take an extra two minutes on to make sure you’ve got it right, that would be it!

As Mensans, we support educational pursuits by giving college scholarships to people who are really impressive. While I support that endeavor, (and I have been an essay judge for the last two years, and I can tell you that the spelling and grammar problems are present in the essays, too) I have to wonder if we could do a greater service to our communities by finding a way to express to the average person the importance of professional presentation, and paying attention to details. The majority of these people are going to be perpetually unemployed or under-employed, and for good reason. I would never hire someone who didn’t follow the simple instructions I listed for applying. The question I have is what do we do about this epidemic of under-achievement? These people all graduated high school. A lot of them have an AA degree or higher, which is more than I have. That means (in theory) they have the capacity to do better than this, so they either don’t recognize the importance of putting your best foot forward, or they don’t take it seriously, or they are just mired in lethargy and have stopped trying.

I don’t have a magic answer to wrap up this blog post. I’d like to shine some light on this problem, and create some awareness. We’re pretty bright and conscientious people, so perhaps we can talk this out and come up with some ideas. It’s not a simple problem, and I don’t even know how to start addressing it. Having spent a lot of time in the unemployment office, I can tell you that they are trying to express this to job seekers, so we know that’s not the way to reach them. I also don’t think that having someone else polish their resume is the problem, because then the person is being hired under false pretenses, and is being misrepresented, and will end up not satisfying the demands of the position, thus starting the cycle all over again. So, consider the floor open for discussion. What do you think?