Sunday, June 17, 2007

What not to write: Real-world examples

Recently, my "day job" in human resources gave me the opportunity to review resumes that had been submitted to my company. The experience has left me in awe of what job hunters don't know about writing a resume or a cover letter. Wow! Given all of the resources available these days, both in print and online, there's no reason for a job hunter not to understand what companies are looking for.

Dear readers, I want you to have every opportunity to land the job of your dreams, and the first step is submitting resumes and cover letters that are worth reading. In that spirit, I present to you the following examples of what not to write, and why:

1. Objection! The "objective" section of a resume, which Microsoft Word ever so nicely supplies on its resume templates, rarely adds value to your resume. But when the heading says "Objection" -- in 20-point type, no less, and at the top of the page -- it's really not doing you any good at all! There are two lessons to be learned from this example: First, always have someone else proofread your resume to catch mistakes such as this one. Second, do away with the "Objective" section all together. Replace it with a "Summary of Qualifications" section that tells a potential employer what you have to offer. Your resume needs to tell a potential employer what you will do for the company, not what the company can do for you. An "Objective" talks about what the company can do for you. So get rid of it.

2. "
I consider myself: multi-tasked." I found this grammatical mistake in a cover letter, and it made me shake my head. Grammar in the English language can be difficult to master, but this mistake could have been easily corrected by having someone else edit the letter, or even reading the letter out loud before sending it. (That's a great editing tool, because reading something aloud gives you the opportunity to hear how it will sound to the reader.) The lesson here is to keep your cover letter simple, using declarative sentences in the present tense. Write it the same way you would say it -- you aren't trying to write the Next Great Novel. Simple is better here.

"My leadership skills and abilities will help aid the driving forces in a team-oriented environment, maximizing the productivity within a corporate structure." Say what? This sentence, also from a cover letter, is just plain gobbletygook. There's no content there! I think the writer was trying to say that he or she works productively as part of a team, but I'm not entirely sure. You should KISS your cover letter: Keep It Simple, Silly. Reading this sentence made me think the worst of the job candidate -- that if he or she was padding a simple sentence like this, then as an employee would he or she put a lot of effort into looking like he/she was working when he/she really wasn't? At the very least, the sentence made me think that the writer thought I'd fall for the idea that "big words" means "intelligent." A word to the wise: Recruiters and hiring managers aren't stupid. Tricks don't work on them, so don't bother. Just be yourself.

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