Dear sir / madam, please don’t hire me.

Writing out a job application? Please — PLEASE — don’t make these bloopers.

There’s plenty of advice out there about what not to do on your first date. So we all know asking “How many kids do you want to have?” is a bad idea. Unfortunately, not a lot of people—nope, not just freshers—seem to know what not to do when applying for a job. 

Over the years, I have hired for roles in training, marketing, customer service, content and design and seen even experienced applicants making the same mistakes again and again. Here are some things to avoid the next time you apply for a job.

Dear Sir/Madam…

Would you sign off an email with “Your obedient servant”? Then why would you begin one with “Dear Sir/Madam”? Salutations such as these are relics of the colonial era and best left there. 

  • Open your email by addressing your recruiter/hiring manager by name. Finding this name isn’t difficult, especially if you are applying through a portal like LinkedIn.

  • If you can’t find their name, open with a simple, “Hello”. It’s simple, friendly, and the perfect balance of formal and casual.

  • Other openings to avoid: Greetings! (You are not a greeting card); Hi! (Too casual for a professional setting, even if you know the hiring manager in person); Good morning/evening (You don’t know when they are going to open/see the email.)

The boilerplate resume

One time, I was hiring writers for our marketing team. The feelers I had put out clearly mentioned the role and description. I had also included a line that said ‘If you don’t fit the role to a T, but would like to give it a shot, tell us why and knock our socks off.’ Yet, the number of boilerplate resumes I got from software testers and sales professionals for this role was astounding. 

It is frustrating for hiring managers to know that you don’t care enough to tweak your resume or write a few lines on why you’re keen on the role. So please make an effort to customize your resume and email for the job at hand.

A tip: Every brand has a distinctive tone of voice and this is usually reflected in their recruitment listings as well. Try and mimic this voice/tone in your covering letter—if the firm is funny, be funny; if they are formal, be formal. This is a subtle way of letting them know that you’re listening and you’re a good fit.

Objective? No, thanks.

A lot of candidates still open their resume with a 2-3 line objective. And most of the time, what they say here is so generic as to be pointless! Your objective (right now at least) is to get this job. Most hiring managers I know just skip this part and move to your work experience.

A statement of purpose inside your resume is not just an outdated practice, but it also takes up valuable space that you could use to talk about more important things: like your professional accomplishments, learning, or skills. 

A tip: If you do have something specific and meaningful to say that you want your prospective employer to know, put it in your covering letter.

Dis is nt gud

The other day, a candidate wrote to me asking for more information about a JD I had shared. Their email went something like this: “Hey, cud u fwd me the link to d website? i want to know more about the job”

I replied: “Gr8! here u go.” 

I suspect the sarcasm was lost on him.

SMS slang is not acceptable in any formal context. It makes you come across as juvenile or careless, and these are real turn-offs for hiring managers. So take those few extra minutes to compose full sentences.

You are awesome. But where’s the proof?

How does a potential employer know that you are a good writer or designer or social media strategist? Sure, you could tell them, but it’s even better if you show them. 

It is ALWAYS a good idea to share your portfolio or work samples along with your resume. Not only does this make a great impression, it also speeds up the process. Because if you send this proactively, they don’t have to write back asking for one.

If you don’t have a portfolio yet, invest the time to make one. You could use a portfolio app like Behance or Coroflot (for designers), Contently or WordPress (for writers), or Wix. If none of this is okay, at least put your creatives / work samples on a Google Drive and share the link with the recruiter. Personally, I dislike having to download large zip files and would rather view them online.

A tip: If you have a lot of work you could showcase, don’t send the entire dump. Choose your best work OR the work that’s most relevant to the job at hand. Again, this takes a few extra minutes, but I can assure you it is worth it.

Good luck with that next application/pitch!


Written by: Gowri N Kishore, a freelance writer and communications consultant based in Bangalore. The original version of this article was published on her LinkedIn profile here.

PS: Gowri is being humble. She is an extraordinary writer, with professional experience as the Consulting Editor at Writer’s Side and Creative Head at Urban Ladder, where she wrote their lovely newsletters.