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I recently posted two job ads. One was for a junior graphic designer and the other for a junior web developer. It’s the first time I’ve found myself on the other side of the desk – employing not applying. I’ve found the entire process eye opening to say the least.

In both ads I asked candidates to include the word ‘orange’ in their cover letter. I mostly wanted to make sure those applying read the criteria properly. I also thought it was an opportunity for candidates to get inventive.

Of around 100 applications, a quarter failed to reference ‘orange’ and only one person went above and beyond – photoshopping oranges onto their documents and adding orange html tags (<h1> </h1>) to the beginning and end of each paragraph. (I instantly shortlisted him because he appeared to want it more)

Of those who applied, 90% provided generic (and clearly mass produced) cover letters that could be  altered slightly for any role or company. It actually got to a point where I couldn’t penalise such applicants too harshly because it ruled too many candidates out.

I’m not here to jump up and down on my soapbox and tell you how to apply for a job but I am here to draw attention to the fact that nothing weakens an application faster than a lazy letter.

Too often we are clouded by the idea of recruiters and faceless corporations that we forget about the people behind the advertisements and the only two things they are genuinely looking for: proven experience and want.

One is easy to come by and easy to replace. The other is rare and even more rarely expressed. Show them you want it more.