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Ruinous Resumes: The demise of attention to detail

May 6, 2010

For the past two years, I’ve managed MarketWave’s intern program. Like most companies, we have a process in place that involves sending our job description to local colleges for posting; reviewing cover letters and resumes from interested candidates; screening and narrowing down the pool through phone interviews; and bringing the top candidates in for in-person interviews before making our decision.

The cover letters and resumes we received during our search for a summer intern have run the gamut – some are the preferred one page, while others are two or three – verging on short biographies.

But, what really stood out this time – and made it fairly easy to whittle down the candidate pool – were three things:

  1. Typos
  2. Inconsistent formatting
  3. Grammatical errors

I know it has been some time since I graduated and sat in a career counselor’s office, but I believe the same rules apply – especially in the PR and marketing profession:

  1. No typos – nothing can take you out of the running faster than typos. In the resume world, they’re simply unacceptable.
  2. Check consistency – if you’re going to bold face your job titles, then bold face all of them; if you’re listing your experience starting with your most recent job, don’t intersperse the list – keep it in reverse chronological order.
  3. Double-check your grammar – if you list bullet points for a past job, they should all be past tense – not just some of them.
  4. Proofread – have someone else proofread the final version. After looking at a document 10 times, it’s easy to see things that aren’t really there.
  5. Keep it professional – resist the urge to revert to “text message” type cover emails.

I wish I had the time to call rejected candidates and point out the blemishes that ultimately cost them an interview and the chance for real-world experience.

I just wonder what has changed over the years? Has tweeting and 140 character-based communication slackened writing skills? If you’re a hiring manager or review resumes regularly, please share your thoughts with us. What has your experience been lately?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 11, 2010 2:22 pm

    Dione-
    Great post! I thought I’d share a funny (and disturbing) story about a cover letter I once received for a PR position with an agency. After posting the job on Craigslist, we got over 100 resumes and cover letters basically overnight. But one stood out so much – it got passed around the office for its audacity.

    The young man included his contact information at the bottom of his emailed letter. A point in his favor (some actually forgot this critical element).

    His email address?

    Ilovefreshmangirls@aol.com

    Yep. That really happened. Folks coming out of school, PLEASE make sure your email address is professional! If you need a new one, sign up at gmail or Yahoo for free and use a simply name.lastname@gmail.com format.

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