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Some assembly required

Career Collective post: Once every month or so, a group of career professionals blog on a subject topical and timely for a job seeker. We’ll post our thoughts on our own blog and link to the post of our colleagues on the same topic.

This month’s topic: “Heating up your job search.” Responses from others contributors are linked at the end. Follow the hashtag #CareerCollective on Twitter.

My dog, Summer, happy it's "Summer time."

Wooo-Hooooo! Summertime. Cookouts. Fun with family and friends. Time to break out the new grill. But wait. What’s that on the outside of the box – some assembly required?

“<Gulp> You mean I have to read the directions? Never mind, I know what I’m doing. I’m mechanically inclined. I’ll be able to figure it out as I go. (Four hours later.) There, last screw tightened. I’m not sure why they included all these extra parts. They must do that as a precaution; although this hose looks important. Oh well. I know what I’m doing. I would have figured out where it went it was that important. (BBQ time.)  Awww man. The grill won’t light. Figures. Shoddy manufacturing. They just don’t make things like they used to anymore.”

Hmmmmm. Is it any wonder the grill didn’t light? Now imagine a job seeker taking this same approach to their search. With more and more and more companies going to online applications, it’s inevitable, at some point in a search you’re going to have to fill out an application online. From personal experience and anecdotal evidence from countless clients, navigating the process is challenging … at the very least. Most systems have instructions and information regarding what you can and cannot do and what’s required to complete the process. Failure to follow the directions can leave you in the same boat as the “grill master” above.

A good friend, Gayle Tabor of Glynne’s Soaps, recently sent this Dear Abby letter* to me. Here’s a perfect example of what not following the directions can do:

“DEAR ABBY: The company where I work posted an ad online and at our state unemployment job board for a position that needed to be filled. The ad detailed simple but specific instructions that included asking applicants to write a cover letter to address certain questions. It also said — in large letters: “YOU MUST FOLLOW THESE DIRECTIONS OR YOU WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED FOR EMPLOYMENT.”

Of the 133 resumes we received, 76 did not contain the information that was requested. These applications were moved to an “Incomplete” file and not considered for hire. What’s sad is that judging by their resumes alone, several of these applicants had the qualifications we were looking for.

With unemployment being what it is, I was surprised that the majority of the applicants did not comply with the simple instructions. Please advise your unemployed readers that a job is out there for them, but they must follow instructions.”

Read this part again: “What’s sad is that judging by their resumes alone, several of these applicants had the qualifications we were looking for.” This implies 57% of the applicants, many qualified for the position, were not considered. They were knocked out before they even had a chance to dazzle, because they failed to accomplish the simplest task: Follow the directions.

Just like the poor soul with the grill, you can’t heat up a job search if you don’t follow the directions. While you’re relaxing this summer, take a moment to reflect on your search. Are you failing to read or ignoring the directions? Are you figuring it out as you go and then wondering why you’re not getting any response? Change the approach. Read the directions. Sometimes little things can make a big difference.

PS: And don’t forget, while you’re out having fun this summer, use opportunities to expand your network whenever possible. (For help with that, read this and this.)

*It’s the last letter on this page: Dear Abby

Career Collective

Here’s what my colleagues have to say:

Turn Off The Computer, Tune Into What’s Happening, & Heat Up the Job Search, @chandlee

Heating up the Job Search-How to Stay Motivated During the Summer, @erinkennedycprw

Light the Fire Under Your Feet, @careersherpa

Cool Job Seekers Heat Up Their Search in the Summer, @barbarasafani

Some assembly required, @DawnBugni

Summertime, Sluggish Economy Provide Strong Motivation for an Updated Resume, @KatCareerGal

9 Ways to Heat Up Your Job Search This Summer, @heatherhuhman

Getting Out From Under Chronic, @WorkWithIllness

Upping Your Job Search Flame; Be ‘Needed, Not Needy,‘ @ValueIntoWords

Is Your Career Trapped in the Matrix? @WalterAkana

Put some sizzle in your job hunt – how to find a job now, @keppie_careers

Summertime – and the Job Search Ain’t Easy, @KCCareerCoach

Heating up your job search. 5 ways to dismiss those winter blues, @GayleHoward

Hot Tips for a Summer Job Search, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Heat Up Your Job Search: Avoid Job Boards, @JobHuntOrg

Heating Up Your Job Searching Skills: Networking 101 and 102, @GLHoffman

Treasure Hunt—Yo-ho-ho! Heat Up Your Job Search, @resumeservice

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  1. Dawn:
    Refreshing! Wonderful stories! Loved this post!
    We all know people who fail to follow directions, they just don’t seem to be hardwired that way. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.
    As you pointed out, if you’re job search isn’t working, then perhaps you haven’t been reading and following the instructions.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawn Bugni, Meg Montford. Meg Montford said: RT @DawnBugni #CareerCollective Here's my contribution, "Some assembly required." incl links to 14 other career pros […]

  3. Gayle Tabor says:

    Following the directions may be the simplest direction we’re given but is frequently the hardest for follow. Human nature makes us all believe we know better.

    Thanks for the shout, Dawn!

  4. Dawn – anyone who has done ANY online recruiting sees exactly the same thing! In your example, people actually read and responded to the directions more often than they have in ALL of my experiences.

    For example, we specify in the job posting:

    Please describe how you have solved this kind of problem (described in the posting) in the past or how you think it should be addressed.

    Fewer than 2 out of 10 will respond appropriately!

    So 80% or more of hundreds of applicants are not considered for the job because it is obvious that:
    1. They can’t either read or follow directions, OR
    2. They demonstrate NO “attention to detail,” OR
    3. They have NO relevant experience.

    Any of those reasons is a valid reason for an employer to disqualify the candidate. I feel bad for the 80% who are ignored, but it seems obvious that, for the employer, these people are NOT qualified!

    Great post! Hope it gets read and remembered!

  5. Donna Svei says:


    You’re right. I always ask applicants to send me an MS Word resume, and to use a specific e-mail header, when responding to my job postings. When they don’t, I make a mental note “can’t/doesn’t/won’t follow directions.” I wouldn’t want this to be a recruiter’s first reaction to my resume.

    Warm regards,


  6. Gayle Howard says:

    I’ve always thought it shows a air of arrogance when people believe that rules, guidelines and instructions are made for everybody but them. They’re too busy, too important and far too special to do what “others” are required to do. Whether that is a conscious thought or not, disregarding the rules screams lack or courtesy and respect. Often the same people who believe meeting times are just “guidelines”!

    Another fun, yet smart article Dawn.

  7. Dawn,

    Wonderful analogy! I relate, because recently I’ve invested in 2 new technology devices (including my Droid), that, though somewhat intuitive, have required I pause a moment and ‘read the directions.’ Without doing so, I would NOT have fully and effectively been able to function with this ‘smart’ new phone/computer, missing out on many of the features and benefits.

    In regard to anyone trying to make a change in or upgrade aspects of their lives/job search, this line particularly resonated: “Are you figuring it out as you go and then wondering why you’re not getting any response?” Sometimes, we must slow down our speed a bit, realizing this is not a race, but a marathon. Take time to learn, pace oneself, including making and executing plans for results.

    Kudos, Dawn!


  8. Nora Pfost says:

    hey man, nice blog…really like it and added it to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  9. I wish i could write the way in which you do sometimes. I am undoubtedly going to take tips about the way you write and apply it to my own. Thanks for all of your exhausting work!

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