Resumes, cover letters, and Web pages

Subject: Resumes, cover letters, and Web pages
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 12:10:05 -0500

Is resume perfection attainable? Perhaps not, but as someone who screens
resumes, I want to see you try. We're a small company without editorial
staff; the writers' only defense against typos and grammatical errors is
their own diligence and (shudder) me. (Last year I "reviewed" 60+
documents... You can guess how thoroughly.) I think I screen resumes using a
"two strikes and you're out" rule of thumb: I assume there will be no errors,
and I read. If I hit an error I drop out of reading mode and go into
copyreading mode. A second error is usually fatal for the prospective

Note that an "error" can include misusing a trademark. If it says the person
is proficient with "Inter Leaf" software (not the right trademark), I wonder
if (a) they really are familiar with the software and (b) if they'll treat
our trademarks as sloppily. This sounds harsh, but does resume-scanning
software even register "Inter Leaf" as a hit? You're better off getting the
magic words correct before you invoke them.

I think the cover letter is just as important for a writer. A clear, fluid,
and error-free cover letter can make the difference between an interview and
a rejection, both by demonstrating writing skill and in showing enthusiasm. I
apply the same "harsh" standards to cover letters, though. Write that you
have "four years experience" [sic] and you're in trouble.

The bottom line is: work hard on your resume and cover letter; have someone
else proofread it for you (be a team player!).

While I'm on the subject, let me throw out another aspect of presenting
yourself: your own Web home page. I think this is a double-edged sword, as
other posters have pointed out. On the one hand, it demonstrates some
knowledge of Web technology; a good Web page can showcase proficiency. On the
other hand, a casual page can get you into trouble. For example, we're told
never to include a photo with our resumes, yet the custom for home pages is
to include pictures. What's a fella to do? (I am wrestling with this problem
myself.) Is my interest in volleyball going to turn a prospective employer on
or off? What about my interest in -- well, you get the idea. And what if you
have errors in language or flaws in presentation? You can undo all the good
you did with your perfect resume and cover letter. It's a tough situation.

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Group Leader ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc, 281 Winter St., Waltham, MA 02154 USA
<jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com>, 617.672.4902 [voice], 617.890.2681 [FAX]

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