HR has to learn the application of presentation

Applications for a senior HR post that broke every rule in the book give one recruiter cause to worry.

My assignment was to recruit a senior HR manager. This ought to have given those who are normally recipients of applications an opportunity to project their own image positively.

The job was an impressive one, as were the number of replies.

Has the HR profession, however, become so blatantly introspective that it cares not a hoot as to how it presents itself?

The responses I received exhibited every single mistake in the "how not to apply for a job" book.

Surely the secret of applying for this, and indeed any, job is to read the advertisement. This not only provides the salient points to hammer home in the short sharp covering letter, but also indicates the seniority of the position.

Also, is it too much to ask that a spell check is applied (not the Americanised variety)? This would surely eliminate the most obvious spelling mistakes.

And, excepting those employers who use graphology in the selection process, our super-sophisticated society no longer welcomes handwritten applications.

Nor will smiling head-and-shoulder photographs beguile the recruiter, even if scanned into e-mails.

Job applicants must leave the decision as to whether to discriminate against the more mature to the potential employer. As most employers possess the basic ability to add, omitting a date of birth displays gross naïvety.

Have any HR managers out there really achieved anything? If so, do you realise how powerful it is to quantify attainment?

Ask yourself if it is wise to ignore the tried and tested CV format, for which outplacement specialists charge megabucks. Have HR professionals become so mesmerised by applications which range through a checklist of "feelgood factor" positive verbs that they throw caution to the wind and reinvent the wheel when gathering their own thoughts together?

Applicants who zoom in on personal objectives which are of no interest to the potential employer are also wasting their time. So are candidates who have got another post since the CV was drafted and tack this information on to their bumper bundle – two pages maximum is another rule.

If the advertisement specifies that a reference should be quoted or salary included, it doesn’t take rocket science to appreciate that the omission of either is frowned upon.

Aside from all these points, perhaps my main concern was a more general one – did any of those potential highflyers take the time to check over the impact made by their submission?

Even some of the photocopying left much to be desired. Is it asking too much to get someone else to objectively overview the submission to eliminate the ungrammatical phraseology or the chronological order that shows gaps?

The bottom line is that it takes time, energy and effort to get any presentation just right.

If the steady procession of poor personnel applicants I met were anything to go by – and from further research I find that my experience is typical – there is a desperate need for the profession to think far more constructively about how they ought to sort out their shop window.

The old proverb about the cobbler’s children not having any shoes can be brought frighteningly up to date with HR professionals who don’t quite know how to apply for a job.

By Alastair McFarlane, a consultant at Professional HR Services

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