How not to get a job in usability

...or jobless and hopeless? It all depends on your approach... image by Steve Rhodes licensed under creative commons
…or jobless and hopeless? It all depends on your approach…

Way back in 1982, a powerful television series called Boys from the Blackstuff added a new catchphrase to the British vocabulary: “gizza job”. A key character, Yosser Hughes, had a torrid time trying to find a job in Liverpool during one of its lowest post-war periods. His main way of trying to persuade prospective employers to hire him was to yell at them “Gizza job, I can do that”.

The opener

Well, the spirit of Yosser lives on. It’s the summer, newly-minted graduates have been released from their years of studying, and they want a job. So I’ve been getting those job-seeking emails again. Here’s a bit from a recent one (some details changed to protect the culprit, sorry the applicant).

“I am 25 years of age and recently graduated with First Class Honours in a Multimedia BSc Degree at the University of XXX and am now interested in developing my multimedia career.  My skills include technical and artistic Flash authoring, 3D modelling, Graphic Design, Web Programming and Multimedia Marketing.

“Feel free to visit my portfolio at www.xxxx.xx.xx to see a selection of my multimedia designs.

“I am interested in various areas within multimedia and am available to work in London and South East England with immediate effect.

“If you are interested in my skills and experience, please feel free to contact me on the below details.”

Notice the ‘gizza job’ theme? Notice that there isn’t a word about what my business does, or why this person might be an asset to it?

My response

As it happened, this email caught my eye. Maybe it was because it seemed less boring than the usual in-tray diet of unbeatable offers for cheap loans, money-making deals with the widows of African dictators, and the rest of the nonsense that besieges me daily. Maybe I just felt a bit sorry for the poor schmuck. Anyway, I wrote back.

“Nice clear email but…..

“you’d be likely to do a LOT better if you checked the websites of the people that you are applying to first, and spent a couple of minutes tailoring the email you send them to show that you took that amount of time.

“For example, I am a usability consultant specialising in forms. This is obvious from the merest glance at my website. What is it about my work that attracts you?”

Gizza job replies

And, by return of email, back came this reply:

“Thanks for your intriguing email. I received your details from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) after searching under creative design and new media.  Unfortunately, the website produced over 1000 recipients, some of which were not relevant but I am not in the position to search each company.

“To aid efficiency, I aimed to send a standard email to all recipients on the understanding that the relevant recipients would contact me.

“If you can suggest a more effective method of filtering through the email list provided by the REC then I would be willing to listen.”

My response

Clearly this person is not going to get a job with me, now or in the future. He has decided that his time, as an unemployed graduate, is much more valuable than the time of his prospective employers, who might represent his meal ticket for years to come.

How not to get a job: the checklist

So, for anyone out there who feels like failing to get a job in usability, here’s a brief checklist of steps.

  1. Don’t do any research. Why waste your valuable time finding out about your future employer?
  2. Make sure that your email approach makes it clear that you didn’t do any research by wording it in as impersonal a way as you can manage.
  3. err… that’s it.

This article first appeared in ‘Caroline’s Corner’, in the July 2004 edition of Usability News. Now you know what not to do, you may also be interested in the accompanying post: ‘How to get a job in usability’.

picture credit: Steve Rhodes  licensed under creative commons