A few weeks ago I placed a classified on Craig’s list looking for a freelancer for one of my projects. I needed an experienced journalist to research and write on certain topics for the Hispanic community. I also requested a resume and a sample of their writing. The avalanche of applications I received and reviewed prompted me to share with you frequent mistakes you must avoid when applying for a job.
Let me group the applicants in several categories to make a few critical points:
The arrogants- Many people wrote a short email, which nowadays functions as a cover letter, in which they included a link to their sites. The email read something like: “Check my site and if you’re interested call me.”
Not the best attitude in a marketplace flooded with people looking for this kind of work. Whenever applying to a job opportunity, you want to show that you are interested in getting this particular gig and that you are willing to take five minutes to compose a decent letter.
The salespeople- The members of this group sent a long email overselling their qualifications and explaining why they’d be the best people for the job. Their work samples were completely unrelated to the topics I specifically outlined. I understand you may be a flexible writer but if all of your writing has been done about lab equipment, how can I tell you’d be able to write about health issues pertaining Hispanics?
The poor writers- These were people who sent a typo-ridden cover letter stating they had excellent communications skills. Obviously, I didn’t bother to check their samples or resumes. Unfortunately, this is a very common mistake. Your cover letter and resume must be impeccable no matter what kind of job you are applying for, or it will be tossed before the second paragraph. So have someone else proofread and edit your materials before you send them to prospective employers.
The misfits - There were many applicants who didn’t have the experience required for the gig and made no effort to explain why they should be considered. Why would anyone give you a chance at something you haven’t done before if you don’t even attempt to demonstrate that you could be great at doing it? This is particularly important for people trying to change careers. Find a way to build that experience or tprove how you can transfer your skills from your current field to a new one.
The successful ones- There was a small group of people who carefully crafted their cover letter. They highlighted related writing experience, stated their ability to meet deadlines, and to remain organized even when fulfilling several commitments at once. Their emails were impeccably written, they sent links to relevant published clips, and they had a clean resume attached. Only this small group of applicants moved to the second round, which involved writing a test article on a topic I assigned them.
There’s much to be learned from this exercise.
- Know what to say about yourself and your experience as it relates to the particular job for which you are applying
- Follow the directions the employer gave on the ad to which you’re responding
- Write an impeccable cover letter and résumé
- Avoid overselling yourself and under delivering
The online job application process may trick you into thinking that the process has gotten more informal, but the truth is that you can still be disqualified for making a spelling mistake on your cover letter or on your résumé, or for sounding too informal when the hiring manager doesn’t yet know you. So, be thorough and careful and you’ll substantially increase your chances of landing the next gig!
What faux pas have you made or have you encountered in the freelance world? May you not make them in 2012 and land all the gigs you can get!