EVERY Part of Applying for a Job Matters

A couple months ago we had an opening for an “Exceptional Customer Service Representative” at ZipRecruiter. It was again time to eat our own dog food, which we love to do!

With genuine care, we wrote a job description that in both tone and content we thought would immediately resonate with our ideal candidate. Throughout the ad, we emphasized how crucial writing skills were for the position:

  • You have to be an excellent writer who enjoys writing
  • Great writing is key
  • Ideal candidate will be a strong writer

To gauge writing ability we asked only one question in the online application process: “Tell us about the best customer service experience you’ve had where YOU were the customer.”

Assuming the candidate didn’t make a spelling or grammatical mistake in the first paragraph, we read their resume. So how many resumes did we end up looking at?

Nine. You read that correctly. Just 9 of 114 applicants.

(Note to employers — attaching a quiz to your application can be a HUGE time saver.)

If you think I’m making that up, here are a few responses I just pulled at random. Not one word was edited.

“I had the best experience at the Disney store yesterday, I was shopping for my god son’s birthday and we absolutely loves Disneys movie “cars” and soon as I entered the store, I was greeted by am employer who introduced himself to me as Steven, steven spent the next twenty minutes talking with me…”

“Recently i had gone to Lowes hardware store and when i first entered i was greeted by one of their employees i asked him where the plumbing isle was and he looked at me like i was dumb and said “15” while i was looking for the parts i needed another employee came up and asked if i needed help i said yes i need to find this part and he replied we dont sell that part, and stopped right there without helping me in any other options to possibly fix the problem. i then spoke to a guy in lumber area asking for the plumbing guy and the lumber guy took me to the plumbing area and showed me much other options that i could use to fix my problem and spent more than 5 minutes to make sure i had everything i needed to fix my problem.”

“To be honest most of my customer service experience has been the rep, not the client. However recently my Water Heater broke, and the warranty had expired, however this was the second time that the same park had broken. I called customer service and when I finally got someone on the phone I was able to speak to them and get new parts replaced for free. It was through calmly speaking to the rep in a manner that let them know what I needed and wanted and that I understood if they could not accommodate my needs and to forward me to a supervisor who could.”

In contrast, here is the response from Heidi, who we ended up hiring.

The best customer service experience I’ve had (where I was the customer) was with the Atlanta-based studio that my band and I recorded with in October of last year. They were inexperienced in our genre and therefore unable to the mix the tracks to their full potential. I, on the other hand, as the lead songwriter and musician, had a much better vision for how the tracks should sound, but did not have knowledge of professional mixing software (e.g. ProTools). I could have learned such a software, but it did not seem like the best use of my limited resources as a traveling singer-songwriter.

Fortunately (as the unofficial poster girl for Mac applications!), I had much experience using Apple’s basic mixing software, GarageBand. However, with this time and cost-efficient alternative, I immediately encountered a problem–because the tracks were recorded in various takes in ProTools, they would not line up properly in GarageBand in their raw exported formats. I discussed this problem with the lead sound engineer over the phone, and he offered to export the tracks for me at a uniform length. I guessed that it would be time-consuming (or at least tedious) for him to do this for every take, and since he was not being paid for the extra work, we made a compromise where he would “bounce” the rough takes, and I would ask him to upload additional takes where necessary and available.

When the time came to master the tracks, I was willing to pay the studio a higher than standard rate because of the relationship I had with them. It is a very small studio and has taken approximately 9 months to get the recordings to a finished state–we are in the final stages at last–but I do not regret the decision to work with them. Even in the mastering phase, they have continued their customized approach to my band’s recordings.

As tedious as the job hunt may feel at times, rushing through the application process is counter-productive. Sure, you may have applied to 50 jobs today, but taking the time to present yourself matters.

I just went back and actually looked through some of the resumes from candidates with sub-par writing samples. These resumes were polished! Almost all of them had professional layouts and more importantly on-target past experience. Any one of these job seekers could have had an interview if they’d put more thought into applying.

Pro Tip: If you’re a job seeker and the application doesn’t include an online interview, send a cover letter! It’s your best chance to separate yourself from the crowd. How to write a standout cover letter will be covered in a subsequent post.

Written by

Ian Siegel is ZipRecruiter’s CEO and Co-founder.

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