Although advice abounds on how to apply for positions and compile a CV, an alarming number of job seekers and interns still make classic mistakes that prevent them from getting jobs.
So says Claire Jackson of Alerting the Media, a boutique communications and PR consultancy in Johannesburg.
In an article posted on bizcommunity.com last year, Jackson appealed to prospective interns and job seekers to take more care when applying for positions.
"Occasionally I read them (applications), but more often than not, I delete them," Jackson wrote.
She went on to say that the PR and media consulting industry welcomes new talent and is desperate for young, energetic students, but that applications fail to impress.
"Professionalism and business etiquette are things we all strive to achieve on a daily basis, but I don't think students are being taught any such things," she elaborates.
"Starting an e-mail with "Howzit", sending an SMS asking for a job, or asking for my "advise" (sic) are a few ways of ensuring your e-mail application for a job will be deleted before I get to your name. Any sort of spelling mistake automatically irritates and bad sentence structure will make me question the degree and competence you are busy selling me."
Jackson's article elicited an avalanche of heated responses and even accusations of being a racist. Yet, many agreed she had a point: "Thank you for bringing this very important issue up," wrote Renay. "As a director of a PR agency, I get endless e-mails from students asking for jobs and internships.
"While I understand that they are entering the market and do not expect the world from them, I do expect some sort of professionalism. Most of the e-mails don't even have a cover sheet, just their CV, which I delete before opening. Those that have cover sheets are poorly written with major spelling mistakes." A rejected job seeker wrote: 'I fully agree… I sent an e-mail and did not receive a response, which means my CV went to the deleted box or she read it but was just unimpressed by it. I think the reason is that as students we tend to think that because we went to tertiary, the world owes us."
Jackson says that since the article appeared, the standard of CVs she receives from students that have been on to bizcommunity.com has improved. However, she maintains that the following advice is still applicable:
Make your CV stand out from the clutter. Show you've done research and how you'll be valuable to the organisation.
Have a strong understanding of what the company you are applying to join actually does. There is no point selling yourself if you haven't properly researched what each company does.
Don't use slang, don't send late night SMSes and don't write five page e-mails. Introduce yourself; give a few relevant points about yourself and your reason for wanting to work at the company. Attach an interesting and well-written, spell-checked CV.
Don't expect a response if you don't bother to get the right spelling of the name of the person you're e-mailing.
Don't mass mail your CV. A "Dear Sir/Madam" shows you up.
"This is basic and simple advice and I hope applicants read it and re-look the way they are currently applying for jobs or intern positions," says Jackson.
"Perhaps then they'll get positive responses and not find themselves in the deleted items box."