Cloverhound is growing, which means I’ve read over 400 resumes this year for jobs we’ve hired in Charlotte. Below is a hiring manager’s wish list for every person who applies to Cloverhound, and the red flags that stop an application in its tracks.

Wish list:

Writing skills

We can train our employees on our tech, but we can’t train the ability to communicate ideas quickly and effectively. Our employees spend more time on the keyboard than on the phone, so we administer a writing test to all candidates. I look for proper spelling and grammar too, but being able to effectively communicate ideas is paramount. Less is often more.

Responsiveness

Our company moves fast; so does our hiring process. Applying quickly – and responding to follow-up messages – puts you at the top of the pile. Almost 100 applicants this year never responded to us; only two of them were strong enough to get to the next round in spite of the lack of communication.

A great first impression

Nothing beats a great first impression. Let us know that you’ve read the website and the job posting, tell us about your skills, and – with your writing and communications skills – show us that you’ll be a great fit.

Also, if you include specific skills in your resume or cover letter you should be prepared to demonstrate those skills in your interview. If you include relevant work experience, then you should be able to discuss in detail the work that you did, your specific roles on project teams, and your personal accomplishments. I’m not saying to under promise and over deliver, but if you say you know how to code in Ruby you should be able to write a basic program.

Red flags:

Plagiarism

Are these two sentences in your cover letter?

“After reviewing your job description, it’s clear that you’re looking for a candidate that is extremely familiar with the responsibilities associated with the role, and can perform them confidently. Given these requirements, I am certain that I have the necessary skills to successfully do the job adeptly and perform above expectations.”

The same two sentences, word for word, were in five cover letters we read last month. All five applicants were immediately removed from consideration. For the record, this is another reason we do a writing test: you can’t fake it.

Detail deficit

A detail deficit comes through in a lot of ways: the applicant didn’t use their name in their resume’s file name; they didn’t tailor the cover letter to the job description and our company; or in later rounds, they didn’t do basic research to learn what our company does. Pay attention to detail, and if you’re already taking the time to apply, spend the extra 5-10 minutes it will take to make your application stand out.

Not following directions

Directions aren’t suggestions. If we ask for a cover letter, it’s not optional. If we ask you to apply with a certain subject line, we’re not going to pick nits if you get it wrong (but it does mean you’re harder to find in my inbox). If an applicant doesn’t follow the instructions, they better have exactly what we’re looking for to move on to the next round.

In summary

I’ve met a lot of amazing people through the hiring process, and quite a few I wish I could have hired. I rarely feel bad about anyone I’ve brought in for an interview because the only folks who make it to that stage bring a lot of my wish list – and few of my red flags – to the table. This approach saves Cloverhound a lot of time, but most important it keeps our office a great place to work. Happy job hunting!