When I read clients’ resumes and cover letters, there are a few trends that emerge. Of course, every one is different and each candidate has a lot of unique experiences and qualifications. But there a few errors that I see over and over again in written application materials. Here are the top three mistakes:
You’re boring. “Hi, my name is Any Candidate and I’m writing to apply for the job of Any Job.”
You don’t want to send a generic application that could come from just about anyone. You want the unique person that you are to shine through. This doesn’t mean you have to be crazy, over-the-top enthusiastic. It just means the person you are in real life should come through in the application materials.
I read so many ho-hum documents, then when I meet the candidates, they’re kind or charming or have deep knowledge of certain subjects or broad experiences in a specific field–all kinds of amazing experiences that aren’t represented in the materials I’ve seen.
Put the real you in your resume and cover letter so that someone gets the same impression of you on paper as they would in real life.
You’re careless. This might be typos (“hear” versus “here” or “rapt” versus “rasp” or “letcures” instead of “lectures”).
Or it might be edits that have part of the “before” and part of the “after” in them:
“throughout over my years as a…”
“the my experiences…”.
Do you cut-and-paste from one application to another? Make sure the transformation to the new version is complete! Don’t mention the wrong company in part of your letter so the opening says you would be a perfect fit for Microsoft and you close with, “I look forward to the possibility of interviewing with Google.”
This is where another pair of eyes can really help you–almost anyone can proofread at this level.
You write with lots of flowery language. Employers are not looking for a college essay. They want a quick, clear picture (they go through these things fast)–not some convoluted language that’s hard to penetrate. This can be simple:
“I have been able to increase sales…” should just be, “Increased sales…” on a resume.
Too often, it’s even more complicated:
“throughout the year of experience, I engaged with various constituents on a variety of levels and in many different venues“
What? That’s a lot of words that doesn’t even tell me what you really did, with whom, or where. Use fewer words to say what you really did.
Before you submit your next application, go through the documents and make sure you aren’t making any of these basic mistakes. If you’re the candidate who manages not to have any of those three common problems, that will put you one step ahead of most of the competition.
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a campus workshop, contact Darcy: email@example.com