The internet has had an impact on just about everyone's life by now and on every business in some way or another. I kept thinking that jobs in our town must be really scarce due to the economy and then I realized that just because there are no jobs in the paper, doesn't mean there are no jobs. They're posted on-line on Craig's List, Dental Finders, or other sites. I post job openings on Craigs List and the response is usually immediate and enormous. So, here's your first do and don't:
Don't depend solely on your local newspaper when searching for a job, you'll miss out.
Do search the listings on Craig's List and post your own ad for work wanted, as well.
Just because you're replying to an on-line ad, it doesn't mean you can loosen up on protocol. The response that gets my attention is still professional and well written, and that means correct grammar. I would strongly suggest spell checker and having someone else read your reply to check for mistakes. You wouldn't believe how many grammatical mistakes I see in replies. That usually weeds out that applicant right from the start.
Don't reply as if you're e-mailing a friend. Don't start out with: Hey, I want to apply for the job you have on Craig's List.
Don't copy and paste your resume to the body of the e-mail, add it as an attachment. If you don't know how to attach documents, get someone to teach you. It's good to show that you have computer processing experience. Better yet, format it as a PDF file and attach it. It's easy to make PDF documents. Just download CuteWriter, it's free.
Don't sign the letter too casually. Don't write, "Thanks, Mindy" or Have a Blessed Day. It's too casual. I'm not your buddy, I'm your potential boss.
Don't reply to a position for a receptionist and tell me that you hope to be a practice manager someday. I'm the practice manager, I'm not trying to hire my replacement. I want to hire someone who wants the job that I've described.
Do reply graciously and respectfully: Dear Sir or Madam, I would like to apply for the position of Front Desk Assistant. I have attached a cover letter and resume. I hope that my experience will meet your requirements and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at 555-555-5555. Thank you for your time.
Do write a professional, yet engaging cover letter, just as you would do if you were going to print it out and mail it. A cover letter gets points from me and makes me feel like the applicant really cares about getting the position. It shows effort and let's me see how well you express yourself. In the cover letter, explain why you would like the position, why you are qualified for the position, and what benefits the employer will receive by hiring you. Do sign the letter professional with either Sincerely or Best Regards.
Do write a concise, yet thorough resume that lists your past positions starting with the most recent, the responsibilities you had and the skills you acquired. For each position, list your supervisor and their phone number. Give the years (at least I hope it's years) you worked there and the reason you left. If the reason involved conflict, don't get down and dirty about it, just say it was not a compatible fit .
Do list references with phone numbers. Do list supervisors, I don't want to talk to a bunch of your friends and relatives who will tell me how wonderful you are and that they can't think of a single negative thing about you. I want to talk to someone who won't be sitting at the same table with you at Christmas. I want to hear your strong points and the areas that you struggle with. If you want to be a step ahead of the rest, give your supervisors permission to be candid when I call. No one's perfect and I don't expect our employees to be either, I just want them to strive for excellence. I need to know if you will.
If you've followed the do's and don'ts so far, I'd probably be calling to talk to you on the phone. I want to hear how you sound and you'd be surprised at how people sound when they answer their phone. About 90% of the time the person sounds bored, annoyed, or lazy when they answer. I think it's got something to do with the fact that most list their mobile number and often the call is interrupting them. Once they hear it's me, calling them about the position listing they replied to, they brighten up and sound the way I was hoping they'd sound. A surprising amount of people end up really bashing their former bosses or co-workers, or getting too casual with me. That's the second group to weed themselves out. Be positive and pleasant throughout the call. Think of it as a pre-interview because it's your ticket to the real, in-person interview. I also hate to sit through your choice of music while I wait for you to answer. Your friends may not tell you that they're sick of listening to Kenny Roger's sing Lucille, but I'm telling you, get rid of it.
Do answer your phone pleasantly and politely. You should do this anyway just to be nice, but at least do it while you have your resume out there. Do maintain a pleasant, yet professional demeanor throughout the call, remain positive, and if offered an interview, thank the caller for the opportunity.
Don't answer your phone like a grouch, it makes a terrible first impression. It's one that I write down immediately on my notebook under your name, so it stays there and when I'm comparing candidates I consider it.
Don't say: "Now which job was that? I answered so many of them." Just listen and you'll figure it out from what the caller is saying. It's fine to ask the name of the practice if they don't offer it from the start.
Don't complain or speak negatively about any past employer. Be gracious and discreet. If a job was just plain hell, say that while you appreciated the opportunity, you felt you would like to work in a position that allowed you to contribute more to the growth of the practice.
I'll say it again, don't make callers listen to your favorite music while they wait for you to answer. To me it seems a little immature and slightly self-indulgent. It may be your signature song, but I may not want to hire someone who relates that closely to Lady Gaga. I have nothing against Gaga, but I sure don't have her blaring on the radio at work.
So, if all has gone well so far, I'll probably ask to set up an interview in the office. Try to be available for any time I offer, or at least for the second time I offer. If you're too hard to schedule, that will make me wonder if you'll be able to work the hours we need you to work. Get to the interview about 5-10 minutes early. Any earlier and you'll seem obsessive and I'll feel rushed to get to you. If you're late, I won't be interested unless you were caught behind an accident. Don't tell me you were caught behind an accident if you weren't, I'll check. Be prepared to answer questions intelligently. I ask candidates to answer a list of questions about themselves that will give me an idea of who and how they are. If you are handed something like this, give good information, but don't take overly long doing it. Don't try to make yourself sound like a saint, I won't believe you. If I ask what your least favorite task in the position it, it's ok to say you don't like to take out the garbage, but fully intend to do it whenever needed.
Don't dress like a slob. Sorry to be so blunt, but you wouldn't believe how people show up. I had one lady show up in a black sweatsuit that was covered in cat hair. She wanted to know how long the interview would take because she had to get home to feed her cats. How this lady didn't weed herself out to begin with, I'll never know, but she sounded great on the phone. Needless to say, she was quickly on her way home to feed those kitties.
Don't slouch, look bored, or put your feet up on the seat of the chair you're sitting in. Don't call me sweetie, honey, or darling. Believe it or not, one woman did all the above during her interview. My boss witnessed some of it and was horrified, literally, you should have seen his face. It was worth sitting through it.
Don't be scary, creepy or weird. Don't be crazy. Don't be too familiar. Don't be gross. I've seen it all and I don't want to see it again.
Do dress professionally. Wear conservative make-up and style your hair neatly. This isn't the time to break out your green-gold glitter eyeliner. Wear neutral colors. Black and white or beige and black are classic for a reason.
Do speak politely and shake my hand when I introduce myself to you. Make eye contact. I can't tell you how important this is. If you can't look me in the eye, I wonder about you, so will the patients. It's uncomfortable and distracting to speak to someone who never looks at your face.
Give me the information I ask for, but don't give me every last detail of the bad stuff. If you didn't like your last supervisor, I understand, but don't bash her. Don't try to bs me. Tell me what you're good at and what you'd like to improve in. Don't tell me that you're the best assistant, receptionist, etc., that ever lived. I won't believe you and I won't like that you are so conceited.
Be someone I'll want to spend my days around. Show me that you'll work hard, get along with our staff and treat our patients well. Be prepared to give me examples of how you've done that in the past. Then, be determined to live up to it if you get the job.
When you're leaving smile, shake my hand and thank me for the interview. Tell me you feel that you'd really love working with us and that you'd work hard to make me happy that I made the decision to hire you. When you get home, send me an e-mail thanking me for the opportunity to interview and tell me a reason you feel you be a good fit for the position and why you'd enjoy working with us. Hint: make sure you send it to the right person. I received one today thanking me for the interview and telling me that she just knows she'd love working for our office. The problem was that the office she referred to in her e-mail wasn't our's. Ouch.
It's competitive out there and for every position listed, there are at least 50 applicants or more. You have to take every opportunity to stand out in a positive way. Here's a little secret: It's not hard to do because there are so many people out there who have no idea how to do it. I'm telling you here. Use my do's and don'ts properly and you'll make a better impression.