Why I Won’t Interview You

misspelling Photo by jamieanne     License CC BY-ND 2.0

Dear Graduate Assistant Applicant,

This is a very exciting, albeit stressful, time in your life. You have chosen your favorite graduate school programs, and you have just started the process of applying for graduate assistantships, including the assistantship that I have advertised. Your undergraduate experiences have prepared you well to be a contributor to my program. Your future awaits; the road lies before you.

But I will never interview you.

Why not?

It’s because of your resume, or your cover letter, or both. This information is the first chance I have to see who you are, and if your experiences and talents will work well within my program. Your resume helps me to decide if I want to take the next step and talk with you further about the assistantship.

So why do these documents, these first glimpses into who you are, contain numerous misspellings and grammatical errors? Why is the formatting inconsistent? Why haven’t you fully represented your skills and experiences? I’m not talking about just one mistake that can be overlooked; I’m talking about multiple errors. Reading through your cover letter and resume, I don’t see a talented, enthusiastic, hard-working individual shining through these pages. I see a careless student who lacks attention to detail, and who doesn’t meet the minimum requirements that I look for in a graduate assistant candidate.

I know this isn’t really you. But this is what I see when I read your application.

Before sending out one more poorly written resume or cover letter, please consider doing the following:

  1. Proofread everything. Then proofread again. If you had proofread your application materials, or had asked others to proofread them, I would never have received my copy containing blatant misspellings. I wouldn’t have been distracted by inconsistent and weird indentations, lack of capitalization and punctuation, and incorrect use of homophones (e.g. their, there, they’re). And by the way, I am not a “sir” and I do not work at the school that you so adamantly wrote that you would like to attend.
  1. Be sure to list experiences and skills that show how you are qualified to fulfill my particular graduate assistantship posting. Be specific, and match your skills with the job requirements listed for the assistantship. For instance, rather than stating “supervised staff,” you could write “supervised staff of 50 front desk and fitness employees.” I want to understand all aspects of your past experiences so that I can make a decision about moving forward with an interview.
  1. Ask for help from your current professional staff supervisor or your school’s career center. If you had shown your resume to someone from these two groups, they could have helped you to revise and correct your information.

I hesitated sending you this letter, because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. And at least your resume was not as bad as these. But I know that you deserve consideration for an assistantship, and first impressions matter. Please correct your resume and cover letter so that you have a chance to compete for your dream assistantship.


NIRSA Students: Tweet THAT!


I just read a great article on professional development that was tweeted as a link by Kristen Gleason, NIRSA’s Director of Professional Development. It contained some especially good advice for graduate assistants and young professionals who are navigating a professional workplace for the first time. And guess what? I didn’t need to attend a conference or workshop to get the information.

Professional development opportunities are always right at our fingertips. Professionals like Kristen, as well as others from cross-disciplinary fields, are always quick to share great articles or blog posts that are current and relevant. As long as we have an internet connection, there is a wealth of ideas that will challenge us and help us to grow professionally.

But something is missing: the student voice.

We need more idea-sharing from students. After all, students usually know what other students are struggling with. Have you read something lately that has changed your perspective? Why not tweet it? Have you seen a photo that has lifted your spirits? Share it with your fellow students and NIRSA colleagues. Do you have your own blog that you use for reflective writing? Maybe others can relate to your writing and would be grateful for your input. In fact, Erica Estes, the current NIRSA Student Leader, has written several thoughtful articles that would be helpful for students as they become more involved with NIRSA.

So how about it, students? You have an important voice, and a refreshing perspective. Don’t leave it up to the seasoned professionals to feed our industry. Add your own spice to the conversation. And don’t forget to tag your tweets with #recchat, @NIRSAlive, or @NIRSAStudents so that everyone can benefit!

To get you started, I have listed just a few Twitter accounts and hashtags that you can search to find professional articles, applicable to Campus Recreation and higher education. Put all of your professional Twitter contacts on a Twitter list so you can easily find their latest Tweets:


If you’re looking for some thought-provoking blogs that are share-worthy, try some of these writers:

George Couros, @gcouros
Eric Stoller, @EricStoller
Laura Kennett, @laurakennett

Do you follow an online blog, or someone on Twitter who has made a difference in your life or career? Feel free to add the information in the comments below. Let’s all start feeding each other!