Colin Nederkoorn

Dear Hiring Manager

Have you heard about the brown M&Ms clause in Van Halen’s contract rider with concert promoters? The brown M&Ms were inserted in to the middle of the contract as a canary in the coal mine. If they walked backstage and saw brown M&Ms, then they would double check everything else for safety issues. Check out the whole video for their explanation:

Brown M&Ms from Van Halen on Vimeo.

Brown M&Ms in a job listing.

When we list a job opportunity on a website like craigslist or any other big job site, I noticed that many people don’t read it. They attach the same generic resume and cover letter as a .doc file, and write “Dear Hiring Manager, I’m perfect for your __ job at __ because…”.

I added my brown M&Ms instructions clearly at the bottom:

To apply, send in a cover letter by email to the email address at the top of the ad. Atttach a PDF resume. In your cover letter, share one secret strategy you use to stay organized and talk about why you’re interested in the position.

Even with those instructions, for every 10 applicants, only 1 reads those instructions and applies with an email cover letter and PDF resume.

What if there’s no cost to not read the instructions?

In the Van Halen example, the concert promoter agreed to forfeit their entire fee if there are brown M&Ms in the dressing room. The cost to email the same cover letter and resume to 100 jobs is maybe 30 seconds of time for the job applicant.

You’d be crazy as an employer to spend time interviewing or hiring someone who didn’t follow the instructions to apply for the job. To discourage those people even further, I’m trying a big yellow banner at that top:

Discouraging warning

So far it decreased the noisy applicants and makes it a bit easier to focus on the people who took the time and paid attention to the listing.

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