A few thoughts have come to mind since my last post (and I've heard from some other folks on what you should try to avoid when applying for positions).  So a couple more things...

-I can't tell you how many times I've received a cover letter that starts “Dear Sir”. OK, maybe everyone isn't familiar with the name Heather and it's implied female-ness.  I guess I would say if you are not reasonably sure of the gender of the recipient of the e-mail, you should use a gender neutral greeting. “Hello” always works for me (cheerful, not too familiar, etc.). Even “Dear Recruiter” is OK (although I always wonder why we use “dear” in business communications). In case anyone out there is going to send me a resume....“Hi Heather” is just fine!

-Follow the instructions of the posting. I was reading someone else's blog about this subject yesterday and it struck me how often applicants don't follow the instructions and how much of my time is taken up because of that. There are a couple reasons why it is important (at least to me). First, recruiters tend to recruit on number of positions at the same time (for me, it has been anywhere from 25 to 80). So when we post jobs, we use job codes to help us identify where you saw the posting and which job you were interested in. When I post positions, I ask candidates to include that info in the subject line. This way, I can forward their resume to our database (which tracks where the candidates come from and what job they are interested in) and also immediately start comparing their background to the requirements of the position of interest. If I receive a resume submission without this info, I have to find the info and add it to the subject line to get it into our database. That's probably more detail than you needed about how we track sources, but I just wanted to illustrate that applicants not following the submission instructions takes up a lot of time. Secondly, recruiters tend to use inbox rules to route incoming resumes to folders. In my case, some of those rules are often based  on what is in the subject line. If the applicant doesn't put the appropriate info in the subject line, the resume doesn't get into the right folder. So when I go to review applicants for a specific job, their resume could still be sitting in my inbox. Finally, not following the instructions on the posting may represent a lack of attention to detail. Trust me, we try to make the process as simple for the candidate as possible because we want to see your resume. When the instructions aren't followed, it makes me wonder whether the person took the time to read the full job description, disregarded the instructions, etc. Or just firing pout a bunch of resumes indiscriminately. OK, enough about that.

-As I mentioned above, our database tracks which positions people apply to. And we do get people that seem to apply to just about all of them (that might be an exaggeration, but some have applied to hundreds). We have upwards of 2500 positions open at any time. Does the applicant really think they are a fit for all of them? I would recommend limiting the number of positions you apply to...focus only on your top 5 to 10. Recruiters will still pick up your resume for other roles through keyword searches. But this way, it shows that you took the time to do a thoughtful search, you understand the requirements listed and your own skills and you are really looking for the right position (versus any position at Microsoft).

-Also, read the requirements of the position. If we are looking for a Director of Product Management, which requires X number of years in product management, someone making a career change from another field is not going to fit. We try to  differentiate what is “required“ versus “preferred“ and yes, I do think equivalent experience can substitute for degree requirements. So use your best judgment here. You need to have most of the requirements to fit. If you aren't finding positions that fit your background, but still want to get them into our system, send them to resume@microsoft.com and in the subject line include “DS-internet research-heathham blog“.

-I've also seen some folks talking about e-mail addresses and which one you use. Some people think it's OK to use your current work addresses, some don't. Some like hotmail addresses, some don't. My opinion is that you should not use your current work address on your resume. To me using your current work address says 1) you are not loyal to your current employer and 2) you use your time at work to do personal stuff.  If I see you doing that kind of thing at your current employer, who is to say you wouldn't do that same thing here. I know that we all do a certain amount of personal things at work, but using that time to look for a new job is a little too much. I think hotmail addresses are OK if they aren't too goofy. A name and number combination is better than a nickname. I am very fond of the university alumni org e-mail addresses that many people are using. They follow you wherever you go.

-The other thing I wanted to re-emphasize is proof-reading. Spell check picks up blatant spelling errors but not misuse of words. My peeves: to/two/too, there/their, your/you're mistakes. It's not that we are looking for national grammar contest winners (if are such people). This is about attention to detail. Employers want to know that you are taking your search and your interest in their company seriously. Take the time to make sure your resume and cover letter (if you create one) are great.