An open letter from your friendly neighborhood hiring manager

To the Hopeful Employment Applicants Whom It May Concern:

The python tattoo that wraps constricts around your neck (you badass) is best kept under cover until at least the second interview. (If  you are applying to tend bar, swing around a pole, or cashier at a used record
store, please ignore this tip and be sure that all body art is as conspicuous as possible throughout the process.)

Also, I am just going to assume that when you listed “did daily failing” under your current job responsibilities, you meant “did daily filing.” Please remember that though it may take a little extra effort and time, there is a bit more to proofreading than running a spellcheck.


Employers Everywhere

(*Both of these stories are true. One occurred about five years ago, and the other occurred about five hours ago.)


When I receive a resume from, I often wonder (after bleaching my brain) what high school guidance counselors and university career services departments are teaching the future job applicants of America.

When I have to fire some poor soul on her third day of employment because she fell asleep (more than once) during orientation, I think about all of the amazing job candidates (who would have sold their kidneys to secure a position) who were not selected for the position that my narcoleptic ex-new-hire just discarded.

I have mentioned this before, but The Real Reson They Didn’t Hire You was created because I so very much want to be able to be transparent with candidates whom I choose not to hire so that they get a call back and a job offer for another great opportunity ASAP. They ask me for reasons, advice, and feedback on why they were not selected, and I have to issue a sterile “unfortunately our selection process and employment decisions are entirely confidential yadda yadda…” I want to spend an hour giving them the direct advice that will give them the opportunity to catch the attention of hiring managers for all the right reasons and receive an offer at an organization in which they will fit, in a career they will love. Unfortunately if I did that individually, I would be crossing a major professional line. So my mission is to occasionally put it out there on this blog and hope that the people who would most benefit from some guidance will stumble upon it.

Also I don’t ever get to use the phrase “Weird Clown-Related Fetish” at work without someone accusing me of having an issue with establishing appropriate boundaries. 

We don’t really want to learn that you appreciate dobermans, Justin Bieber, World of Warcraft, or light bondage from your email username. folks. It’s free and it won’t alienate the recruiter who receives your resume.

Why I smelled like tripe for a few months in the mid ’90s

If I reflect back to the ancient depths of my work history, I can recall a time when “counting raw pork parts in a large bin full of butchered raw pork parts” was a part of my job description (and when I say “a part”, I mean the only part. Yes folks, that is pretty much all I did). Psychological defense mechanisms have mercifully allowed me to block most of the experience out, but believe me when I say I know what it is like to have a shitty job.

Very often I see on resumes that a candidate indicates an employment date range with a very recent end date. If you just relocated to the area, if your company closed its doors last month, then of course this makes sense. A cover letter is the perfect place to explain your 100% legitimate reason for becoming recently unemployed. What leaves hiring managers unimpressed is if you resign from a position for a less-than-compelling reason without securing new employment. We will absolutely ask why you left your previous position, and the answer “I just needed to look for something different” (or anything comparably vague) is just insulting our intelligence. You will be asked to elaborate on your reason, and be specific, so be prepared to have a very good, legitimate (Seriously. Recruiters have very sensitive, well-calibrated bullshitometers) explanation for throwing away any type of position and voluntarily becoming unemployed when so many at this time are desperate for gainful employment.

If you are still employed but are one 20 gallon container full of freshly sliced swine snouts away from handing in that two-week notice, stick it out until you accept a new job (and get confirmation that you passed the background check). The hiring managers who receive your resume will be impressed. The most sought-after candidates are the ones who are gainfully employed, as it demonstrates your strong work ethic and loyalty despite spending seven hours per day elbows deep in moist future bacon.

An interview follow-up letter in the Hall of Shame

Received via email from a candidate whom I recently interviewed (and wanted to hire!) and copied & pasted essentially verbatim:

“good morning kimberly,

thank you very much for your time yesterday.  it was a sincere pleasure meeting with you.

i appreciate your insight into my possible career with your organization.  i want you to know that i am extremely interested in this position.  the more time that we spent conversing, the more i became interested in the open position… {you get the point} …

best regards,

clueless applicant”

Folks he didn’t even take the time to capitalize his own name. Or mine. Or the pronoun “I”. Yes I am criticizing a candidate’s grammar with a series of choppy sentence fragments. The irony is not lost on me. This is a blog but that was a professional thank you letter. From someone whom I sincerely believe really wanted to be hired. Now the content of the letter was fine. Generic (if I were a betting woman I would put last quarter’s bonus on him changing just the recipient and organization name and sending the same letter after every interview) but acceptable. I appreciated the prompt follow-up and this is a candidate who made a very good impression during our meeting.

Why on earth would he sabotage a great interview with a follow-up note entirely crafted with lowercase letters?? I am left second-guessing my faith in his ability to accurately focus on the details necessary to be competent at the job.

Candidates for employment  – why do you put the hiring managers of the world in this position? I don’t care if you are using an iPad, a cell phone, a typewriter, a Ouija board, or Morse code to apply for (and communicate with a recruiter about) a job.


I can’t stress this enough. Really. I will blog about this again. It will become redundant.

Incidentally, Clueless Applicant has a masters degree masters’ degree master’s degree (oh hell, now I’m self-conscious) MBA.

you will critique my appallingly subpar blog grammar and feel that i am a hypocrite. i can take it. really. just please stop being careless in your cover letters, resumes, and thank you notes.

It snot you, it’s me.

I was certain the bad karma would catch-up with me eventually. All these years of quietly ridiculing candidates who list “WWE Wrestling” on their resumes under “Interests” (It has happened more than once), who inquire “Tell me something. Is the administrative position that I am interviewing for really just ‘women’s work’?” (True story), and who commit the numerous other bizarre faux pas that I have become accustomed to throughout six years of talent acquisition.

This story, like well over half of the stories that make it into my blog, is totally gross. I really do try to think of things to blog about that aren’t completely repulsive, but apparently I just need to accept the fact that now that I have children, my life is riddled with episodes of filth and squalor. If you read further, you may want to have at least a gallon of brain bleach and hand sanitizer at the ready.

Anyway, I have this awful head cold that my precious personal petri dishes children brought home from daycare. The hiring need for my organization, however, does not stop just because I chronically have the crud. Each winter, I am almost continuously armed with a box of tissues, a bag of cough drops, and a mug of hot tea while I interview candidates. I am sure this is completely off-putting for the interviewees, but if they are rattled by a bit of phlegm and theatrics, I work in a very high-touch industry and the fact of the matter is, they are probably not a good fit for the job.

Bright and early this morning, I was interviewing a promising candidate for management. We had excellent professional chemistry, and I was intent on selling this applicant on absolutely wanting the job. Somewhere between highlighting our numerous growth opportunities and showcasing our five consecutive years of Local Top Employer awards, I sneezed. A ladylike sneeze of course. Right into the crook of my sweatered elbow.

The interview continues, and at some point I cross my arms and plunge my hand into something that did not resemble the texture of my sleeve. In fact it was wet, and I most certainly had not just walked in from the rain. I look down and to my horror


I had a large conspicuous glob of sneeze-juice on my shoulder.

I immediately excused myself temporarily to take care of the snotuation but there is just no way on earth that this poor guy hadn’t seen it. And like a true gentleman, he just continued discussing employment with me without missing a beat.

If he declines the opportunity to join our company, I will totally know why. At that point, I may launch a spin-off of my The Real Reason They Didn’t Hire You series, and call it The Real Reason They Didn’t Accept Your Employment Offer.

So here I am. The subject of my own recruiting horror story. Me, my snotty sleeve, my  likely-to-remain-vacant manager position, and my shame.

I should not be able to pick the man your ex-wife left you for out of a line-up based entirely on our discussion during a 40 minute job interview

I realize that when you review your employment history in an interview, a life-altering personal situation such as a divorce may have impacted your separation from a previous position. One of the large mistakes you can make in an interview is to answer a question about why you left a position with a vague “I had a lot of challenging personal issues at the time.” Evasiveness is never going to do you any favors in a job interview. After all, how do I know that this “challenging personal issue” was not prison time for axe-murdering?

An even larger interview faux pas is overshare. During interviews, candidates like to explain why they resigned from a job (or were fired) by telling me their spouse had an affair, leaving them alone to fend for themselves with three small kids, a ten year old car with a failing transmission, five figure credit card debt, and a jumbo-sized-nacho-platter chip on their shoulder. That is way too much baggage to unload on a hiring manager (or in fact anyone other than your therapist or your best friend). Such responses leave me with the following impressions:

a) Will we have to hear about his wife’s affair monthly, weekly, or daily? Because clearly he is going to talk about it.

b) Will all of the drama he just laid out for me negatively impact his attendance and/or work performance?

c) Is this candidate emotionally stable enough to handle the challenges and burdens of starting a new career?

I promise these are not the impressions you want your recruiter to have. I love a good trainwreck as much as the next person, but only after nine pm via Seaside Heights compliments of MTV on the syndicated episodes of “Jersey Shore” *.

Unless you are interviewing for a position as a lyricist for country music (in which case, disregard everything I just said and overshare away) explain briefly and unemotionally that you experienced a recent change in your family or household situation and now that the loose ends are tied up with this transition, you are enthusiastic to return to work. Any decent recruiter can read between the lines and infer that you experienced a divorce, separation, serious illness, etc and will likely find that a satisfying explanation for a gap in employment.

I suppose even axe-murderers could benefit from this strategy.