Job Application Pitfalls in the Digital Age

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By Alyssa Stahr

I send thousands of text messages and emails a month. In fact, so much correspondence is done via digital means that when my phone rings it practically startles me. Who in the world could be calling me? And, do I screen my calls? Absolutely. Thinking back to the time of corded phones and no caller ID makes me cringe. I may have just aged myself, but I think I’m in the crucial medium of the corporate world: I’m old enough to respect long-lasting technology and proper etiquette, yet young enough to adapt to change.

With that being said, texting and social media have vastly changed the way we communicate. We shorten phrases to their bare minimums or numerals; use emojis to share our virtual body language and to evoke sarcasm; and we have lost the essence of formality in the process. This is particularly evident in what should still be a formal process—the job application.

Part of my duties at VAPE Magazine is to screen and hire potential candidates. In a nutshell, I serve as our HR department. The applications that come out of the woodwork baffle me. Out of 100 that I receive, there are possibly two that I will give a second glance. There are myriad job sites at the touch of a keyboard with endless tips on how to send a proper cover letter and resume. Is it the digital age that has failed us, or is it our educational system? That is a case study in the making, I’m sure. But for now, here are some of the most common job application blunders I see, that no matter how young (or old) you are, should still be the norm.

I is not a sir. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve received a cover letter that begins with “Dear Sir.” I am not sure what has led the applicant to think I am a man, and the utter lack of simple research to find out who the hiring manager is surely will send your application to my trash bin. This became a running joke at my old job because the applicant not only committed this blunder, but he also couldn’t figure out the difference between the is/are verb in his letter. Therefore, “I is not a sir” was born.

“Hey There” is not the way to the hiring manager’s heart. I am not your friend. I am the person who is potentially going to give you a job. Using a phrase this informal right out of the gate isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it won’t put you at the top of the stack.

Here’s a link to my stuff. Let’s chat. People actually use the word “stuff” in a job application. And “let’s chat” goes back to being too informal for the situation at hand. Your “stuff” better be pretty great to get an interview.

The random resume with no body copy. One of my favorites is when I receive a resume attached, but no cover letter. We have a multitude of job openings, so what position is it that you are applying to? Sometimes if the person has an advanced degree or something on the resume that catches my eye, I will respond and ask that very question. Nine times out of 10 the answer is “Whatever you have available; I’m very talented in many areas.” Really? You can design a web page AND edit copy? Fantastic! Clearly you don’t care about the company in particular, however, and are just looking for “any old job.” Well, we aren’t the company for you and most others won’t be either.

Grammatical and spelling errors spell longer unemployment. If you spell something wrong or have glaring grammatical errors, especially after you’ve told me that you have stellar attention to detail and are applying for a writing position, you’re out. Period.

Not following directions. This is possibly one of the worst offenses on the list. We, like most companies out there (especially start-ups) work around the clock. We work through weekends and on holidays and we eat and breathe our product. I particularly am this way because I love what I do and I’m a sadistic workaholic. I don’t have time to deal with people who don’t follow directions. Our staff has to be able to communicate clearly or the wheel will fall off the car. It’s about building trust. And, if I’ve asked on a social media post to email your cover letter and resume with “writer” in the subject line, it’s more to see if you can follow simple instructions than a way to filter applications in my inbox.

Alyssa Stahr is the founder of Alyssa Stahr Communications & Consulting. She is an award-winning journalist who is a member of the Freelancers Union and COO/Editor in Chief of VAPE Magazine. For inquiries, contact her at

The Hashtag—The Little Engine That Could

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Pressing pound for more options no longer works solely on the telephone. Now, the pound sign with the more-popular moniker—hashtag—is everywhere. Even Facebook has joined the hashtag game, perhaps as more of a “everyone else is doing it so we should too” factor than something that was a target on Facebook’s wishlist.

This little symbol is clearly a powerful tool. It somehow infiltrated one of, if not the largest social networks of our time that was never designed to have a hashtag. It’s so powerful that users misuse the sign daily, just as an excuse to insert it into their content. Let’s take a look back at the hashtag’s short journey into stardom.

The first use of the term “hash tag” was in a blog post by Stowe Boyd, “Hash Tags=Twitter Groupings.”

According to, the first hashtag was used by Chris Messina, a social technology expert, way back in August 2007. His Twitter post read, “How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp?” The purpose was to gather discussions and online exchanges regarding Barcamp, a worldwide gathering. Since that first Tweet, the hashtag soared and became more than a search function tag, despite that being its initial intended use. Twitter began introducing “trending topics” on its home page in 2010, giving a shout out to hashtag themes that were popular that day.

A symbol that is supposed to label groups and topics, however, quickly became used (or misused, however one looks at it) in other areas as a way to denote feelings or context. Facebook was a common victim of this happenstance, because there was no way to search on Facebook using a hashtag—until now. Thanks to various platforms that sync with Facebook, namely Instagram, the migration of the hashtag to Facebook was inevitable.

No matter how you use your hashtag, this mighty little symbol has changed the face of social media forever. #amazing





Why I Love Social Media, But Not as Much as Fred Durst

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I want to start off this blog by saying that I rarely, if ever, blog for myself. I’m always blogging for my pet sitting business, my movie blog, The Arland Group clients or for personal clients for whom I ghostwrite. I’m just not a “put my personal thoughts on ‘paper’” type of girl. But, today I have something really important to say that I wanted memorialized digitally and not just in my brain as a memory—I love social media because it contributed to the singlemost most important moment of my life.


When I was in high school and the phone would ring, we had no idea who was on the other end. We didn’t have call waiting; we had an answering machine and got busy signals. Full disclosure—my friend Kelly and I had an index card in my truck with secret “road trip” numbers of guys’ houses we liked. So, if we were around other people, we could simply say a number and we’d both know who we wanted to go drive by that night. Stalkerish? Of course! But we didn’t have Twitter or Facebook to stalk via social media. Admit it; we’ve all looked up someone virtually. And yes, I still listened to music on tape.


I finally graduated to CDs in college, and Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other was the first and only CD I ever lined up outside at midnight for. I’ll never forget my Vintage Vinyl purchase the night of June 22 and running to that same truck to blast out what was and still is my favorite album of all-time. My obsession had begun with Three Dollar Billz Ya’ll, but with Significant Other, it was solidified—Fred Durst was my one and only. No one could ever top his look, his voice and oh, those tattoos.


Fast-forward to my first job out of college. Still no Facebook or Twitter (now I’m really dating myself). Electronic newsletters and e-mail blasts were becoming more prevalent, but the job I do now didn’t even exist in the mid-2000s. Social media not only led to the best moment of my life, it saved my career.


I stayed true to Limp throughout the years, going to the Family Values tour, and even supporting bands such as Korn, Staind and Puddle of Mudd, just knowing they had the Fred stamp of approval. Two years ago, Limp finally announced another tour. Many said they were washed up. I couldn’t have cared less. And then, Fred canceled the tour, stating that he wanted to play smaller venues. I honestly thought I’d never see them play again. But, you gotta have Faith. (Pun intended.)


And then they announced they were coming to Pops June 1, 2013. I found this out via an IM Facebook message from my friend Nicole—something that would’ve never happened a few years ago. And, in an odd turn of events, I happened to have recently hung out with the owner of Pops. This new friendship of course had became official on Facebook just a few weeks prior. I’m Facebook friends with a lot of people. I never in a million years thought this one would make my biggest dream come true.


The night of the show, Mark, the Pops owner, IM’d me to call him ASAP. The Sprint tower was down, and I couldn’t even make a phone call. But, I could IM. I had to IM him on my phone through the Facebook app to get the information that Limp was doing a meet-and-greet. None of these things would’ve happened without the power of social media. I would have missed my chance.


And then, 14 years almost to the day of buying that life-changing CD, I met Fred Durst (and Wes Borland was there too, ha). While standing in line I thought about what I was going to say. What do you say to the one person you’ve only dreamed of meeting, whom you’ve had an almost life-long obsession for, whose music is the soundtrack to your life, who is your idol?


I could only think of one thing: “I’ve loved you for 15 years.” And, in typical rock star fashion and that deep, amazing voice, Fred said, “Well, where have I been?” It was the perfect answer for the perfect moment. Thank you, thank you, thank you.