Christmas Shopping And Job Applications: One And The Same

Last Friday morning, I was standing at the front of a classroom leading a resume writing workshop. Later in the evening of the same day, I was out Christmas Shopping with my wife. It struck me over the weekend how similar the two activities are as I sat in the basement, wrapping presents, affixing ribbons and bows, and writing nametags.

You see, when it gets to be mid-November and into early December, it’s customary in my family to be asked what you want for Christmas. It starts out innocently enough, something like, “Start thinking about what you want for Christmas”. As the days progress, it becomes, “So have you started thinking about what you want for Christmas?” Then it becomes direct, “I need to know what you want for Christmas.” And it ends up being, “You still haven’t told me what you want for Christmas, and if you don’t tell me soon, who knows what you’ll get!”; that is if you haven’t already laid things out clearly.

Now truth be told, I usually have no problem putting together a list of the things I want. I’m really just a big kid around this time of year.

Now contrast this with the old job search. It starts off with you asking yourself or someone else whose helping you out saying, “Start thinking about what will make you happy”. Then becomes, “So have you thought about what you’d like to do?” Then it becomes, “Okay you need to know what it is you want in order to get on track and focus”. And if you’re wandering all over the occupational landscape with no direction, it becomes, “You still don’t know what you want to do? If you don’t figure out soon, you’ll settle for the dreaded, ANYTHING!”

Yes, be it shopping for presents or shopping for a job, both activities need some focus. Of course when you ask others for their list of wanted items, you have a choice as to whether or not you’ll buy them anything on the list. I’m not a list guy when it comes to others personally. I’d ask for a list from my daughter and wife to just put them off whatever I’d be planning on buying. I’d head out to the mall and see something I’d like on them if it was clothes, or something I’d think they’d like and buy it, wrap it, label it, and put it under the tree. What used to drive me insane then was how they would guess what it was – sometimes just by looking at it. Although I suspect both them felt, smelled, touched, shook, listened etc. all under the guise of ‘arranging’ them better under the tree.

Jobs, careers and occupations are much the same. Employers make lists of all the qualifications they want in their job applicants and post them on the big job boards where everyone can see them. Some job seekers go right to task, modifying their cover letters and resumes, so they appear to be giving employers exactly what they want. Getting a job interview is like being invited over to their home on Christmas morning as they unwrap the present and see what’s inside. Does the interviewer seem pleased or not, want to spend more time with the applicant or toss them aside like an unwanted gaudy sweater?

This is the time when poor job applicants do with their job search what I do with my Christmas lists from family. I usually gaze at them and then get to work on getting them what I want, not what they want! Poor job applicants do the same when they fail to modify their resumes and cover letters and expect the selection panel to invite them in for an interview when they’ve done nothing to address the employers needs. The employer says, “I want enthusiasm, a Forklift licence, 1 – 6 month’s experience, the ability to work well with others and take direction.” Poor job applicants counter with, “I’ve got an ability to work productively alone, a driver’s licence, can work a variety of shifts, and can start immediately”.

Good qualities of course, but maybe your qualities as offered would better suit another employer. Remember the kid who wanted a remote control model airplane and opened up a pair of knitted socks instead? Hmmmm…. If it’s that easy to see that the kid is going to be disappointed and keep hunting for another package in the hopes of the airplane, why is it so hard to see that an employer is going to keep reviewing resumes to see if someone better suited to their needs is in the pile?

Strangely, I’m one of the few men whose wife’s and child seldom if ever are disappointed with what they receive. Oh I’ve missed the mark to be sure – but not often. There’s a beautiful red-sequin top in the clothes closet my wife never wears, which I think she just keeps there out of pity not wanting to hurt my feelings by passing on to someone else. Then again, this is the woman who wants an iron and flatware for Christmas and three years ago wanted a vacuum. Most men would be shot for buying a vacuum and an iron.

Bottom line here people is get the message that you have to match what employers want with want you offer. Don’t count on doing this at the interview only, because if you don’t match up well on paper, you’ll never get there!

Written by Kelly Mitchell
SJS Contributor

This post was originally published at and was syndicated with the author’s permission.

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