SBJ/May 12-18, 2014/Opinion

Looking for a job? Mind your spelling, and your Facebook page

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With May and June being graduation months, I thought I would share with you some important job-seeking advice and a few of the common mistakes I have seen throughout my career, including my most recent stint as chairing a search for an athletic director. I offer this in the hope that I can help some of today’s job seekers avoid these pitfalls and assist them on their quest.

1. Do not send multiple résumés.
This was a major turnoff for me in my most recent search. Why would anyone assume I would need 17 copies of his or her résumé? Sending separate résumés to the entire search committee only resulted in all of them sending them on to me as the chair. Recommendation: Send an electronic copy followed by a hard copy in the mail. This will ensure that your résumé reaches its destination.

2. Verify the accuracy of your résumé and other application materials.
Recent unfortunate events have shown that not only can you be eliminated from the job you are seeking but you also can jeopardize your current employment situation.

3. Use references who can speak to your skill set and why you are a desirable candidate.
Ask them what they will say before submitting them to speak on your behalf. I am now aware of the courtesy reference phone call — a call that stems from obligation rather than conviction — and few things are as damaging as a reference call or conversation when it is apparent that the reference is not really advocating the candidate for the position.

4. Understand the qualifications and requirements for the position.
Having several internships might be valuable but not if the position requires five years of experience. Also, understand that “management experience” is usually intended to describe the management and leadership of full-time employees, not necessarily fellow students or volunteers on a game-day staff.

A résumé doesn’t have to be a single page anymore, but it still needs to be proofread and accurate.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

5. Forget the one-page résumé philosophy.

Too many times I review a résumé that doesn’t offer enough information because the candidate was attempting to limit it to one page. While recent college graduates with little work experience may find it difficult to fill up one page, most candidates (including graduate students with multiple internships or volunteer experiences) often do themselves a disservice by not conveying what their duties were and what they accomplished, leaving more questions than answers and not making it to the interview pool.

6. Quantify your accomplishments.
How much did you sell? What was the percentage growth in attendance? How did you rank in terms of your performance when compared to others in the same role?

7. Eliminate the objective on your résumé.
This can be addressed in the cover letter. And let me guess: Your objective is to find employment? Instead, take two or three sentences to summarize who you are.

8. Include references with the submission of materials for your application.
Many times I look at the references after reading the cover letter to see if I know anyone I can call to get an accurate assessment of the candidate and to shorten the hiring process.

9. Understand the importance of the cover letter.
Too often I see a one paragraph “letter” informing me that there is a résumé attached for the particular position. This is your opportunity to showcase your communication skills and sell yourself by explaining to the reader who you are, what you have done, why you fit this position and why you should be interviewed.

10. Spell-check and proofread all materials before submitting them.
Spell-check is only the first step. If you meant to type “from” and typed “form” (as I frequently do), spell-check does not make that change. If you are not a good proofreader (I am not), make sure you have someone read and review your documents before submitting them. Remember, you are applying to be hired to represent the organization hiring you and the person who will be managing you. Why would they be confident in your abilities to represent them if you fail to be diligent about how you represent yourself?

11. Manage your social media accounts and your online behavior and representation/image.
Pictures of you during and after a party, foul language on your posts, the opinions and feelings you express, and the information you provide about your activities and interests can cost you consideration for the position and may even cause a potential job offer to be reconsidered or rescinded. Remember, it isn’t as private as you might think, and once you post it, it is there for the world to see.

12. Dress appropriately for the interview.
While we are much less formal in 2014 than we have been in the past, your appearance may still be a limiting factor. If four other candidates wore suits, and you show up in slacks and a shirt, it may cause the interview to start with less of a positive feeling regarding your candidacy. If the workplace is casual, you can always ask if you can remove your jacket or loosen your tie, but you can’t magically acquire those items once you arrive if it is not. Use common sense when considering body art and piercing; choose locations wisely.

I would also remind you that searching for a job, particularly that first job, can be a frustrating and difficult experience. The process is completely out of your control, yet it permeates every waking hour of your day and can cause sleepless nights. Treat searching for a job just like a job: Schedule regular hours for your search, preparing your materials and following up. Thank your advocates, and once you secure that job, take the time to thank everyone who helped along the way.

Most importantly, share your experiences and help others following you on the path.

Bill Sutton (wsutton1@usf.edu) is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.


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