10 Most Common Resume Goofs

Private Equity Research Associate – Princeton, NJ

Financial Analyst / Associate – New York, NY

Fund Analyst – New York, NY

Investment Banking Associate – New York, NY

Financial Analyst – New York, NY

Venture Capital Analyst – Redwood City, CA

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Its very easy to make one of the most common resume mistakes. They’re the kind of errors that you never notice till its too late. When was the last time you checked your resume for the 10 most common resume goofs?Ten Most Common Resume Goofs.

1. Email Errors

One of the most common goofs we see is an incorrect email address. Since most job search efforts are centered around email communications, having an email address that is wrong or difficult to interpret can be a pothole in the road to success. Double-check your email address to make sure it is correct. Don’t use your work email address on your resume and try to avoid having an email that has the number 1 in it as it can be difficult to tell if it’s a letter or a numeral. Avoid goofy or cutesy email monikers such as vanhalenlvr83 or similar. Email systems that use automated spam authenticators are loathed by recruiters and line managers alike, so stay away from them during you job search. Remember, you can set up an email address that you use JUST for job search.

2. Mechanical Mistakes

Misspellings are the most common mechanical mistake. People rely on spell-check too much. Spell-check can’t tell the difference, though, in meaning. If you write “manger” instead of “manager”, spell-check won’t flag it. Other mechanical problems include verb tense shift and capitalization. It seems like when in doubt, job seekers will capitalize something just “to be on the safe side” but that just creates an error.

3. Fluff Phrases

The profile or summary is often the most difficult section of the resume to create. As a result, job seekers fall back on soft-skill phrases or fluff phrases such as “good communicator” or “hard-working”. These sound good but they tell the reader nothing. These are subjective traits that are opinion-based. You may think you are a good communicator but your peers might say otherwise. These traits will be judged in the interview so don’t load the resume down with these. Remember, 99.9% of all the other candidates will also be claiming these skills. Have you ever heard of anyone putting “bad communicator” or “lazy with sloppy attention to detail” on the resume?

4. Too Much Information (TMI)

Job seekers often forget for whom they are writing. The recruiter or hiring manager is going to be skim-reading the resume and will be looking for the main points. The job seeker, on the other hand, feels it’s necessary to put every bit of information possible in the resume, right down to including that Eagle Scout designation from 1984. Having too much information, or irrelevant information, is a common resume error.

5. Too Little Information (TLI)

The opposite of TMI is TLI – too little information. Being too general in the resume is just as bad as being too wordy. Usually too little information takes the form of no details on achievements. Most people can get their job duties or role descriptions down but falter when it’s time to detail their successes in some sort of quantitative or qualitative way. As a result, the content is thin or bland and doesn’t inspire the reader to make contact with the job seeker.

6. Passive Voice

We are all taught that formal writing is passive voice writing. Most people have a tendency to write in the passive voice, especially when composing their resumes. Passive voice – “responsible for”, “duties included”, etc. – is weak writing. Resumes need to be powerful sales documents and passive voice doesn’t persuade the reader. Make sure the resume is written in active voice with lots of solid keywords throughout the content.

7. Functional Format

Using the functional format (also called a skills resume) is probably the most deadly error you can commit in terms of the resume’s effectiveness. Recruiters and employers literally detest the functional format. It does not give them the information they need in the format they want. Additionally, it generally indicates that the job seeker is trying to hide something since the functional format is used to cover up problems such as date gaps, job hopping, or lack of experience. Just the mere appearance of the functional format is a huge turnoff to decision-makers.

8. Personal Information

The fact that you are an avid skeeball player, or that you collect old world coins has no relevance to whether or not you are qualified for the position. So why include information on hobbies, sports, or interests?

9. Poor Design

The old large-left-margin layout is long out of fashion and fancy designs, images or tables will really give the databases a hard time when you upload your resume. The best thing to do when it comes to design of your resume is KISS – keep it simple, sweetie. Yes, make it appealing, but over designed resumes will get scrambled in uploads, and thus not win interviews.

10. One Page Length

One page resumes are long gone unless you are a new graduate without much experience. Having said that, we still see plenty of one page resumes for more senior job seekers come in for critiques. It does surprise me! When a job seeker tries to limit the content of the resume to fit into one page, he/she is cutting vital information to adhere to a “rule” that is not valid for most resumes. Many resumes (including mid-level) are two pages in length and three pages are acceptable for some senior level candidates.

Author: Alesia Benedict

6 Mistakes that Could Get You Fired

No one wants to even imagine getting fired from their job, so most people assume that as long as they remain cautious while on the clock, losing their job is outside of the realm of possibilities.  After all, if you’re not embezzling money or getting drunk at work every day, it’s safe to say you’ll be around for a while, right?  Not necessarily… there are a few seemingly lesser mistakes that might land you in the doghouse.  Read on for some blunders to avoid:

1.  Yakking on the Phone

It’s okay to take a few personal calls during the workday (although it’s important to abide by proper office phone etiquette).  But when your personal life starts to conflict with what you should be doing at work, you may be asked to take a hike.

2.  Internet Browsing

We’re all guilty of checking our personal email from time to time or even of taking pause to read a funny article.  However, spending excessive time surfing around on websites that are irrelevant to your job will likely get you into trouble.  Try to save Facebook or online shopping for after work, and never visit adult sites during working hours.

3. Lying During the Hiring Process

This goes back to when you were originally brought on – even if you’re now a stellar employee and a perfect fit for the job overall, if a company finds out you lied in order to get the job, they may still terminate your employment.

4. Gossiping

Gossip can hurt company morale, and you never want to get caught up in spreading rumors.  Stay away from idle chatter that could potentially endanger your paycheck.

5. Searching for Another Job

Never get caught searching for another job while you are on your current one.  Being terminated may seem less drastic if you plan on leaving anyway, but imagine how much more difficult it will be to have to address this new issue during interviews.

6. Dating a Coworker

Companies have different policies regarding dating coworkers, so make sure you know what your company rules are.  You don’t want to get involved in a fling that will cost you your date money.

These are just a few pitfalls that may cost you your employment, so whether you believe it’s justified or not, steer clear of these transgressions during your workday.  A general rule to abide by is that if you have to think twice about something before doing it, make sure to proceed with caution!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

6 Ways You May Be Hurting Your Resume’s Impact

Great Jobs on Doostang

You’ve written your resume and cover letter, spent hours trying to capture what makes you unique. The problem is – it’s not working. You are not getting calls. Perhaps it is time to drop back and examine your resume for some of these common mistakes people make when constructing their own resumes.

1. You skim the top of information, giving only general ideas of your career roles. You figure a hiring manager reading your resume will know what past jobs entailed simply by reading job titles, right? Wrong! Job titles are not standardized and can vary widely from company to company and even industry to industry. Don’t assume the hiring manager will figure out your past roles. The hiring manager is not going to do any work on your behalf! There are too many applicants in the market to waste time on “maybe” candidates. Give specific details about your roles, quantifying wherever possible. Concentrate on high-level skills and unique experience that will be valuable to the reader.

2. You fudge details. When nothing is happening for you in your job search, you may be tempted to fudge on your resume to seem more qualified than you really are. Don’t do it! Employers will find out and then you are in even more of a pickle. If you claim a certain skill on your resume, the employer will ask behavioral questions in the interview to elicit the depth of your knowledge. It will be very apparent that you are clueless or don’t have the skill level you claim. Not only will you be eliminated immediately, but you have burned that bridge forever for any possible employment. Don’t lie on your resume – you will be found out.

3. You don’t proofread. Spell-check is not the end all and certainly does not catch everything wrong in spelling, grammar or formatting. Have someone proofread your resume for you. After spending hours working on the document, you simply will not see your errors.

4. You give irrelevant information in the resume. Trust me – employers are not interested in the fact you like to fish, read, listen to music, or play hopscotch. Employers are concerned about information related to your experience, your skills, and your ability to do the job. Employers don’t need anything to “break the ice” in an interview. They know how to ease into an interview without having to rely on hobbies or interests from your resume.

5. You take your work history all the way back to the 70’s. Employers are interested primarily in the most recent ten years experience because that is what is most relevant to their needs today. Detailing your work history for many years longer than the past decade hurts you because the information is not relevant and it can also put an “age stamp” on you.

6. You don’t include a summary at the beginning. Just like the back of a book cover, the summary tells the reader what is coming and entices him/her to read further into the resume. Leave out the summary and you miss the opportunity to interest the employer.

Private Equity Senior Analyst – New York, NY

Fixed Income Portfolio Manager – Stamford, CT

Jr. Consumer Analyst – Boston, MA

Credit Research Analyst – Newport Beach, CA

Equity Research Associate – Jacksonville, FL

Junior Equity Derivatives Portfolio Manager – Santa

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By Alesia Benedict

Doostang News June 14 – Three Important Interview DON’Ts (DO Read This!)

Research Associate, New York, NY
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Here at Doostang we like to advise you on all the things you should be doing during an interview.  But it’s also important to know what sort of actions you need to avoid.  Some of these may seem obvious, yet jobseekers often make related missteps along the way.  So let’s revisit the basics:

Don’t Under-dress

If you are familiar enough with a company to know that the office culture is very relaxed, it may feel silly walking into an interview in a suit and tie.  Nevertheless, it’s important that you dress up for an interview.  Putting effort into your wardrobe shows that you take the company and the job seriously.  And even if the rest of the office is in shorts and T-shirts, they’ll appreciate that you care enough about the interview to dress up for it.  No one will judge you if you show up looking polished and professional – they might if you dress like a slob.

Don’t Talk on the Phone

It’s obvious that you should, by no means, answer your phone during an interview. But take that a step further and don’t talk on the phone at all while you are visiting a company. Before you even enter the building, switch your phone to silent, or, better yet, turn it off. Not only is it important to do this in order to avoid the temptation of answering it, but also it ensures that your cell won’t go off while you’re speaking with the hiring manager. The interview lasts from the moment you step foot in the door until the moment you leave, and it’s imperative that you show respect and remain alert. Silence is golden!

Don’t Get too Relaxed

While you want to give off an air of confidence, don’t get cocky and start slouching in your chair during the interview.  It’s wonderful to have a fluid, easy-going conversation with an interviewer, but if you are too much at ease, they might think that you don’t really care.  Remain alert and engaged, appearing more eager than cozy.

Stay tuned for more interview “don’ts”, and make sure to brush up on your interview “do’s”.  Now go get ‘em!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News May 31 – What NOT to Include in Your Resume

what-not-to-include-in-a-resumeAnalyst / Associate, New York, NY
Business Analyst, SF Bay Area, CA
Private Equity Intern, Chicago, IL
Events Director, Washington, DC
Investment Banking Associate, London, UK

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Putting together a great resume is time consuming, so once you finally send your masterpiece to the company hiring manager, you’d like to think that the little beauty will make it past the resume pile. Fair or unfair, such is not always the case, even if you’ve followed all the rules. Now imagine that your resume violates any of the delicate tenets of acceptable resume writing, and you’ll be out of there before you’ve even had a chance to unwind from hitting the ‘send’ button. Read on for a list of things to keep off of the old CV:

Irrelevant Job Experience

It’s difficult to trim great experience that doesn’t necessarily pertain to the job you’re currently applying for.  For one thing, this experience shaped who you are today and you acquired some great skills along the way.  But if there aren’t any transferable skills present, cut it.  It only clutters the resume and makes the valuable stuff harder to find.

Your Entire Work History

You may be proud of the fact that you’ve managed to hold various jobs since the day you turned 16.  While this displays a fabulous work ethic, it clutters your resume yet again.  Your ability to hold a job all through high school and still maintain straight A’s may have impressed the college admissions office, but it’s going to annoy the HR associate reviewing your resume.

Dishonesty

It’s never a good idea to lie about work experience, where you went to school, degrees you have attained, etc., because even though you may feel you’d be able to pull a fast one on the hiring manager, they’ll find out somehow. Believe in yourself and your merits enough to tell the truth and score the job because you actually deserve it.

Photograph

When you are applying to jobs overseas, the policy on including photographs on your resume can differ; but in general it’s wise not to include a head shot, glamour shot, or otherwise.  First of all, companies cannot legally decide to interview or hire a person based on appearance; second of all, many will move past resumes that do include photographs in order to stay on the safe side.  So just don’t do it – if anything, it takes up valuable space that you could be using for something else.

Attitude

It’s reasonable to assume that humor, sarcasm, or some other in-your-face attitude will gain recognition and a second look – heck, maybe you’re such a comedian that they’ll want to bring you in for an interview so that they can meet you face to face!  Wrong.  Businesses are running a serious operation when they’re searching to bring someone else on.  Most won’t have time for your silly jokes.  Instead, save your winning personality for the interview.

Deciding what to put on a resume can be tricky, especially when you’re only allotted a page or two and about 20 seconds of a hiring manager’s time.  Keep it short, succinct, and professional, and you’ll be well on your way to an interview!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Five Goofs Guaranteed to Sink Your Resume

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

resume_mistakesChief Executive Officer, Seattle, WA
Private Equity FoF Analyst, New York, NY
Business Analyst, Atlanta, GA
Finance Associate, Chicago, IL
Development & Communications Assistant, Boston, MA

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Resumes can be fairly subjective in both content and structure. Should you include an objective? How far back in time should you go? Many things are simply fact-dependent and will vary from person to person and situation to situation; however, some things will most assuredly result in your resume being discarded by the HR screener and, hence, should be avoided. Here are five problems that will sink your resume:

1. Major Typos – If you have good skills yet miss a comma or space in the resume, it may not be deadly, but misspell section headers such as “Professional Experience” or “Affiliations” and you are in trouble. Remember, employers first review resumes in order to ELIMINATE them from consideration. With employers receiving hundreds of resumes for each job opening, the first task they face is to narrow the field. Major typos such as spelling goofs are a great reason to eliminate a resume from consideration.

2. Photo – The only time a photo should be used on a resume is if the job involves the physical appearance of the applicant such as model, actress, or media personality. Otherwise, keep it off the resume. What you look like is irrelevant to whether you can do the job and brings up possible risks of discrimination. This issue extends into the trend of video resumes. All sorts of problems revolve around video resumes and while a seemingly novel idea, they are not viewed positively by hiring managers.

3. Date of Birth – First of all, when you were born is totally unrelated to whether you can do the job so what is the point of including it? Further, if your resume includes this information, most employers will immediately eliminate your resume from consideration based on hiring legalities. They are not allowed to make hiring decisions with the knowledge of age so the only option is to exclude your resume completely.

4. Marital Status and Children – This type of information falls into the same category as date of birth. It has no impact on your ability to do the job. Employers don’t want to see it. And if you include it, your resume will probably be excluded from consideration.

5. Religion – Employers are precluded from considering religion as a factor in hiring just like age and marital status. Many people, however, have volunteer experience supporting their career goals that is connected to a religious organization. For example, someone may volunteer time to perform accounting for the local synagogue; his career goal is to find an accounting position, so the volunteer work is related. How can the volunteer work be included without mentioning religion? The sensible thing is simply to call the synagogue (or similar) a “non profit organization” and leave it at that. Focus on the work and not the organization so it does not become an issue.

With so many applicants vying for open positions, you simply cannot afford to have errors or mistakes on your resume. Before your resume can truly be considered, it must get past the elimination stage of screening. Don’t give the screener any reason to remove your resume from the “second look” category.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

I Bombed the Phone Interview – Now What?

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

Trading Analyst, New York, NY
Research Analyst, Nationwide
Equity Research Associate Analyst, San Francisco, CA
Sales Assistant, Los Angeles, CA
Investment Analyst, Philadelphia, PA

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It had been one of those days. You know the kind when everything goes wrong. Murphy’s Law kicked in and just as you struggled to put out the latest fire, you received a call from a hiring manager or recruiter about a great job. The phone call is always the first interview and it is crucial. You knew that yet you were distracted and stressed.

The employer had already reduced the candidate pool to a select group and you made that group based on your resume. That day he was calling candidates for further elimination in order to whittle the group to a smaller number for face-to-face interviews. Unfortunately, that call came right when chaos broke loose in your world and you crashed and burned. What can you do to salvage the situation?

First, take a deep breath and get past the urge to kick yourself. Okay, so you blew it but it doesn’t have to stay a hopeless situation. Be proactive and take some steps to turn the situation around rather than indulge in self-pity. Attitude is everything! Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate distractions immediately. You weren’t ready for the call, yet you answered the phone anyway rather than letting it roll to voice mail. Whatever the distractions were when you hit the call button, get rid of them fast. You have a limited amount of time to rescue this situation and you need to get busy.
  • What questions did you not answer well? Think about it and jot down a few notes. Get your thoughts organized and think of what you should have said.
  • Get your resume in front of you. It’s your cheat sheet and it is also the document from which the hiring manager is working so you literally need to be “on the same page”. That also means knowing which version the employer is viewing. If you’ve sent multiple versions out for your job search, you should track those so you don’t look stupid by having to ask “Uh, which resume are you looking at?” in the interview.
  • Find a quiet place. If you have to go sit in your car so you don’t have screaming kids in the background (or whatever), do it. Get your mind in “professional business mode”, away from the more casual/crisis mindset.
  • Prepare a question about the company. You are trying to make a new impression, so you want to talk intelligently to the hiring manager or recruiter. This should not be a question about the JOB but about the company. Impress him/her with a question that shows you’ve done your research and have a serious interest where the company is concerned.

You need to do these things very quickly after hanging up from the disastrous initial phone call because you want to call the hiring manager back and try to salvage the situation as soon as possible. Once you are ready, call the recruiter or hiring manager back. This is how you will approach the call:

“Hi Joe? John Smith here. We just spoke and I wanted to give you a quick call back to apologize for my distraction. Unfortunately, a crisis meeting (or whatever) had my focus at the moment. I was excited to get your call, but I should have rescheduled for a better time. ABC Industries interests me and you got my attention. My poor impression concerns me, especially when you asked me about XYZ (this is the question you bombed). A second opportunity to respond to that would be great. I also have some questions about the new product launch going on there at ABC Industries (this will pertain to the question about the company). Can we reschedule and let me take another run at answering your questions?”

You can also leave this as a voice mail in case you don’t get through. The point is you are being proactive. Your goals are to admit you weren’t up to your best which demonstrates character; acknowledge your poor response to a question; show your interest in the company; and request a second interview. Since 99.9% of the other candidates won’t go this far, you will immediately have an edge. You will be “the one who called back”. It will be an additional checkmark in the positive column for your candidacy and may well make the difference in getting you passed on to the next round of interviews.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Bloopers that Attack Your Resume

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

resume-proofreadingM&A Associate, New York, NY
Marketing Manager, San Jose, CA
Investment Banking Associate, Irvine, CA
Product Management Consultant, Chicago, IL
Trading Intern, Chicago, IL

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Spell-check is a great thing. What did we ever do without it? Spell-check is also a curse; it’s imperfect and we rely on it too much. A resume is too important to trust it to spell-check alone. Human eyes on words are needed when proofreading a resume, preferably human eyes that have a good grasp of grammar.

We tend to read what we think we wrote, especially when we work on documents for long periods of time or documents which have many iterations. How many hours have you spent on your resume? Most people devote over twenty hours to working on their resumes. At some point, things blur together and words start to lose meaning. When that happens, errors are overlooked and grammar demons have a feeding frenzy. Here are some of the most notorious offenders:

Homophones – Remember these? Your teacher probably taught these to you as “same sound” words. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and are spelled differently. Some examples are “hear vs. here” and “right vs. write”. In a resume, you often see these masquerading for each other in the forms of “their vs. there” or “led vs. lead”. Spell-check usually doesn’t catch these because they are not misspelled, just misused.

Verb tense errors – Resumes are written in past tense. Experience, by its very nature, happened in the past. Job descriptions and achievements should be written in past tense, but it is easy to slip into present tense when you are thinking of what you did in a job.

Similar words – Words that are very similar in spelling but have different meaning can be the nails in the coffin on your resume. The most common offender is “manger”. It’s a common typo of the word “manager”. Spell check won’t catch it because “manger” is a perfectly spelled word. Another, probably more embarrassing similar word, is “pubic”. It sometimes comes in place of the word “public”. Again, spell check is useless to find this error and unless you are really looking for it, you won’t see it on cursory inspection either. Unfortunately, it seems to jump out at the hiring manager and you often see this one on “resume bloopers”.

Incorrect email address or phone number – Which is correct – 983-1001 or 983-0001? You can’t tell, right? Even if you knew what the number was supposed to be, the error would be hard to find. It is really important to slow down and read each number and the email address on your resume very closely. Wrong numbers and email addresses that bounce will kill your job search.

Beyond mechanical and grammatical errors such as those listed above, outdated techniques can sink your resume, too. Resume styles change over time. What was “in” in the 70′s is obsolete now, forty years later. A sure way to brand yourself as a dinosaur in a world of “dynamic, results-oriented professionals” is to have a resume that is out of style. Be careful of the following outdated resume techniques:

Document title – A resume is no longer labeled “Resume of” at the top. Employers recognize a resume without it having to be labeled.

References provided on request – Employers know you will provide references when requested. Everyone does. It’s expected.

Hobbies and Interests – Employers don’t care if you were the hot dog eating champion of your fraternity or that you like to collect butterflies. Don’t waste the space on your resume with hobbies.

Personal information – Not only is information such as date of birth, marital status, children or health condition irrelevant, it can result in your resume being eliminated from consideration altogether. Employers do not want to see this information about you on a resume, and they are often compelled by their legal departments to throw your resume out if you include it.

Typing speed – Typewriters serve as boat anchors these days. “Typing speed” is not a modern term. It also does not benefit to list things like “able to use a fax machine” or “shorthand”.

Double check your resume for any of these bloopers and make sure you have corrected any that you find. Your resume has to represent you well if it is going to be effective. Mechanical mistakes and out-of-date techniques communicate negative messages about you and will eclipse the great skills or experience you have. Remember, employers are excluding resumes when they are screening candidates. They are weeding out those resumes that show any problems. Don’t be a victim of “manger” or “like to play shuffleboard”.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Deadly Cover Letter Errors

Pre-MBA Associate – Hedge Fund, San Francisco, CA
Project Manager, Los Angeles, CA
Investment Banking Analyst, Houston, TX
Managing Consultant, London, UK
Jr Associate – Real Estate, Boston, MA

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cover-letter-errorsA cover letter is a crucial career marketing piece. Unfortunately, many job seekers ignore the cover letter or pass it off as “unimportant”. That is so untrue! The cover letter is very important and should accompany your resume whenever possible. “Resume and cover letter” is like “peanut-butter and jelly” – they go together and complement each other.

Often, job seekers struggle with putting together a great cover letter that will support the resume. A cover letter can seem tough to develop because you don’t want to be repetitive of information in the resume, but at the same time, you need to draw attention to the resume. It can be a bit of a balancing act to get the verbiage correct while making it effective. Here are some common errors that occur in cover letters:

Deadly Cover Letter Errors
Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC.

Not Addressed to a Specific Person

“To Whom It May Concern:” is a poor start for a cover letter. Do some research and find out the name of the person to whom the package should be directed. If you absolutely cannot find to whom it should go, aim high. If you send it to the head of the company or head of the department, it will have a better chance of getting to the decision-maker than if you simply send it to the HR department.

It can be difficult to know how to start a cover letter when the resume/cover letter is submitted online and there is no name (and sometimes not even a company name). An alternative to a greeting is to indicate the job posting number or title, and perhaps where the job was posted in a reference line at the beginning of the cover letter; for example: “RE: Marketing Assistant Position – ID# 3456”

good-cover-letter1Wrong Audience

Depending on the type of recipient, the cover letter will vary in content and approach. A cover letter to a network contact will be somewhat different in content and tone than a cover letter to a blind job advertisement. A cover letter to a recruiter will have some information normally not included in a cover letter that goes directly to the employer such as information about salary, availability, and relocation. A broadcast cover letter will be set up differently than a cover letter going directly to a specific person. Make sure you are aware of the differences and use the right approach for the audience.

“I” Focused

It is much too easy to start every sentence in a cover letter with “I” or “My”, so don’t fall to the temptation. Repetitively saying “I” turns off the reader. Vary your sentence structure and focus on your achievements and results. It makes for better communication all around.

Too Long/Too Short

A cover letter should not run past one page. If you have more than that, you know you are being wordy. Three to four paragraphs is a general rule of thumb. If you will be emailing your cover letter in the body of the email with your resume attached, be briefer than if you were sending it in a more traditional manner or as an attached document. People are accustomed to short, to-the-point email messages so don’t go overboard with detail.

Irrelevant Information

Sometimes people seem to think they can include information in the cover letter that certainly has no place in the resume. A good example would be a reason for leaving an employer. Reason for leaving is irrelevant – focus on the future and how you can make a contribution to a new employer. Health status is another issue that sometimes shows up in a cover letter – “I am in good health, energetic, and ready to get started”. Anything that reveals age, religion, ethnicity, etc. should be withheld from both the cover letter and resume. Employers are very wary of litigation and fair hiring practices. Including information that is not needed/wanted by an employer will hurt, not help.

Poor Appearance

Your cover letter should have a name header at the top that matches the header on your resume – like a letterhead. Make sure your font size is large enough to be easily read. Keep the alignment of your margins clean and even. The balance from the top of the page to the bottom should be appropriate; avoid large white voids above or below the text by balancing the text visually.

cover-letter1Not Signed

When sending by email, make sure you use a business-like signature without personal mottos and slogans. “Save the endangered snail darter” might be part of your email signature to friends and family but it has no place on an emailed cover letter. Create a signature for job search that contains your contact information such as phone numbers and email address. A branding line might also be appropriate; for example, “Joe Smith, Software Developer”. Always be aware of the presentation you provide to prospective employers and recruiters and make sure it is top-shelf.

You wouldn’t wear just one shoe to a job interview so don’t send your resume without an accompanying cover letter. Be professional but speak to the reader in an appropriate manner. Use the cover letter to highlight your best value and experience. Point out what makes you unique out of the hundreds of other applicants and grab the attention of the reader. Just like the resume, make sure you have NO typos. And of course – avoid these deadly cover letter errors!

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 75,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!