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Have you ever applied for a job? Were you hoping to actually get an interview and then maybe a job – or was the application process just something you were going through to “prove” to someone that you were “looking”, “making an effort”?

I know it sounds crazy, but I think that some people have such a great fear of an interview, or maybe of actually getting a job, that they ensure that their application has no chance of getting noticed (in a positive way)! By doing so, there is no chance they will get contacted for an interview and no way they are actually going to get a job. I would hope this is their motivation but just in case there are people out there who are accidentally making a couple of common mistakes, I am sharing my observations.

I have been responsible to hiring technical professionals many times. No matter what the technical specifications of the job there are two  personal characteristics I always expect of anyone that I will be working with:

  1. Attention to Detail and
  2. Analytical Ability

A lack of attention-to-detail personality characteristic, jumps out at me when in reading the cover letter and resume, I see things such as:

  • spelling mistakes (including incorrect capitalization – even in an address)
  • incorrect punctuation
  • incorrect job (or company!) referred to (no doubt a result of a copy and paste from a previous application) – BAD!

I may overlook one little typo, but usually if there is a big stack of applications to go through, there are no second chances. I would expect candidates to be showing their absolute best through the hiring process but if they are not paying attention to details here, they are going to end up costing me time and money if they were ever hired!

The second must-have characteristc for any job is analytical ability. I need someone who can look at a situation , analyze something and then take action. I am amazed by the number of applications that I have reviewed where the candidate appears to have not even read the full job description. It seems that they have read just the first two words of the job title, and decided the job fit them perfectly. I expect someone to have read the job description fully (a number of times). I expect the candidate to demonstrate their understanding of my job’s requirements by  showing (in their cover letter and resume) how they meet each of the requirements. If the candidate doesn’t meet each of the requirements (and rarely does any candidate meet them all), then the applicant must analyze the job requirements, analyze their experiences and make a case that they can/will come close to meeting the job requirements.

These two characteristics, attention-to-detail and analytical-ability, won’t guarantee you a job offer, but believe me, an obvious demonstration of a lack of these characteristics will fast-track your application to the “Reviewed, will NOT interview” pile.

So, if you are going to bother to apply for a job, do it right or else don’t waste your time and that of the Human Resources department and hiring manager!


Yesterday (April 29th, 2010) I attended a University of Alberta Engineering Alumni reception. I came away feeling proud of my alma mater. I had hoped to run into a few of my graduating class but I saw none of them (and to be honest I’m not sure if I’d recognize them or them, me). However it was still a most enjoyable evening visiting with some other alumni who I had the pleasure of working with for a number of years.
Speaking at the event was Dr. David Lynch, who is now (impressively) entering his fourth 5-year term as Dean of the U of A’s Faculty of Engineering. Dr. Lynch gave an interesting little address, talking about the value of an engineering education and the changes (i.e. growth) in the faculty over his tenure. Among those changes is the impressive growth in the number of undergraduate students and even more impressive growth in graduate study numbers. The graduate student growth ties directly in with the research advancements including a number of new centres of excellence and new buildings. Dr. Lynch also made the point how some things don’t change – economic cycles that put pressures on Universities but he pointed out that the Engineering faculty is well positioned to ride out the cycle.

U of A Faculty of Engineering webpage

The lessons learned for today? An Engineering education is special – it is a way of thinking, of problem solving, that is very useful even beyond the technical specialty. Also learned is that it is important to keep in touch – in touch with your roots – with your classmates, your friends and colleagues. Stay involved with and support your alma mater. Devoting a number of years to earning a degree or diploma creates a bond that should be respected and nurtured throughout your life.

I write this the day after hearing that the NAIT Telecommunications program is among those recommended to be cut to help the institute manage a $12.3 Million budget shortfall.

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Engineering Technology diploma program has a long and successful history that I am proud to have been involved with for a number of years. Unfortunately the program has had trouble attracting students for a long time and without that demand I can understand how it ended up on the chopping block.

What I continue to fail to understand is why there is difficulty attracting students in this day and age. Everywhere you look these days Telecommunications abounds. This information society absolutely depends upon the transfer of information – whether it’s the ubiquitous wireless consumer devices or the extensive network of radio, wired and fibre optics that make up the internet. So why isn’t there a perpetual waiting list to get into the industry, to get into the Telecommunications Engineering Technology program?

Maybe telecom technologies have just become so common place that they are no longer noticed and dare I say they just lacks the sex appeal. Perhaps too, the telecom employment  market has become saturated as a result of the shake-ups and downsizing in the Telecom industry in recent years that released many experienced Telecom professionals into the market thereby closing the door for new Telecom graduates.

I’d be interested to see a little discussion here about this issue. Why do you think a Telecommunications program in this day and age would have any trouble attracting students? What can be done to reverse the situation?

The final decision on the NAIT programs has yet to be ratified by the Academic Council and I will hold out hope that the proud and important Telecom program yet gets a reprieve.

Welcome to the blog of R.T. (Randy) Talbot P.Eng.

I am a Professional Engineer in the Province of Alberta, Canada specializing in Telecommunications. My career  includes experience in post-secondary education and in the public safety field. This blog will contain my thoughts and observations relating to engineering, education and public safety as well as my interests in leadership, management and personal & organizational development. Of course discussion and readers’ comments are most welcome.