Getting the interview every time

On normal day at Peergrade we receive 5–10 job applications for various jobs — marketing interns, front-end developers, sales executives. Of the applications we get every day, around one person ends up going through to an interview.

When I am screening one of these applications, there are a number of things that will probably make me instantly reject it. If you avoid these mistakes, you are almost certain to get to the interview. All examples here are taken verbatim from applications I have received during the last months.

Please, no more “Dear sir/madam”

I regularly get applications where I am addressed as “Dear sir/madam”, or with something like:

I saw there was vaccancy for Frontend developer in your prestigious concern

Calling my small startup a “prestigious concern” is probably the norm some places in the world, but if you write like this in Scandinavia you are instantly labeled as a bad cultural fit. Just start your mail with “Hi David”.

Tell me why I need you

If you are submitting an application to work at Peergrade, you need to convince me why we need to hire you. I recently got an email with the following start:

Hello. I was wondering if you could find me some work on a full-time basis?

If you do not bother going to our website, looking at the jobs-page and figuring out which positions we are looking to fill, I guarantee you that you are not the proactive profile we are looking for.

Be a specialist, not a generalist

Are you really that good at all these things?

“Skills — Languages: PHP, Perl, Shell Script, core Java, RoR. — JavaScript Framework: jQuery, Ajax, Json YUI, Prototype, Angular JS, BackboneJS, Ember.js Node.JS. — FrameWorks : Code Ignitor, Zend, YII, CakePhp, Smarty, Customized MVC framework — CMS : Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal, Magento, custom CMS, SugarCRM, , Teamsite/LiveSite,IDOL — DBMS : MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, PostgreSQL CRM : Salesforce and SugarCRM. — eCommerce : VirtueMart, OpenCart, OScommerce, Magento, Zencart, PrestaShop — Design : XHTML,HTML,DHTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT,HTML5, Twitter Bootstarp. — Platform : Unix, Ubuntu, Amazon Cloud, EC2, Novell — Version Control : SVN, GIT, CVS — Payment Gateway :, Paypal, 2Checkout,,, MoneyBookers — Tools — Eclipse, Service now, Mantis, Jira, Bugzilla, Red Mine — Solid understanding of web standards, semantics and cross-browser issues and solutions — API Integration: Facebook API, Twitter API, Google Maps — Others: exposure to creating mobile sites, exposure to Salesforce CRM, Strong hands in SQL.”?

One of the most important take-aways about hiring is to — “hire for strength rather than lack of weakness” — which is addressed in the amazing book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz (read it!).

When I am hiring a front-end developer, I am instantly more interested if the above is cooked down to:

Experienced JavaScript developer (e.g. jQuery, AngularJS, BackboneJS, EmberJS and NodeJS). Knowledge of AJAX, Restful services and databases (e.g. SQL, MongoDB).

It is even better if you can back up the above with an example or two of things you did that prove your skills.

I don’t care about artistic and organisational skills and competences

When I am reading your application for a job at our company, I don’t care that you list being “Well trained in yoga and meditations techniques” under your “ARTISTIC SKILLS AND COMPETENCES”.

That you have “Team and project management skills” and a “Strong sense of responsibility and Time Management” is not something I need to read in an application. First of all I expect this from everyone I hire. Second of all, assessing this is what the interview and the first three months on the job is for.

I don’t care about Microsoft Office skills or knowledge of Wordpress

I don’t care about “Good knowledge in Microsoft Office applications”. If you are actually able to figure out complicated concepts in Javascript, then I am sure you can learn how to use Powerpoint over the weekend. If you are intelligent and a good analytical marketing expert I am sure you can figure out how to use Wordpress. Don’t waste time on telling me about your proficiency in a tool that anyone can learn to use in 2 hours.

A good application needs to be to the point, explain exactly why I need to hire you and make me excited about it. If you are really good, you are going to make me feel like I am missing out by not hiring you — now you have the upper hand!

Even though we are rejecting 4–9 people every day, we are still looking for amazing people to join Peergrade. Please shoot us an application and remember the things above ;).

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