Nothing is more important to the continuing success (or failure!) of an organization than its hiring process. Bring in the wrong people and you're doomed. Bring in the right people and you have a fighting chance. Hence I never pass up an opportunity to serve on one of my college's hiring committees. Despite the onerous task of wading through dozens of thick application packets, it's worth it in order to participate in the selection of my future colleagues, supervisors, and support staff. It's also educational.
As you might imagine, some applications make more interesting reading than others. Each candidate's personal statement of interest strives to distinguish the candidate from other, supposedly less qualified, applicants. The candidate has to tread the fine line that separates persuasive self-promotion from repellent bragging. One must also take into account one's audience and do the necessary homework to research the target institution. I have quite lost track of the number of letters addressed to Large Community College that say, “My lifelong dream is to work at an educational institution as excellent as Medium Community College.”
I presume that was a search-and-replace failure while preparing different packets for LCC and MCC. Proofread your submissions, people!
Of course, there are more subtle errors than merely getting the college's name wrong. One particularly fascinating example springs to mind as a perfect illustration of a candidate that did too little homework in preparing his application for a faculty position. Here's a paraphrase of the key paragraph:
As the members of the LCC hiring committee sat around a long conference table and passed around the application packets for comment, several of us took special notice of the unique qualifications of the candidate from Country City College. Imagine—we could hire someone who had actually done a big part of his ineffective supervisor's job!
We were not prepared to make any decisions at that point because the hiring committee was awaiting the arrival of its chair, who had to wrap up a prior meeting before joining us for candidate screening. When he arrived, the application from the CCC professor was on top of the stack at his end of the conference table. He spotted it and immediately picked it up.
“Well, here's a name I recognize! He was a faculty rep on my advisory team when I was Dean of Education at Country City College!”