Style & Substance: on the preparation of job applicants

Dear style & substance,

I am a local Plattsburgh employer, employing about 15 people who have a wide range of duties to make my small business operate smoothly. Recently, I advertised a position and am appalled at how people show up unprepared; “messy” is the word that comes to mind both with grooming and filling out applications. Without sounding too nitpicky, could you advise me on how to get the point across with the applicants that come in?

First of all, you have the right to be “nitpicky”, as these are your employees and they are the face of and represent your company both at work and in the community! The difference between being particular and sounding like a ridiculous broken record is stating your expectations ahead of time.

I (Michele) recently had the opportunity to serve as an Evaluator for 4-H Public Speaking Presentations. The young people presenting were not only articulate and engaging, they dressed the part! A young man, eight years old, presented on fluid power; wearing navy trousers and a crisp white oxford with a complimentary tie. To complete the look, a polished dress shoe – he knew that the presenter of hydraulic and pneumatic systems had to show up dressed for success – and succeed he did. He obviously was coached by 4-H leaders and parents to play the part, which unfortunately is not happening (or not being taken seriously) in all teaching and home environments.

We share this story with you to make this point - his success did not just happen, there were steps and guidelines all along his path. As simple as this is, people rise (or don’t) to meet an expectation, the same as your potential employees. You may not want to tell perspective employees how to present themselves, you may believe that an individual should just ‘know better’, but as you can see, this has not been working for you.

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