Beware of your blog

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post (and comments).

Today, a job applicant sent me a resume in English (and very nice job, well formatted – the resumes I’m getting have improved a lot, just in the three years that I’ve ben here in China). She also sent me a link to her Chinese-language blog. I sicced Google on it and it was a dramatic, existential, cry-for-help type of thing.

Note to potential job applicants: If you send me a link to your blog, make sure it’s all dry and boring. My ideal blog topic? You read economics stories and point out math mistakes.

I don’t mind if there’s occasional personal life in the blog — just enough to make you seem human. Here’s the kind of entry I have in mind:

Today, the doctors told me I might have cancer. The results won’t be in for a week. The agony of not knowing is unbearable. Meanwhile, I have story deadlines. Thank god for work! Nothing takes my mind of my troubles better than writing a thousand words on agricultral subsidies.


My boyfriend called me today. Drama, drama, drama. He wants me to leave work early to go to some concert. Then to a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant where he says he has an important question to ask me. Well, I do like eating. But… leave work early? No way! Then, get this, he says I love my job more than him! Well, duh! So long, loser!

If I Google a writer’s name and a personal blog comes up I might glance at it briefly to check it out – is it well-punctuated? Does the writer confess to any crimes or profess a hobby of stealing office supplies? Is there massive plagiarism or copyright violation going on? But otherwise I’m not going to read it too much — a personal life is a personal life.

But if you email me the link to the blog as part of your job application, I’m going to take a pretty close look at it. I mean, just the fact that you’re sending me a link to a personal blog means that you’re having trouble with the whole “work is work and personal is personal” concept.

This is the same reason I have problems with including hobbies on resumes — unless, again, your hobby is something job-related like statistical analysis.

I have to confess, though — I’m not consistent about this. If I’m hiring for a senior-level management position, I want to know about a person’s personality. If I’m hiring for an entry-level job, I mostly want to know that the person is professional.

I guess, after you’ve had a few years of work experience, I’m going to assume that you know how to stay focused on the job.

But with entry-level staff, especially those who have never held a job before, the ability to keep your mind on work is very critical. I’ve had employees — both in first-time jobs — who would take off early (or disappear for weeks) — because of personal problems. Personal problems that wouldn’t even phase someone older. Such as fights with boyfriends.

Employees with more experience who have a personal problem will schedule things in advance, take sick days or make up the work on their own time, and not tell me too many details unless I ask. Basically, they arrange things so that they impact work as little as possible.

I don’t mind hiring people who don’t live for their work, who have hobbies and real lives.

But I do live for my work and, I assume, most people who rise high in organizations are the same.

So when you send me a resume and supporting materials, I want you to be able to convince me that, for eight hours a day, you can at least pretend to be living for your work.

Signing off in Shanghai,