I’ve been interviewing for tailors for as long as my business has been in operation, since there is always more work than hands. Through this process I’ve received thousands of applications and interviewed hundreds of candidates to join our team, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t been overly impressed.
(Since this is ostensibly about tailoring, I’ll be throwing in some of my pics because who reads something without pics these days 😉 You can check out The Green Tailor’s website for more about my tailoring)
I’ve repeatedly seen some basic mistakes that will definitely exclude you from the call-back list, and so I’d like to help people present their candidacy more effectively with these 10 rules. Although this article focuses on tailoring, every businessman I know is telling the same story, and these points are universally applicable.
10 Rules for Getting a Job
#1 Read the job advertisement carefully. The business is looking for something specific. It could be a skill set, a personality trait, certain experience or a combination of these. Make sure that you understand the requirements of the position before you apply, so that you’re able to present yourself as the best candidate according to the criteria.
Also be sure to understand how to go about applying. Should you email your resume, send a picture of yourself, call a number, or arrive at a location on a specific day? The number one disqualifying factor, for me, is that my adverts always ask for an emailed resume. If I get a phone call or (my pet peeve) a watsapp, I immediately know that this person cannot follow very basic instructions.
#2 Get on top of email etiquette. Most formal and business communication is done via email, and there are a number of standard courtesies that you need to follow in order to appear employable. There are a lot of unspoken rules when it comes to email etiquette, and I suggest you do a quick google search on the topic to familiarize yourself with them. As a starting point, these are the three basic mistakes I see people make all the time:
2.1. Have a relevant and polite subject line. Business people deal with hundreds of emails a day, and if yours comes up as Joe1234@hotmail.com without any explanation, it’s likely to just be deleted as spam. On being polite: ‘application for tailor position’ is acceptable, ‘job’ and ‘hi’ are not.
2.2. You must have an email body, and it must be more extensive than ‘see attached’. These days the body of your email serves as your cover letter, so take the time to make sure it says ‘If you give me money I’ll make you money’, and not ‘I’m so lazy I couldn’t even be bothered to introduce myself’.
2.3. Please for the love of good suits include a greeting and a signature! ‘Good afternoon Mr Business Person’ is absolutely essential, you can’t just say ‘here is my CV’. Similarly ‘Kind regards, George’, is better than nothing, and with your email address being ‘fungirl97’ I’ve often not been able to determine the name of an applicant.
(screen grab of what I’d call an attempted job application)
As a side note on email in general, I know it’s something that not everyone is familiar with. From many years lecturing at two of the best universities in the country I can say that even well educated, financially well-off people can be oblivious to email etiquette. From even more years working with various NGOs, I know there are thousands of charity and religious organisations that are there to help you find a job! If you’re unfamiliar with email get some help from these guys! They’ll help you type everything up, and probably even use their internet for free.
Also pay attention to how emails from a potential employer are formatted and mimic that style. If you get an email saying ‘Dear Susan, thank you for your application, would you be able to attend an interview? Kind regards, Benjamin’ don’t reply with ‘hi, where?’.
#3. Write your cover letter carefully. Yes you need a cover letter even in 2017! As explained in #1 the body of your email is today generally considered your cover letter. But you should also have a cover letter accompanying the hard copy of your resume (see point 7).
Remember that your cover letter is your introduction. And it’s where you need to explain how, according to the criteria listed in the advert, you would be a suitable candidate. This is especially important if you don’t have formal education listed on your resume relating to the vacancy. I get hundreds of resumes listing education in all sorts of random fields such as human resources, data base building and hairdressing. Which is all well and good since many people learn tailoring informally, but you need to include this in your cover letter otherwise I have no way of assessing your suitability for the job. Or worse, I’ll assume you don’t have any of the relevant skills and not even reply to your application.
#4 NEVER WATSAPP, EVER! Sending a watsapp (or facebook message or direct message or anything other than an email or an actual phone call) is downright rude. I fight with my mother about this one all the time since she says I should just ‘get with it’ and realize that this is how people communicate these days.
(a watsapp received on a Sunday)
Although I agree to a certain extent with her sentiments, and do communicate extensively over watsapp with employees and business associates, that level of familiarity only comes after you know each other personally. For a first contact, and certainly a job application, its extremely disrespectful.
If you’re unable to send an email, rather make an actual phone call and explain your situation asking if you could mail or bring a physical copy of your resume. DON’T WATSAPP!! And don’t watsapp saying ‘hi’, then wait for a response before saying ‘I’m looking for a job’.
For all communications (except emails) you must stick to business hours. Don’t ever contact a prospective employer on a Sunday asking for a job. It shows not only that you don’t respect her time, but also that you don’t know that this is rude. In my experience if I need to start educating you into a professional person from that starting point I just don’t have the money for it.
#5 Arrive on time, no actually arrive early. Nothing will get you scratched off the list as fast as wasting your interviewer’s time by showing up late. Not only are you costing the business money without return before you even walk through the door, but you’re signalling that you are generally tardy in nature, and therefore not a good employee.
Business is about plans. A business is looking to hire someone to help them execute their plans. If they’ve planned to interview you at 10am, and you don’t rock up till 1pm, that means you’re sabotaging their plans, and no-one needs someone like that on their team.
In reality everyone (even your worst stone-faced interviewer) knows that sh*t happens. You took a wrong turn and got lost, you woke up late with a hangover from hell, you under-estimated how long the trip would take…whatever. If you’re going to be late (and aren’t a complete idiot) you already know it at least 30 minutes before the time. PHONE AHEAD!! Call, don’t watsapp, explain your situation and apologize before asking if you can reschedule for a later time. If you call ahead and ask to re-schedule, a new plan can be made and everyone can keep moving forward. Rather than making a business person wait around doing nothing in the hopes that you might pitch up when the mood takes you.
#6. Dress sharp, no matter what job you’re applying for. Pitching up in a hoodie and torn jeans not only shows the interviewer that you don’t take this job seriously, but also that you don’t care about presentation. Personally it’s a sure sign that you’re not going to care about my client’s clothes if you don’t care about your own.
#7. Have a printed copy of your resume and cover letter. If you’re not asked for it, offer it. With the unemployment rate what it is in SA right now, any job advert is going to get thousands of responses. I can’t remember the majority of the people I’ve interviewed due to the numbers. But if I have a hard copy of your resume it’s easier to find you later on, perhaps for another position I think you’d be good at. Having a hard copy on hand also shows that you’re prepared and plan ahead, which are crucial skills in business.
#8. Show up prepared, not just with your resume but with whatever else you need to make a good impression. Know as much about the business as you can, and bring along whatever you’ve been asked for. I always ask for samples of someone’s work, and if you show up without them and start some story about how your arm fell off, you can kiss your chances goodbye. Again, sh*t happens, perhaps all your samples are with your crazy ex-wife in another province and you’d be facing death if you tried to retrieve them. This kind of situation you need to come out with before the interview; ‘unfortunately I wont be able to supply the samples requested because I sold them for heroin – may I please bring along some images I have of the garments instead?’ is going to get you a lot further in the interview process than simply pitching without samples, and waiting to be asked before going on your long sob story that the interviewer, guaranteed, is not even listening to.
#9. Stay off your phone. This applies more for once you’ve landed the job and are now in the probation phase, but especially during the interview you cannot so much as even think about your phone for any reason. If I see people looking at their phone too much I know they’re unable to concentrate on one task at a time, and guaranteed my hems are going to be skew as a result.
I know everyone has a side-hustle these days and that’s totally fine. But when you’re in my studio you’re on my time. If you want to be on your own time then put down that paycheck and take your chances at business like the rest of us.
Also a word of advice, if your hustle is happening over watsapp in the middle of the day, you’re in bed with the wrong people. If you can be texting during work hours you’re either unemployed or doing sh*t work at your job, so will be unemployed soon. These are not the people you want distracting you from earning a stable salary and being part of a business that’s already making money. Put down the phone and the messages from your unemployed crew who are totally about to make it big, turn around to your boss who has enough money to pay multiple salaries, and ask how you can get involved in his hustle.
#10. Ask questions, and admit when you don’t know. Very few people can walk into a job and know everything straight away. Every business has certain ways of doing things that you’ll need to learn in order to function properly within the system. If you’re waiting for someone to notice that you need help it means you’re prolonging your uselessness to the business, costing them more money than if you simply say ‘I actually don’t know how to thread an industrial overlocker, could you please show me’.
If you’ve received this article as a response to your job application with The Green Tailor, it means your application did not meet the minimum standards required for consideration. I hope this article has helped you understand why. I also hope that you will re-apply putting the points in this article into practice.
If you have further suggestions for guidelines that could help job seekers make better first impressions, please comment below. In my experience the bad applications are not due to stupidity or laziness, but a lack of knowledge. There’s a cultural gap between an unemployed person and the business environment, that can so easily be bridged with just a few touch ups to presentation here and there.
The Green Tailor’s Studio is at 625 Levinia Street, Garsfontein, and open every Thursday from 10am to 10pm. You can also subscribe to this blog by hitting the follow button, and join the monthly newsletter here for fashion scandal and awesome designs.