Tales of a Disgruntled Graduate: A View from the Front Lines of the Post-College Job Hunt

Apply Yourself: Don’t Be as Generic as The Forms You Encounter

A resume and cover letter are standard and, at most places, preferable to an application.  This is understandable; some of the applications I’ve come across during my job search have made the standard seem like a piece of proverbial cake.

Granted, certain applications are tailored to highlight the specific skills and tasks required by the job, making an application of this nature necessary.  If you’re applying to be a firefighter, for example, you may encounter questions such as, “Are you licensed to drive a fire truck?” or “How fast can you slide down a pole?”  These are important factors to consider in the hiring process.

Other applications are so generic they are practically useless, showing neither the personality of a cover letter nor the detail of a resume.  There is often a section with two or three short lines asking you to describe “any additional skills or experience” that would qualify you for the job.  No matter what you write here you will always sound like an idiot, since nothing meaningful can be explained in so few words.

I usually write, “I like chocolate cake,” to fill up the space.  Either that or, “I have excellent communication skills and experience handling money.”  It’s a toss-up.

The details these applications choose to concentrate on instead of your accomplishments are the names, telephone numbers and addresses of your current and previous employers from the past hundred years, as well as every school you attended from elementary to graduate level.  What’s more, they want you to put a check mark in a little box if you graduated, and list the type of degree and major.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t have a major in elementary school.  I leave that box blank.  But I’m never sure if I should check “graduated” or not.  I don’t remember a ceremony.  And while I’m sure they don’t actually need to know if I graduated from elementary school, if I leave the box blank, I’m afraid they will think I have trouble following directions.

That’s the problem with some of these applications.  The format is very rigid, and sometimes my handwriting just doesn’t fit in the boxes or I misread something and now my answers are all off by one or I don’t have a professional reference who wasn’t my boss, isn’t my friend, and isn’t related to me (so instead I put down a previous boss, who is already listed under the “Previous Employers” section – is that so wrong?).

In the middle of it all, I want to write a big “X” across the page and write a note: “Please see cover letter and resume attached.  It’ll explain everything, I promise.”

At least a resume is confined to one page; there can be no discussion of chocolate cake or elementary school graduations.  After all, you have to save something for the interview.

< back to Disgruntled Undergrad page