On Assembling Bikes and Applying for Jobs

Raise your hand if you like following directions.

That’s what I thought. A lot of us liberty-loving folks shy away from someone else telling us what to do.

Related story-time: I was recently assembling two beach cruiser bikes with my husband. I ripped open one of the boxes and stared at the cornucopia of pieces and parts. The only shapes that were immediately identifiable were the tires and the always-practical front basket. (That’s right – we have baskets on our bikes and we’re not ashamed. Mind you these are Huffy beach cruisers, not Cannondale road bikes. We won’t be wearing spandex logo  gear whilst riding these puppies; we’ll be in flip flops, baby!)

Anyway, back to the story. Despite the fact the parts on the garage floor looked foreign to me (for all I knew, they could have been pieces of a Winnebago), the last thing I was going to do is pick up that 156 page manual and read the instructions.

My husband, on the other hand, is much more precise than I am. (One of the many reasons we’re great together.) So, he picked up the manual and began turning that Winnebago into a bike. He’s a good man, that Mr. Dixon.

Thanks to his following directions, we were cruising around the neighborhood in no time. Had I been left to my own devices, I’d probably still be sitting there staring at the parts.

Now, let’s apply this logic to job applications. It will pay big dividends if you follow instructions carefully before you shoot off your resume to a hiring manager.

Case in point, earlier in the year I worked on a senior level search in which candidates were asked to submit several items in one PDF document. The instructions were clear as day, but fewer than half of the applicants followed them. Some candidates failed to send the correct materials while others sent the required materials in an incorrect format. Some candidates seemingly made up their own application instructions and followed those instead (10 points for creativity!).

I’m a charitable person (well, sort of); therefore, I gave the applicants a chance to reapply correctly. I’ll be darned if many of them still didn’t follow the instructions on the second try! Oh boy.

Now, if you think I’m a stickler, you should talk to my clients. The most common reaction I get from clients is, “If the candidate can’t follow simple application instructions, how will he/she perform on the job?” They also say, “If the candidate doesn’t care enough to read the instructions, he/she must not be very interested in the job.” It’s hard to argue with either point.

So, I beg of you, next time you apply for a job, carefully read the application instructions! Failing to do so could cost you an interview and, therefore, the job.

And the next time you assemble a bike, get your detail-oriented spouse involved. Happy trails!

Claire Kittle Dixon is the Executive Director of Talent Market.

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