The Job Search: How Low Is the Bar?

Students contemplating the college to career transition participate in a job search workshop.

We all know that is a lot harder to secure employment now than it was ten years ago.  You have to sell yourself as the best possible candidate for a position when you’re up against a lot of other job seekers.  

However, the bar is not always as high as you might imagine.  

Here is one example:

I recently spoke with an employer who includes this when she posts a job opening:

Send resume and cover letter to…

This sentence allows her to eliminate about 80% of the candidates who apply.


Because more than 80% don’t bother to include a cover letter.  This means that, if you are in that 80%, this employer doesn’t even consider you as an applicant; she doesn’t even look at the resume you did bother to send.

Then, with the remaining 20% of the applications, she skims the cover letter: does the candidate have good spelling, grammar, and punctuation?  If so, then she will look at that application.

If the cover letter has basic errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, she throws away the application–along with all the resumes that didn’t even come with a cover letter.  

In this case, you wouldn’t have to do a lot to be a competitive candidate–you have to write a letter and proofread it!  

Even if you have an error-free letter, there is still important content that you have to include to be the candidate who gets a job offer; more than one person can meet the low bar described here.

But please make sure you are indeed meeting the low bar described here in all of your applications.  For more on how to customize your documents, see posts here, here and here.  Or contact me for one-on-one support: 

2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a campus workshop, contact Darcy:
This entry was posted in Career Advice, darcy lear, document preparation, resume tips. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Job Search: How Low Is the Bar?

  1. Ann Abbott says:

    Unbelievable! On the other hand, that is very reassuring for the people who are actually thorough and professional.

  2. darcylear says:

    I was surprised to hear that 80% or more don’t include a cover letter. But that’s a great way to screen for this qualification: “can follow instructions.”

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