Getting Hired: Tips for tradespeople applying for work
Having owned a home remodel and repair business for a number of years, one thing that always astounded me is how poorly prospective staff and subcontractors approached me about hiring them. I believe a little common sense applies whenever someone is seeking a job regardless of the type of job or industry. I doubt that responding to a job posting with, “How much are paying?” as your first interaction with a prospective employer, ever resulted in a job offer in a good economy much less a depressed economy like we have now. Amazingly this sort of thing happens a lot! My goal in writing this article is help the job seeker present themselves in the best possible light when applying for a job with a remodeling, contracting, or trades company. Many points made below will also apply to subcontractors seeking work from contractors.
First the job seeker should place themselves in the shoes of the hiring manager and try and think about what that person wants from their staff. In addition to the particular trade or technical skills someone possesses, managers are in search of the three D’s – dependable, drug-free, and drama-free. Dependable meaning staff show up for work prepared to work at the agreed upon time. Drug-free and alcohol-free (and hangover-free) for obvious safety reasons. Drama-free meaning staff-members are able to keep their personal life under control so it does not impede into their work. Bottom line is you want to do you best at making a positive first impression. My hope is to shine some light on some more effective approaches to making a positive first impression and ones you may want to avoid.
I posted an ad online for a carpenter position, and here are a number of the responses that I received. (identifying information has been altered or deleted for privacy sake but the bulk of the message still remains including the spelling and grammar errors!)
Starting with some replies that didn’t make a positive first impression:
- What type of pay do you offer?
- pleace call my cell. (xxx) xxx-xxxx my name is Ron my experiece is of 10 yaers
- Regarding the ad you have posted online, to whom do I apply to?
- possibly interested in position.independent carpenter/handyman with multi-skills.
- if ur lookin for a sub contractor i’m ur guy
- Are you looking for real Craftsmen or just looking to fill a position. I have answered a nuumber of ads and have found them either filling a temp. position or looking for a sucker. I am looking to work in the field I have been in for 30+ years, but I am not looking to get involved in a company that wants to exploit my talents and expertise to fill their pockets and send me on my way. You want someone with their own insurance, own vehicle, own tools, 10 plus years experince, licensed, and doing the job from start to finish then I am willing to work. But if your looking to pay meager wages, penalties for not completing a job to your time constraints, or no input to the project, and just plain doing things your way and your way only I’m not interested. I do things by the book with no exceptions and the people I work for or work with should do the same. Resume Attached.
- YOU MAY REACH ME AT xxx-xxxx BEFORE 6:00PM OR AT (different number) xxx-xxxx AFTER 6:00PM.
- In response to your job posting, I am submitting my resume, it really doesn’t say much about all my skills, let me tell you I DO IT ALL, and I take pride in what I do, I guess you can call me a profectionist, I have references for my skills, I have been unemployed since march. The job market in up North really sucks, I will relocate if the price is rite.
You probably want to avoid the above approaches as these individuals were passed over from consideration from the very start. They may have been a highly skilled in their trade. However, their ability to project some degree of professionalism (a required skill) was not evident. Now I admit that I am not the best speller, but they have spell checkers to assist the ‘spelling-impaired’, self-included. So please spell check before sending in your application or correspondence, it makes you look ten times more professional then all the other respondents that don’t spell check.
There are a few common themes that I found that I will discuss as things not to do below.
- Don’t have the issue of pay as your first question. Yes pay is important but shouldn’t be the first thing discussed.
- Don’t say you have 20 years of experience without giving some specifics on that experience.
- Don’t say you are “possibly interested” in the job or “maybe interested” in the job. Hiring managers don’t want to waste their time with someone that is indifferent about their job.
- Don’t send a message riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. This point I mentioned earlier but if grammar and spelling isn’t your strong point, then use the grammar and spell checkers available on your computer.
- Don’t send an email from an account other than your own (not from your spouse, girlfriend, children’s account etc.) With readily available and free email accounts like gmail, hotmail, and yahoo out there, take a few minutes to get your own email account. Also, use your own name or have a generic name for your email. Having an email address like ‘Deathkill@email.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, CrazyGuy101@email.com,’ or similar may be fine with your friends but doesn’t project a professional image to a potential boss.
- Don’t have a “chip on your shoulder” or negative attitude when applying for a job. Having a negative attitude because you were laid-of, out of work, disgruntled with your past experience with other prospective employers, or for whatever reason will not help you get a new job.
Here are some replies that I have received that I thought very professional and liked. These would at least make it through most hiring managers initial review process.
- I have 15 plus years experience in the carpentry field. I specialize in trim, framing, custom stairs, windows, doors, decks, screened porches, etc.
-I have a clean background.
-I am a dedicated and hard worker.
-I have my own transportation, (work van), and tools.
-I am available asap.
-Here are two references: (More available upon request)
- Thank you for the opportunity to apply for a position with your company. Attached is my resume (formatted in Microsoft Word 2003). If for some reason you cannot open this attachment please let me know and I will send it another way. I also have references if you need them. Thank you again. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
- Please consider this letter and my resume as an expressed interest in a career opportunity with your company. Due to my extensive experience in construction, management and customer service, I am confident that I would serve as an asset to your administration and posses the qualities necessary to achieve your company’s objectives.
- Hello, I have been in construction for over 25 yrs; the past 10 yrs I have specialized in high-end custom renovations/remodels (including historic); I know the tricks, especially blending old with new; I am responsible & reliable, have no emotional baggage, and my records are clean; naturally I have truck & tools, and am available now if needed. Thanks, Joe
- Hello, my name is Joe Jones and I’ve been in business in the Anytown area for about 7 years. I have worked for some of the best remodeling companies in the state. I specialize in finish carpentry but do anything from light framing to decks, to high end interior trim. I am fully insured with workman’s comp and liability. I own a f-250 and a 6X12 double axle utility trailer. I have all my own tools and could write a book with my references. If your’e looking for someone who has a clean cut appearance, good attitude, and good work ethic you can call me directly or respond to this email. Thank you!
- Hello, This letter of interest is for the Carpenter position. I am a responsible, hardworking, dependable carpenter with twenty years of industry experience and the ability to supervise others, manage projects, meet deadlines, and maintain budgets. I have experience in the following areas: General remodeling, Additions, General construction, Concrete, Inside trim, Tile installation, Hanging doors and windows, Boxing and siding, Vinyl siding, soffit, and gutters, Framing, Hardwood and tile flooring, Supervisory experience, Project management experience. I am looking for work because my current employer is leaving the remodeling business. I have my own tools and transportation. Please contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx (cell). I look forward to hearing from you. With best regards, Joe Jones
As you can see how much better the later individuals presented themselves compared to the first set of individuals.
Some of the common positive elements or themes that individual job seekers should emulate are highlighted below.
- Do follow the instructions (if any) in the job posting.
- Do emphasize your honesty and genuineness with your prospective manager.
- Do be polite and cordial in all of your communications with a prospective employer.
- Do use clear language, grammar, and spell check before you send any written correspondence.
- Do offer details as to your training, education, experience, skills and abilities.
- Do offer some details on your availability, tools and equipment you own, and if you have reliable transportation.
- Do express your sincere interest in the position and your desire to discuss your abilities and how they match with the job requirements.
Your goal in sending in a resume or application for a new job is to get to the next step. That next step may generally be telephone interview followed by an in-person interview with the hiring manager. Your goal in each of these is to get to the next step and receive a job offer.
Perhaps a future writing will include tips for interviewing and how to develop those skills.
Best of luck in your job search!