Why Can’t College Faculty Follow Simple Directions?

The email invitation to blog for AdjunctNation.com went out to about 1,000 part-time faculty registered on the site. The replies came back, some within minutes. The application instructions were exact. Many who responded asked for more information. They didn’t have specific questions; they just wanted “more information.” What more information did they need? The announcement required applicants to read the blog they wanted to write for, and submit a short sample. Others who responded quickly sent longish emails to which they’d attached their CVs, but didn’t indicate which blog they thought they’d be interested in contributing entries to. Still others shot off emails suggesting I click through to online samples of their writing elsewhere.

Why would I do that?

the job announcement asked for a sample to be written, because I wanted to see whether the applicant understood the voice of the site and the particular blog.

Anytime I send out calls to hire writers and bloggers, I am amazed at the sheer foolishness of some of the people who reply (often people to whom the emails were “forwarded”). These aren’t uneducated people. These are college faculty—people I imagine have standards in their classrooms to which they expect their students to adhere. What would you do if you asked students to turn in a 2-page paper on a specific topic on Thursday and several of your students turned in a 1/2-page paper on the following Monday, not because they needed extra time, but simply because they hadn’t followed directions?

I thought so. Then, you’d complain to your colleagues about how silly the students had been in not fulfilling a simple assignment. Read the  AdjunctNation.com “Daily Excuse” section populated with hilarious content by faculty visitors to the site, and we can chuckle over the propensity of students to miss one of the most important points of education: following directions.

In fact, like most employers I have learned that someone who can’t follow directions when applying for a job will be someone who often has problems meeting deadlines, or simply can’t take constructive feedback about her/his work. People who pay attention at the very beginning, I’ve found, pay attention throughout. I know this sounds harsh, but if I don’t tell you maybe no one will. When the job posting says “send a 400 word sample,” send a 400 word sample. Unless the job posting is so difficult to interpret that you simply can’t fathom what is being asked of you, never shoot off an email simply asking for “more information” about the job.

I’m happy to report I was able to hire several new bloggers to write for the site. They responded to the call for writers promptly, succinctly (yes, grammar and spelling count in your emails) and attached a sample blog entry. The individuals (I believe) had read the blogs they wanted to contribute to. When I asked for a list of 10 sample topics, each responded within 1-2 days. One blogger confessed to being wicked busy this term and begged to contribute, but less frequently than the job required. He’s an excellent writer, and I said yes.

When I responded to topics in each blogger’s 10 topic lists with a simple YES/NO, every one of the bloggers took the feedback without question. One blogger asked why I’d refused to let her blog on certain subjects, and my short explanation was received with a simple “thank you.” Another blogger saw her first entry rejected, and I asked for a quick re-write. Again, the blogger’s response was short and to-the-point. She revised the post, and you’ll read it in October.

Finding work can be one of the toughest jobs around. No one likes rejection. However, take a tip from someone in the business of hiring people to work as bloggers, editors, designers, writers, etc…employers don’t want to reject job applicants. Employers want to find the perfect person for the job as painlessly as possible for everyone involved. so, the next time you apply for a job, follow the directions exactly; don’t think a CV printed on fancy paper will make you stand out. If asked for a writing sample, work on it with the same care and diligence that you expect from your students. Don’t ever expect a potential employer to bend the application rules for you. Some can’t. Most don’t want to do it. Never bend the application rules yourself.

This advice doesn’t guarantee you’ll land that next job. It does guarantee you won’t be sabotaging yourself before the final selection process ever begins.

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1 Comments

  1. I’m currently a participant in an online faculty development course, and we’re discussing the seeming impossibility of getting our university students to follow directions. Sad to say, some faculty imply that requiring students to follow directions stifles students and that we should “adapt to our students.”

    I really enjoyed this post! I may even use it in my writing classes to illustrate my assertion (repeated often) that jobs are indeed lost because applicants don’t follow directions. They think me a fossil, whose expiration date is long past.

    I wish I’d seen this post before the Oct. 1, 2010 deadline, but I just came across it today, April 26, 2011. Thanks for the fun.

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