MCCULLOUGH: Apply yourself when you're applying

I have decided this week to do my part to help with the unemployment crisis.

I've recently been sifting through resumes trying to fill a position on the copy desk. Given the recent economic unpleasantness, it's something I haven't done for awhile, but I have been quickly reminded of just how many people do not know how to apply for a job.

I will now deliver some advice on the matter. This will not be shiny, glossy info on networking and action words. This will be direct, real-world advice that I'm sure will be echoed by people in charge of hiring everywhere. So pay attention.

1) Follow the directions in the ad. When I first started doing this years ago I would put "paste your resume into the body of the email" because I had no way of opening attachments. I still put that now just to see how many people will send me a Word document, 14 PDFs and a PowerPoint presentation anyway. You're not impressing me with all that. You're just proving you don't pay attention to details.

2) Get to the point. Crafting lengthy cover letters are a huge waste of your time. The fact that we're hiring should tell you we need help, and thus, I'm very busy doing my job and someone else's. Reading your life history is somewhere down around No. 3,598 on my list of things to do.

And forget advice that says, well, you can maybe extend that one page cover letter to two if you really need to explain stuff. No! I don't even want one page. I want one paragraph: Hi, my name is Bill. I'm applying for the job. I've been doing this x number of years (or I just graduated college and know nothing.) Everything else is in my resume. The end.

3) Make your resume easy to read, useful and job-related. This is not the place to wow me with your knowledge of quirky fonts and pastel colors. This is the place to give me clear, concise, appropriate information, like this:

* Education -- Where did you go to school and what degree do you have? If you have a journalism degree I will assume you learned some journalism while studying. Don't spend paragraphs telling me what courses you took.

* Experience -- This is the big one. Make it count. And make it related to the job for which you are applying. If you've done this job elsewhere, tell me, and tell me for how long and what your responsibilities were. If you just graduated, tell me about internships or what you did on the school paper. Your six months working the register at Bobby's World of Shoes means nothing to me.

* Job-related skills -- Computer programs you're a wiz at, management skills, etc. The fact that you are an expert marksman or hold a black belt in karate will only be pertinent if I ever hire a bodyguard.

* Awards -- Again, job-related only, please. You have four awards from XYZ press association, three from AP and a Pulitzer -- Yes. You grew the biggest tomato at the county fair and just got your turquoise star from eBay -- No.

4) Don't lie. I will catch you during the interview. I give tests on the skills you say you have. When you fail, I will know you lied. I don't like liars and I don't hire them.

5) Don't waste our time. I mean yours and mine. A lot of people seem to like the approach of just firing their resume from a shotgun up into the air to see what job might fall from the sky. If you have been a mechanic, a plumber and a dog-walker and have a degree in sports medicine, please don't apply for my copy editor job. I don't have time to fool with you and you could better use your time to apply for jobs you're qualified to do. Which brings me to the last piece of advice.

6) Don't annoy me. Follow the first five items on this list. Don't bombard me with emails and phone calls asking me if I've made a decision. Don't get angry when I don't reply to each one. I already hate this whole process anyway. Don't make me hate you, too.

You might assume from all of this that I don't respect the applicants or take them seriously. You would be wrong. I've been in their shoes. And I've also heard the excitement in the voice of someone who has been looking for months when I call to set up an interview. It used to be about building careers. Nowadays it's all too often about making the rent and eating. So I take the responsibility of changing someone's life very seriously.

The people who take the responsibility of applying just as seriously eventually get hired somewhere.

The rest need to re-read 1 through 6.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.