Monday, January 5, 2015

Make No Mistake: You Need This Checklist for Meticulous Resumes and Cover Letters

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog 

Checklist for Meticulous Resumes and Cover Letters [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Pull out a red pen when proofing your resume and cover letter.
Here's my collection of red pens and pencils.
You'll often see articles on job search mistakes. The articles discuss such job hunt errors as not tailoring your resume to a job opening and not writing thank-you notes after job interviews. Some of my past posts have covered these issues. 

But in this post I'm covering real mistakes in the job search—spelling words incorrectly, making grammar goofs, using the wrong words, forgetting to change an employer’s name in your cover letter, and leaving out words. These mistakes have consequences in your job search. Employers are looking for reasons to screen you out—and a mistake will most likely put you in the “no” pile.

Now mistakes in writing happen to the best writers. That's why they have editors. But when you are writing your cover letter and resume, you most likely don't have a professional editor to review and improve your work. Yet because you are an introvert or a shy person, I'm thinking that good writing may be one of your strengths. But if it isn't, use the following checklist to make sure your job search materials, which also include thank-you notes and emails, are meticulous.
  • Run spell check. Spell check gets a bad rap for missing mistakes. But it also catches them. So run it. Twice. Or more.
  • Check words you think may be misspelled. Many people have certain words that vex them in spelling. I've been a writer for a long time and still need to look up certain words. You should do the same. If a word doesn't look right to you or if you are unsure of a word's spelling, pull out a dictionary, look it up online, or get a dictionary app.
  • Use the right word, part one. Any word that can have another spelling should get your attention. That includes its and it's; their, they're, and there; too, to, and two; through and threw; and than and then. By the way, there's no such word as its'. Be sure you have chosen the correct word. Look it up if in doubt.
  • Use the right word, part two: Some words don't sound exactly the same but often are confused. So, for example, if you write loose, make sure you didn't mean lose. If you intend to say formerly, confirm you didn't write formally.
  • Read your material backward. This step will help you spot misspellings because you have to concentrate on one word at a time.
  • Read your material out loud. This action will make missing words or repeated words stand out. 
  • Watch for words you've mistyped. It's easy to mistype words. I do it all the time. Often the mistake involves omitting or changing a letter but still typing a real word, such as the or them for then; though for through; or you for your.
  • If you rewrite or change wording, give your text extra scrutiny. When I rewrite something to make it better, I sometimes make a mistake and then don't catch it because I think I'm done. 
  • Read for sense. After you scour your material for spelling and grammar errors, read it again to make sure it all makes sense and that you haven't inserted something or left something in that shouldn't be there. Also make sure the basic facts are correct: the addressee's name, company, address, and title of the job opening. I've received cover letters where the job seekers forgot to change the company name!
  • Go slowly. Take your time when proofreading your materials. If you rush, it will be easier to miss something.
  • Ask two or three people to proof your job search materials. Extra eyes can catch things you didn't because you get too close to your work.
  • Let it rest before sending. After you write something, don't send it immediately if possible. Walk away and do something else. Let it sit for as long as possible. Then reread it later. Time away from your writing often reveals errors.
  • Brush up. If you need help with spelling and grammar, take time to study the areas that you need to improve. Good writing will help you get and keep a job.
A final caveat: When you complete online applications, be very careful about your spelling and grammar. If possible, copy and paste information from your triple-checked cover letter and resume, rather than risking a typo.

What mistakes have you made in cover letters and resumes? How do you prevent these errors in the future?

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