Over the past few months, I've noticed that some employers (5-10%) are asking for applicants to put specific information in cover letter. Usually the request is for the applicant to give specific reasons why she is a good fit for the company. Today, I found a requirement that demonstrates the importance of reading job postings carefully. A company recruiting a Data Analyst lists this requirement as it's last bullet in a job post: "High attention to detail - mention the Rolling Stones in your cover letter to display your skill." This request might seem silly, but it is simple test to see how well applicants follow directions and pay attention to detail. It's easy to mock such requests. But, if you want to apply for the job, you have to jump through the employer's hoops.
What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles remains one of – if not the best – guides to the job search. Bolles uses illustrations to underscore his advice. My favorite graphic is a three line description of the job search. It lists two ten word rows of “no.” The next row has “no” nine more times followed by one word: “YES.”
This illustration, like most of Bolles’ advice, is brutally realistic. Almost every job search is filled with rejection. To be successful, you have to be tough and persistent. You have to give yourself every opportunity. That’s where many people sabotage their job search: They disqualify themselves before prospective employers have a chance to evaluate them.
How does this happen? Too many people look at the list of requirements in a job posting and fail to send in an application unless they fill almost every requirement. Employers generally list more requirements than they expect any one candidate to have. This behavior has increased in a time of high unemployment when candidates with multiple skills are available.
Be realistic. Look at the job posting and compare it to your qualifications. Don’t expect to fill every requirement. If you can perform the key job functions, apply for the job. Give yourself the opportunity to land an interview. In the end, you don’t know what the employer is looking for.
Don’t disqualify yourself. If you think you are qualified for a job, apply for it. Let someone else tell you “no” – or, better still, let them say, “YES.”