The Practical Mac

Frequently Asked Employment Questions

- 2002.11.19 - Tip Jar

My series of recent articles on employment-related subjects has prompted an influx of email. Here are some of the most common questions and my response:

1. I have had several jobs in a short period of time, primarily due to mergers and layoffs. How big an obstacle is this in my job search?

This is not as big a problem as it once was. There was a time when corporations took care of their employees, and the employees reciprocated with loyalty. Unfortunately, the corporate culture has changed dramatically for the worse in the last 20 years or so. Not even IBM can promise lifetime employment anymore. With many companies no longer showing loyalty to employees, employees understandably no longer feel loyal to their employers. One cannot blame an employee for seeking other employment when their company is acquired, changes management, or goes bankrupt. Some companies balance the budget through mass layoffs.

In the IT field, the average tenure at a single employer is currently 18 months. Increasingly, HR Managers are recognizing this. In fact, many of them may have fallen victim to a failed company or lost their job due to downsizing, merger, or acquisition. This does not mean that, all other things being equal, a prospect with stable employment history won't still get priority over someone who has jumped around. It just means that job-hopping is now less likely to disqualify you from consideration from a particular job.

2. Do I need to send a cover letter when responding to an ad via email?

If the job listing specifies that a cover letter should be sent, then by all means do so. You should send it as an email attachment along with your resume. If a cover letter is not specifically called for, I recommend using the body of your email as a cover letter. I don't like to receive responses from applicants with numerous attachments to the email. That means I have to open each one to see the contents. Personally, I like to see a short, to the point note in the body of the email and the resume attached.

You should never send a blank email with only an attachment. Put at least a short, personal note in the body.

Remember to always put your name and contact information in the body of your email, just in case!

3. Where is the best place to look for job postings?

That depends., Dice, and HotJobs attract the lion's share of technology job postings from all over the country. The local newspaper is still used by many companies. If you live in a smaller town, the nearest "big city" paper may attract listings for which the employer does not expect to find many qualified local candidates.

Institutions such as schools, local government, colleges, etc. don't often use the Internet to post their vacancies. Most jobs in these sectors are still advertised in the local newspaper.

Most states, as well as the federal government, have their own websites where they list vacancies. Many specialized fields have websites ( dedicated to their profession.

4. When responding by email, in which format should I send attachments?

Many job listings specify the format for the attachment. Anytime this is the case, you should comply with the wishes of the recipient. By doing so, you are, among other things, demonstrating your ability to follow instructions. If the listing does not specify the format for attachments, you should send it in either Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF. Like it or not (and I will point out that I most certainly do not like it), Word is the de facto standard in word processing. Virtually everyone has a copy of Adobe Acrobat reader. If you venture outside these two formats, you run the risk of the recipient not being able to open your resume. If that happens, they may or may not write back to request it in a different format.

An advantage to Adobe PDF is that it will display on the recipient's PC just as it looks on yours. The disadvantage is that your have to buy the full Adobe Acrobat to create the PDF. There are some freeware or shareware products designed to create PDFs from other formats (including OS X's "print to PDF" functionality), but all that I have tried have some difficulty with advanced formatting. For example, using "print to PDF" results in the bullets being stripped from bulleted lists.

The disadvantage to MS Word is that settings on the recipients PC can change the way your file displays when it is opened. It is also relatively expensive.

It is also acceptable to send an attachment in either plain text or rich text format. Virtually any word processor can open these types of files. The drawback is that these "lowest common denominator" file types limit your ability to format your resume for attractive presentation. But if you can make it look good, text or RTF are good choices. I usually advise against HTML format. Some email servers and filters strip HTML attachments. Plus, as we all know, a page that looks good in one browser can look radically different in another.

There are some exceptions. If the listing is clearly Mac-related, it would probably be acceptable to send an attachment in AppleWorks format, as well as any others mentioned above. WordPerfect is still the standard in most law offices. If you are applying to IBM, Lotus WordPro is probably okay.

5. What is the most common mistake you see on resumes?

There are actually two. The first is making the resume too long. You don't have to go into great detail on each job - just hit the highlights. Try to keep it to two pages if possible. Include a quick rundown of your competencies. This is not necessarily universally accepted as a "mistake." I have seem some job counselors advise making your resume an exhaustive list of everything you know or have ever done. I have received several seven and eight-page resumes. That's just too long.

The second mistake I see is misspelled words. It doesn't take long to run spell check. Even if you are writing your resume in a program without spell check, it is easy enough to cut and paste it into a program that does have spell check, check the spelling there, then make the corrections in the original program. LEM

IT Job Articles

The Practical Mac will be taking next week off for Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays to all of our readers!

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

Today's Links

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's store


Open Link