[texhax] OT: Job applications in LaTeX

Gordon Haverland ghaverla at materialisations.com
Wed Sep 21 02:08:39 CEST 2011

On September 20, 2011, Steve Murgaski wrote:
> I made a resume/CV using Andrew McNabb's really interesting
> template at http://www.mcnabbs.org/andrew/linux/latexres/ 
> I've converted a resume I made with that to pdf, and am really
> happy with it.
> Now, of course, I need to make a cover letter.  I'd like my
> cover letter to have a similar font and formatting to the
> resume I made from McNabb's template.  How can I do this?  How
> do I change the default font for my document?

This has components which are off-topic, which is why I stuck an 
OT in the subject.  And it is too long.

I've been fighting with finding a job for almost 30 years.  I knew 
before I finished my B.Sc., that NOBODY in my field was a 
generalist.  And yet, I was.  Which is why I started learning 
about typesetting, and eventually started studying TeX and then 
LaTeX.  At times, I've even used emacs to edit postscript produced 
by TeX (and fop), because I couldn't get the translator to do what 
I wanted.

Regardless of the r\'esum\'e type (functional, chronological, 
...), you want a good distribution of whitespace.  If you know the 
person receiving the application is older, use a larger point 

Typefaces are emotional.  No matter what typeface you choose, 
somebody will dislike the typeface.  Your application will not get 
the consideration it deserves, because the typeface is wrong.  
Being consistent between r\'esum\'e and cover letter is probably a 
good thing.

Long ago, I would have attempted something different.  My area of 
expertice is materials (whatever an engineer might use in an 
application, nominally materials science and engineering).  I had 
thought about producing my r\'esum\'e on titanium, instead of 
paper.  And then using what most people think of as corrosion, 
(vaguely annodizing), put "ink" on the page (titanium oxides 
almost cover the rainbow via thickness).  But, I didn't have the 
materials and resources to do this (only the knowledge).

If nothing else, it would be different.

Any effort you put into presentation, is emotional.  You are 
hoping to evoke a positive emotional response from whoever 
receives your application (and is passed on to, ...).

In essence, any job application is a database.  Cover letter and 
all (the cover letter being significantly more difficult to 

Pretend we are in high school.  We are applying for a McJob, and 
filling out a company job application form.  It makes a difference 
what colour pen you use in filling out the form.  Your dog 
slobbers on the application, you spill coffee on it, you spray it 
with perfume, they all make an impact as to how the application is 

Does what typeface you choose to present your credentials make any 
difference as to your ability to do the job?  No.  Does it 
influence how your job application is ranked?  Probably.  As does 
type size, distribution of whitespace, type of paper, dog slobber, 
coffee stains, ink colour and a zillion other things that have 
nothing to do with the job.

With the McJob type applications, the application is pre-printed 
and you are expected to fill in the blanks (and not over-run).  
Most people fill this in by pen.  If you use pencil, you lose and 
they don't even look at it.  Right handed versus left handed makes 
a difference.  Printing versus writing makes a difference.  Larger 
text versus smaller makes a difference.  Over-running provided 
areas makes a difference.

Again, none of the above has anything to do with your ability to 
do the job.

And I knew most of this about the time I finished my B.Sc. in 
1983.  Over the subsequent years, I continued to read about 
applying for jobs and learn about typesetting.  And I continued to 
try different formats and approaches.  In late 2000 (getting close 
to 41 years old), I found out I have Autism.

There is something about how I write a job application, which puts 
my application at the bottom of the heap.  Even following all the 
rules that are in the popular literature.

Not long after learning of being Autistic (Asperger's Savant), a 
downturn in the economy caused the government department I was in 
at the time to lay off a LOT of people, I was among them.

Knowing I was Autistic, and trying to keep this secret, had no 
difference in response/interest.

After a couple of years, I realised it was useless to keep it 
secret, as  there are common aspects of Autism which which screw 
you in an interview.  This is about 2004.  Organizations that hire 
people do NOT want to transgress discrimination legislation, 
whatever part of the democratic world you live in.  Hence, they do 
NOT want people telling them in the application that they have 
whatever.  They ONLY want to learn of this after all the 
interviews are over, and you will be the new employee.

I suppose in a perfect world, this keeps employers from 
transgressing.  In real statistics, you have false positives and 
true negatives.  If you drive down the possibility of false 
negatives occuring, you increase the chance of true negatives 

Not knowing anything "medical" about applicants works most of the 
time, it doesn't work all of the time.  There are (at least) 3 
common symptoms of Autism which can completely screw up an 
interview.  The desire to ignore anything medical is noble, but it 
will consign many Autistic people to never being able to find a 

The biggest problem is eye contact.  Difficulty maintaining eye 
contact is a documented problem in Autism.  Most people have been 
taught that not maintaining eye contact means they are lying.  
Someone interviews an Autistic person, and all they get, is that 
this person is a chronic liar.

In 29 years, I've only had 2 interviews for engineering jobs based 
on my abilities as an engineer (I suspect the number of applicants 
was small in both cases, and so they interviewed everyone that 
applied and was remotely qualified).  There is something about the 
Autism in me, which makes it extremely unlikely that any employer 
would ever choose to interview me.

There is something about Autism, which can interfere with a fair 
hiring process at the application stage.  But, if employers ignore 
medical concerns in the application, there is no hope of ever 
getting a fair assessment.  There is much about Autism which can 
interfere with getting a fair interview.

If employers would realize that job applications are databases, 
and not things presented on dead trees, there are ways to minimize 
the possibility of discrimination (Autistic or not).  But as long 
as employers want dead tree applications, or their proxies (word 
processor or PDF files), we can't get past that.

And this is already way too long, and I apologize.


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