Searching for a job can be stressful and nerve-wracking, but those emotions should never show up in your material. Take your time when preparing a cover letter and resume, because your information will still speak for you long after the interview is done.
Splaying with word misspellings and wrong or unprofessional usage.
The ability to properly use the English language can make or break your resume. You want to not only make a good impression but to seek the best impression, and that means no typos and wrong sentence structure. Avoid using bland words like ‘ran a department’, create a stronger message with ‘managed a department’ or if you brought it under budget, ‘streamlined the department’.
Words have power, and you want to show that potential power to the employer. Don’t rely on spell-check alone; have someone else proofread your letter and resume, or hire a professional resume writer to help you. Typos are like colds: everyone suffers from them occasionally, but you shouldn’t share.
Making silly guesses and assumptions.
Don’t guesstimate the dates of former employment, be specific with accurate dates; otherwise, you’ll have an executive scratching her head trying to reconcile your math: were you really working two full jobs for a few months? Make the effort to include correct dates, job titles and duties, even if it means pulling out old records or calling up the HR department at a former place of employment. Chances are that your prospective new boss will make the same call. It’s safe to work with the assumption that your employer will do a background check on whatever information you place on your resume.
Fluffing and blabbing.
Did you work at a fast food joint when you were between office jobs? Unless you’re going for a top spot in that franchise’s management, leave it out of your work history. You don’t need to include every place you’ve ever been employed, just the places where you gained experience and knowledge that directly correlate to this position.
Exclude the volunteer work for your kid’s school, those vocational courses, and anything you accomplished in high school. Your information should be presented in a sleek, precise fashion, not hurled at the hiring executives like spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks.
Shoving it in the HR Director’s face.
If you’re not motivated enough to find out to whom you should address your cover letter, you are probably not sure of this job yet. ‘To Whom It May Concern’ is unprofessional and needless in this digital age. Look on the company’s website and find out who will be reading your information. You may also call and confirm, because some companies don’t update their websites as often as they should.
The HR person may have just recently married and is sporting a new last name, or it could be a different person entirely. Ask for the correct spelling, job title and address, even if you’re delivering the resume in person. If after all done, you still don’t come up with a name, a “Dear Sir/Madam” will do just fine.
Getting too personal.
It’s OK to sprinkle some elements of personality in your cover letter or resume but remember it is a professional transaction that requires a professional approach too. Don’t go to the extreme. Leave out your Facebook profile, Twitter account, or any other social media link unless you have an account dedicated solely to business. You may think it’s a great idea for a potential boss to see your Facebook status, but once they get a glimpse of your “nude girls” cover photo, those candid holiday snapshots and a timeline full of complaints about your last employer, they may re-evaluate your ability to be professional.
The information on the cover page should present you in your best light, but the pages themselves make a statement, too. Skip the colored or textured paper, fancy fonts and other bells and whistles; you don’t want your resume and cover letter to stand out in bad light. Rely on clean white letterhead-quality paper. If you’re sending it electronically, make sure the file is in a format they can read. Send the file to a friend and test out how it looks when opened on a different computer, then make changes as needed.
Beth Bartlett writes about topics relating to pop culture and business, including the importance of business reputation.