Watching the Geospatial Resumes Come In

By Adena Schutzberg

Earlier this year I was helping a client who needed to fill a position. That position was a senior technical individual with five years of GIS experience. There was no discussion of specific GIS software in the job advertisement, but experience with GIS and Web programming, municipal GIS and open source technology was noted as "a plus."

The ad, posted on a number of geocentric job websites, brought in quite a number of resumes from individuals around the world. Only one or two prompted a response. I wanted to share some of the missteps that helped to separate the "wheat from the chaff."

Failure to Respond to the Specific Job Announcement
One respondent noted an interest in contributing to the company in "Geographic Information System (GIS) and Land Surveying." There was no mention of land surveying in the job description or company website.

One e-mail had this title: "APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT" (GIS Data Modelling Engineer)."

These two quotes suggested to me that the respondents meant to send in their materials for a different position.

Inclusion of Typos and Unexplained Acronyms
This is only a sampling of the products/company names mentioned in cover letters and resumes.

Esri (correctly ESRI)
Mapinfo (correctly MapInfo)
AutoCad (correctly (AutoCAD)
Teleatlas (correctly Tele Atlas)
Arc Map (correctly ArcMap)
Microstation (correctly MicroStation)
power point, excel, word and outlook (correctly PowerPoint, Excel, Word and Outlook)
Envi (correctly ENVI)
PCI geomatica (correctly PCI Geomatics)
Map Server (correctly MapServer)
Google sketch up (correctly SketchUp)
Sketchup (as above)
Map Info (see above)
Arc view (correctly ArcView)
UDig (correctly uDig)
Falcon View (correctly FalconView)
Lizard Tech (correctly LizardTech)
GE Smallwolrd (correctly GE Smallworld)

Many candidates referenced acronyms of project or agencies that were not written out or explained. Several replies misspelled the name of the company looking to hire!

In each case, I fear, the candidates didn't take the time to look up the correct spelling or capitalization, or explain the meaning of three or four letter acronyms. Those simply were not the type of people the company was seeking.

Too Much Information
One respondent clearly wanted to highlight a breadth of knowledge related to operating systems. After noting comfort with "all different types of computer operating systems," the cover letter specifically noted "(Windows XP and Vista)."

Another clearly tried to butter up the hiring manager: "I wish to work with you because You are the best in Business and i would love to be a part of a brand name."

More than one included date of birth and/or religion.

One noted he is an Eagle Scout.

Two candidates offered objectives:

"a Challenging & Hardworking Position at a Company that offers benefits for my hard work."

"Seeking assignments in the areas of Techno Commercial Operations / Business Development / Sales & After Sales Functions / Infrastructure with an organization of repute."

One person included his health status. (Thankfully, it was "excellent.")

One person sent a 16 Mb portfolio. Many individuals included their GPAs.

Much of this information was simply inappropriate within U.S. job requirements. Some made the submitter seem less, rather than more qualified. In a few cases, the information was too dated to be relevant (scouting and college GPAs).

Lack of Supporting Evidence
One cover letter noted, "My strengths include learning quickly," which I found interesting. However there was no evidence in the submission to back it up. I was looking for something on the order of "taught myself [program] in order to support [effort]."

Another stated, "I am confident that some of my skills and my passion for technology are a perfect match for this position." The individual included a list of skills (some unrelated to any noted in the description) but did not match them to those requested in the job posting.

Another respondent worked to match his experience and skills with those requested. That was promising. Unfortunately, the individual updated the job requirements to match his 3.5 years of experience. (Recall the job posting required five years experience.) Worse yet, the resume cited a total of just 3 years and 2 months experience.

Document Management Issues
Nearly every document attachment was named "resume.doc." Some were titled "resume08.doc."

One respondent supplied a link to a resume on the Web. It failed.

I'll suggest that it is a good practice to include one's last name in the resume file name. Further, including a past date in the file name, like resume08.doc could suggest the resume has not been recently updated. And, finally, check the links and be sure they will be valid for at least a month or two past when the cover letter is submitted.

Could Go Either Way
These comments left me a bit bewildered.

"In all honesty, I doubt I currently meet the minimum requirements for the open position."

"I will tell you right away that I do not have the experience you are looking for, but I have a strong passion for GIS, deep technical experience, and I feel I would bring a lot to your company."

I respect the honesty of these words. Further, the submitters clearly read the job requirements with care. On the other hand, the individuals were simply not currently qualified.

I'm hopeful that sharing some of these misfires will help readers to tighten up their cover letters and resumes to get a great job. And perhaps these pointers will help the authors of these documents go further in the hiring process next time.

Published Friday, November 13th, 2009

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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