What we can learn from the reply that p*ssed off 900 job seekers

Last year there was a huge hoo-haa online about a certain Shea Gunther who responded to wannabee candidates looking for a job with his organization, in a “3,000 word rejection letter” which many, understandably, found objectionable, condescending and patronizing.

Gawker.com replicated this letter on their own site so you can click through and read the whole thing here if you want to.

Needless to say Mr Gunther replied justifying his stance and you can read that here.

Now the dust has settled, did Mr Gunther have a point or two?

Much as I feel the pain of the rejectees, I think our Mr G did have some points to make. As I mention above, you can read his entire diatribe here … but in the meantime, these are my takes on some of his key points, and how job seekers could learn from them when writing CVs, job application forms, and covering letters…

Do read the ad and do exactly what it asks
Surely this is elementary, dear Watson? Evidently not. So read the ad and respond precisely with what it wants. Don’t assume they’ll be impressed with your golf handicap or your pancake flipping skills: if they don’t need those, they won’t give a toss (of a pancake or anything else). Stick rigidly to the brief in the ad copy.

Don’t talk yourself into being filtered out
This is music to my North American ears when contemplating British and other northern European job candidates. There is an old saying in sales circles that goes, “if you don’t think you’re good, why the hell should I?” Bear that in mind. OK, don’t invent achievements you couldn’t possibly have done, but don’t hide your light under a bushel, either. Now is the time to be realistic about your skills. Don’t be shy about describing them – you can’t afford to.

Don’t tell me how great this job would be for you
Face it, kid – the employer (or his/her agent) couldn’t give a **** whether this job would be good for you or not. They only care in terms of what you could do for them. Bear that in mind at all times and you’ll stand a fighting chance of skipping the slush pile and getting through to a shortlist.

Don’t start every sentence in your application with ‘I’
So, so, true. The potential employer, as mentioned above, only cares about what’s in it for them – so the “I” this or that leaves them cold. Turn your text around so that it focuses on what you can do for them – otherwise known as the YOU angle

Do capitalize and use punctuation
Of course. But do you? Check this out here…  It may seem silly and trite to worry about such things as correct English in the light of the internet’s utter disregard for “old fashioned” principles, but when you’re after a job you need all the brownie points you can get. And for the time being at least, using poor English “ain’t” the way to achieve that.

Don’t use the word “passionate”
Our Mr G is being a bit of a stickler here concerning contemporary clichés and I do not blame him. The word “passionate” makes my stomach heave too. Bear in mind that by now, potential employers equally may well be made to vomit by this “passionate” word so you would be well advised to find an alternative. (Try Roget’s Thesaurus.) Ditto applies to all contemporary business clichés

Do tell me what position you are applying for
Huh? Is this for real? The position you’re applying for should go into the subject line of the email and/or the “re:” line at the start of your covering letter. I wonder how many of Mr G’s 900 applicants managed to screw this one up. Be warned … don’t screw up on this yourself!

Don’t talk sh*t about your current or past employers
Tempting though it may be to denigrate that former employer who treated you badly, this is not the place to do it. Do you want your future employer to know that you would be rude about them in your future job applications should you part company with them? No. So don’t sow that seed in a future employer’s mind.

There are many more points in Shea Gunther’s piece … not all of which I agree with, but despite having infuriated his 900 job applicants, plus a few, he does makes some useful points which job seekers could do well to consider.

Do you agree that Shea has a point or two, at least?

Would be interested to know your views.

Job seeker or not, here’s some priceless help:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English
“How To Write Winning Non-fiction”…all you need to know to write a good non-fiction book and get it published