The Little Things Matter

When looking for a job most seekers spend the majority of their time focusing on the major things – résumés, networking, updating that all important LinkedIn profile, etc. when in fact it really is the little things that really need to be looked at first.

It truly is the little things that can have the biggest impact on your personal brand and your job-search. Here are a few things that often get overlooked that require your immediate attention –

Phone and voicemail etiquette – People make huge mistakes on the phone and when they are setting up their own voicemail and leaving messages for others. Here is what I would consider:

  • When you leave a message for someone else start off with your name and phone number (said SLOWLY), your brief message, and then your name and phone number again (again said SLOWLY).
  • When you set up your voicemail make sure YOU leave the outgoing message. Not your kids, not your grandkids, not your favorite musical selection.
  • When you call someone ask them if they have a minute to speak before you go into conversation.
  • Always tell the person who is calling who you are and say your name SLOWLY. Don’t just assume that they recognize your voice.

Your ‘off the clock’ stage presence – When looking for a job how you present yourself at all times is super important. Everyone knows the importance of being ‘on’ during an interview but how you act outside of that encounter can also have a big impact on your search. Consider the following:

  • You are running a little bit late to your latest interview so you blow by the two stop signs in the parking lot. The HR person (who also handles safety) is looking out their office window, sees the whole thing, watches you walk in the building, and then puts on a fake smile when he shakes your hand as your first stop of the day. Guess how this one is going to turn out?
  • You go to the grocery store in your nastiest sweats without brushing your hair or your teeth or you are looking at an inappropriate magazine at the bookstore and the person who interviewed you yesterday walks by. What do you think is going to happen with that opportunity?
  • You go out to the local watering hole and have about five too many and a recruiter you have been working with shows up. Not a good situation.
  • You teach the guy that allegedly cut you off how to count to one on both hands and blow on the horn to make  sure he sees you. The next day you walk in to an interview with your dream company and he is the hiring manager. Not good.

Email address– It’s fine to have a cutesy email address to use with your friends but they definitely don’t fly when you are looking for a job. Here are some of the most common types of email address mistakes I see:

  • – Age discrimination does exist in the business place today and you don’t want to advertise something that can be used to weed you out. DO NOT (I repeat DO NOT) put your birth year in your email address.
  • – This one is self-explanatory and shouldn’t need to be mentioned but I still see ‘that’ person pretty regularly
  • – Some people don’t like kids or people who have them.
  • – What if the person reviewing your resume or information hates your favorite sports team? I have seen people not move forward in the process for less.

What you name your job search documents counts – You can name the documents you create anything that you want and what you name your résumé and other job-search documents can count against you. The vast majority of job-seekers name their resume ‘resume’, reference sheet ‘references’, etc. which does not help you stand out as a professional candidate. Here’s what to do:

  • First step – give your document your name. Some recruiters prefer first name last, last name first and others prefer the opposite.  Either way you look at it, it is a much better start than giving your job-search document the same-old, same-old that every one else does.
  • Second step – describe what the document is. If it a reference sheet put ‘reference’ in parenthesis (References), if it is a résumé put ‘résumé’ in parenthesis (Résumé), etc.
  • Third step – put it all together.  John Doe (Résumé) and John Doe (References), etc looks so much better.
  • Also – pay attention to the spelling of résumé (it is not spelled resume). Everything in your job-search documents needs to be spelled correctly, including the names of those documents.

I know I am just scratching the surface with the things listed here and will add to it as time goes by. Good luck and good searching!


25 responses to “The Little Things Matter

  1. Hey Matt, Really enjoyed the blog some small important things that no one every considers. Also enjoyed the NCTG email last night, too. Thanks for all of the continued input.


  2. That was one of the best blogs I’ve read in a long time. Who’d have thought to even ask if it’s important whether or not one includes the accents while spelling “résumé”? (I just in the last 10 seconds taught myself how to plug in those accents. I hope a lot of people notice! 😉


  3. Hey Matt, Great tips . Its a good start. Hope many will benefit from your blog. Keep doing it. God Bless you.

  4. Hi Matt. Great Blog with some really good reminders – we often forget the “little” things that make big impressions when we least expect it! Your email yesterday should be posted as a blog as well – it was great – re Chemistry. Thanks for all you do!

  5. Ok so the email last night was re “a note about YOUR job search – and not chemistry (that was from someone else)!

  6. Matt, Great start to your blog! You’ve given some very important little things we all need to remember. I think you’ve made a good choice using WordPress. When I started my wife’s cooking blog,, I used and I now use which gives even more flexibility. Keep up the posts. -Richard

  7. Great blog, Matt. Thanks for everything you do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen resumes (I know – no accents) from people with an email address like ‘dragonwarrior1985@…’ or ‘sportznut@aol…’ I really try not to hold it against a candidate, but it’s terribly unprofessional and it *does* tell you something about the candidate – and the person who is just as qualified with the email address of ‘john_doe@…’ does look more appealing. (provided, of course that the candidate’s name is indeed John Doe) 🙂

    Thanks again for everything you do. Now get out there on Twitter and promote this thing!

  8. Your new blog is basic common sense, and it’s hard to believe you have to keep repeating, but thanks for the reminders. Taking a page from your suggestions, check the spelling on “etiquette” – it looks like a “g” on my screen rather than a “q”. I never trust spell check myself!

  9. Matt, what a great way to share your expertise in best practices and warn about how to avoid the land mines that will get you eliminated. Here is an especially good job web site that searched most of the major sites and even local newspaper listings and give you the source of the add so you can investigate further. Great to see you in the 2.0 revolution.

  10. Thanks for the reminders to pay attention to personal character and details. In addition to the obvious benefit, you provided a nice relief to those of us who would like to say something to others about some of these things – but never seem to do it. Thanks!

  11. Good Blog. Great advice that everyone should follow. I use résumé as much as possible and as often as technology allows me to do so. However, if you look at Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, resume is a variant and is also acceptable. But since so many recruiters prefer résumé, it is still the best spelling to use.

  12. Your mention of persons speaking too quickly on voice mails is appreciated. Many folks will speak clearly, then not enunciate the phone number.

  13. Matt,
    congratulations on the Blog start up! I think this is a great idea!

    I guess you are focusing on resumes this first day in cyberspace….

    I re worked my resume entirely after attending your clinic in 2004… I still use that basic format now ….. I keep a current resume up to date and ready to go all the time….I use a simple spreadsheet to document all the worthy accomplishments that I might need to draw from if in fact I need to submit it to someone….not that I would use ALL the entries, but at least I have logged them down and have them verbalized so I don’t so easily forget them…I recommend everyone who is a serious job hunter to follow your pattern for a current resume….

    The BEST help I ever received was a seminar held at NCTG last summer, by a healthcare recruiter……as he explained how he actually sorted through literally hundreds of resumes each day I began to see some of at least what HE thought was important – to wit: make sure the key words in the job description are used in the resume, make sure you qualify for the position, keep it brief….if you know someone at the target company, have them deliver a copy of your resume directly to the hiring manager and the recruiter, follow up appropriately….keep trying, be persistent and consistent is my motto….

    Keep up the good work! Thanks for all your help!

  14. TOR (The Other Rick)

    Great job Matt – I look forward to your next entry

  15. Great job on your first blog. I appreciate you spending your time helping others.

    You asked for input on your blog. You might consider making your posts shorter and having each of these sections as a separate blog post:

    -Phone and voicemail etiguette
    -Your ‘off the clock’ stage presence
    -Email address
    -What you name your job search documents counts

    Shorter blog posts are easier to read and gives more volume and categories to your blog.

    You could set up sub-categories under the category “job search”.

    Most people who start blogging don’t have the immediate comments and responses that you do. With the following that you have, and the amount of people that you help, I am not surprised at the response.

    Have you considered writing a book? This blog could be the framework for your book and you could include our comments. Let me know if you need an editor.

    Kudos to you for your efforts and willingness to make a difference.

  16. This is a great blog- I’m definitely going to keep updated. I’m a new grad moving to Nashville in May. Last week I went to the Metro Luncheon and I’ll be at the Careers in Motion Mixer in March. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet then. Keep up the good topics!

  17. Great tips. I’d like to add one. Make it easy for the recruiter to find you. Seems simple, but I was in a position as a recruiter for a major automotive company in this past year. I read hundreds of resumes (sorry, I don’t know how to put accents on, first task after this) and I was shocked at how many didn’t put phone numbers (!) or email addresses on their resume and be sure. I believe the first rule should be: make it easy for them to find you. As the resumes came in I had each one printed off for later consideration. If there was no phone number or email address and they hadn’t put their name in the subject line it was impossible to find them. Always make it easy for them to find you.

    • The é is really easy to insert. If you hold down the ALT button on a Windows based computer and then hit 1 then 3 then 0 on the number pad and then let go of the ALT button it does the e and the mark – é. For those with a MAC – sorry – don’t know that command.

    • Here’s a handy guide to getting accented characters for a Mac (note that it might use the Option key instead of Alt on some Macs): Mac Glyphs

      And here’s the one I use for PCs: PC Alt Characters

      Hope that helps some folks out.

  18. Pingback: Before You Hit Send – Things To Consider When Sending A Résumé « A Recruiters Guide to the Universe

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  20. Great job, I didn’t realize this was posted so long ago when you mentioned it in the LinkedIn group yesterday.

    One thing I would like to add to your section about voicemail etiquette: Make sure your outgoing voicemail message is not only given by you, but is professional in its content. So often I will call people only to hear something like “Hey what’s up this is ____, leave a message and I’ll call ya back if I feel like it.”

  21. Great comments! You’d be surprised how many people overlook the small things. As a recruiter and career coach, these points can sometimes seem second nature to keep in the forefront of your mind, being that we deal with so many resumes regularly. But great to point out to clients – it can be the smallest detail that gives them the extra leg up over competition. – Dana –

  22. Good post – particularly the point about leaving the birth year out of the email address (YIKES!).

    However, I definitely disagree with adding the accents in the word “résumé.” If we want this document to be found in a search for resumes (in the recruiters email account or on the web), VERY, V*E*R*Y few people search on the term “résumé” – they search on the term “resume.” So, if “resume” (sans accents) is not in the document, it will not be found.

    While using the term résumé may be good spelling, it is NOT good SEO (search engine optimization).

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