sure, ignore those job application instructions, we love that here

When job postings give you specific instructions, they really mean it. So, for instance, if my job posting requests a “one-page cover letter,” what I want from you is a one-page cover letter.

So it’s a bad idea to send me this:

“I apologize in advance. I simply could not reduce the length of my cover letter to one page.”

Really, you simply could not? If you really couldn’t, that signals a real communication problem that makes you an unappealing candidate. But far more likely is that you just preferred not to and decided that therefore the instructions could be ignored.

Uncontrollable verbosity and a disregard for specific instructions are not ways you want to introduce your candidacy.

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Inside the Philosophy Factory*

    I teach college. Inability to follow directions is the main reason students don't do well.

  2. Abby*

    How do you feel about a job posting that specifically states "no phone calls"? Does it show blatant disregard if a candidate calls or is that person one step ahead of the rest because he/she is the only one calling?

    I feel it's important to follow the guidelines given on a job posting because it shows attention to detail, but I've read blog posts where people argue that you should call anyway.

  3. Angela Risner*

    I totally understand BUT is there anyway that we can get a universal application for the main details? I have been job hunting for 9 months now and some of the applications are so long and involved they take an hour to complete. There are questions that should be asked in an interview, not in an online form. Also, it would mean that we could save the form and submit it over and over. If I am lucky enough to find 4-5 jobs for which to apply, I want to be able to shoot over the same form, rather than having to fill out 5 different ones with basically the same information.

  4. Anonymous*

    @ Anglea Risner

    I understand this because I have been filling out applications for state jobs and the application form is the same for all positions, but it is a PDF form that does not allow you to save filled out fields. What I have done is to make a text file that has the info about education, previous jobs, etc. for each section and then I just copy and paste from the text file into the application form. You can do this for online forms also.

  5. Angela Risner*

    That's a great idea!! Thanks!! It's just so frustrating. Trying to search for a training job in this economy – having to fill out so much paperwork for each position adds to it.

  6. Anonymous*

    That tweaks the same part of my brain that refusing to leave a phone message does. And now that I'm thinking about it I'm going to rant about it. If my voicemail message says "Hi, sorry I missed your call, please leave a message," it really does mean "Please leave a message." It doesn't mean "Please call back in five minute intervals until I answer," and it doesn't mean "Don't worry about leaving a message, I'll see your number on the call display and even though I don't know why you're calling, I'll call back to find out."

  7. Charles*

    "Uncontrollable verbosity"

    That's actually kind of funny.

    Having worked with so many people who have this "condition" I can only say that it is too bad that there isn't a cure for it.

    P.S., Angela – We're in the same boat, there are NO training jobs out there. At least, not in the NY/NJ area. Good luck!

  8. Anonymous*

    If your application instructions require more than sending in a resume or filling out a SIMPLE form, then you're asking for too much.

    No candidate wants to waste time and fill out tons of paperwork BEFORE they're offered a job. What exactly is the point of that? To get rid of the best candidates who won't put up with ridiculous, nonsensical bureaucracy? To get the most desperate candidates who will? Some companies ask for so much information that they should be paying candidates for the work of filling out their application.

    Accepting a resume and a cover letter are the standard procedures all across the US. If you need more information than can be gleaned from that, then you should be calling people for telephone or in-person interviews.

  9. Charles*

    "If your application instructions require more than sending in a resume or filling out a SIMPLE form, then you're asking for too much."

    I agree anonymous when it is a private-sector position; But, many government or educational institution positions do, in fact, require "tons" of paperwork.

  10. Kelly O*

    I think it's sort of short-sighted in this environment to complain about filling out application paperwork. I admit, I get very tired of typing the same information over and over. I get tired of submitting my information into the same black hole over and over again, and never hearing a word in return.

    But the thing is, I am looking for a job. A real job, not just this thing I'm doing in the interim. I am the one trying to prove that I'm the person they may be looking for to fill a specific need. If they want my resume in Word, PDF, Publisher, or even in Notepad and I want to be considered, then I darn well best submit my resume in that format.

    Yes, I hate the "no phone calls please" posts. I hate the "do not email us, call us, snail mail us, drive by our office or attempt to contact us in any way aside from our web form" posts. But, if it's a job that's interesting to me, and I think I might be a good fit for that company, then it's up to me to determine what a good job may be worth to me personally.

    Abby said it's important to follow guidelines because it shows attention to detail. It also shows you can read instructions, comprehend what's being asked of you, and follow through on those instructions.

    I guess my real question is this – given two equally qualified candidates, or perhaps not even equal, will you choose the person who followed your instructions to the letter, or the person who called or emailed your office even though you requested they not? My discouragement sometimes comes from reading stories of people who didn't follow direction but wound up with the job. Their advice, of course, is to disregard rules and find a way to stand out. And they did get the job… it's just a lot for a job-seeker to process.

  11. Anonymous*

    While it depends on the job you are filling to a degree, I will openly admit that every time I go to fill a position (and following instructions is pretty important where we work)
    I will IMMEDIATELY screen out any applicants who did not follow the clearly given instructions. (Such as failing to include a cover letter when it is requested of them.) I get too many applications to read them all and this makes it very easy to sort through a bunch of them. It might cold, but it works.

    I get plenty of applicants who are fully qualified AND can read and follow the instructions provided.

    So I think AAM is spot-on here.

  12. Cary*

    This is a old post but it couldn’t resist adding a comment.

    I run the application process for a large graduate school and nothing annoys me more than a candidate who ignore my specific instructions to not to send in a separate cover letter and resume. I do this because our application form is set up to capture this information and with over 200 applications per year (with accompanying transcripts and references) I do not want to have to deal with any extra paper.

Comments are closed.