Job hunting’s about showing off. Not in the my-boat’s-faster-than-your-boat sense, but in the look-what-I-did-and-how-it-helped-all-these-customers sense. Hiring managers want you to come in and make your best case. They’ve got a job that’s not getting done and more than anything else they want to get the position filled – with the right person. Smart ones – and yes, cynics, there are smart hiring managers – know that they can’t hire someone just because he or she happens to meet all the requirements of the job description. The hire has to fit into the company’s culture, too.
But sometimes managers get an application from someone who’s convinced that “aggressive” should always be spelled with a capital “A.” They do something like the blogger Eve Tahmincioglu admits to:
I sent out a cover letter and resume for a job I was interested in, but I did something in the cover letter that I typically don’t do. I was critical of the company. I pretty much said they should hire me because their website sucked.
OK, I didn’t say sucked, but I did include some choice words about how boring the content and design were, and I also wrote that their social media initiatives were lacking.
Surprise – Eve never heard back.
It reminded me of one application HR passed onto me in a previous job. I remember two things about the cover letter: First, it was addressed to “Dear HR Professional.” Second, it closed with, “Why don’t you advance both of our careers and send my resume to the hiring manager?”
That guy was a dolt. Sure he got attention – I passed his letter around to other managers so they could all roll their eyes – but it was exactly the kind of attention he didn’t want. I didn’t even bother with his resume. The company I worked for was professional, collegial, and results-oriented. All this guy was going to do was annoy people and get in the way.
Okay, this is where people get ready to write comments saying I was a short-sighted and arrogant jerk on a power trip. In truth, I was a tired and paranoid jerk because I was trying to do my job, the open job, and avoid annoying my boss by making a bad hire.
To go back to Eve’s story, there’s a right way to offer useful and courteous critiques of a company (as she goes on to say). Few managers will be annoyed if you make a thoughtful suggestion or two about their website. For example: “While I don’t have access to the research you did while designing your home page, in my experience more users click more on links positioned immediately below photographs than above.” Followed by, “I’d appreciate the opportunity to tell you in more detail about how my skills can meet the needs of your department and your company.”
I don’t care if candidates critique my work. I just want them to acknowledge that I’m a professional, not an incompetent who designed a lousy website.
My point is that the approach you might want to take isn’t always the approach you should take. Looking for a job is frustrating in the best of times, let alone now. What you want to do is stand out, not act out.
— Mark Feffer