July 14, 2015

The Top Resume and Cover Letter Mistakes

GaspHaving a hard time getting an interview even though you have the experience to get the job you want?

Maybe you’re making one of these resume or cover letter mistakes!

Failing to Proofread

We might be biased, but we think that grammar and spelling errors are the worst. Not only does sloppy grammar make you look unprofessional, but it also speaks to your attention to detail and your ability to communicate in the workplace. Always proofread your job search documents multiple times. The best way to do this is to print them and read them out loud. Grammarly’s automated proofreading software can also help you keep your application packet out of the trash bin. According to a 2013 survey by CareerBuilder, 58 percent of hiring managers cited typos as one of the main reasons they rejected a job seeker’s application, so don’t skip proofreading!

Too Long or Too Short

Pop quiz: How long should a resume or cover letter be?

If you answered “No more than a page,” then you’re, well, on the same page as most hiring managers.

Google’s senior VP of people relations, Laszlo Bock, has a formula for calculating resume length: one page for every ten years of relevant work experience. For most job seekers outside of academia or senior management, that means a one-page resume.

If squeezing your info onto a single page seems daunting, Scott Dockweiler of The Daily Muse reminds job seekers that “a resume doesn’t have to (in fact, shouldn’t) be a chronicle of your entire career history — it should be a marketing document that uses your relevant skills and experiences to illustrate to the hiring manager why you’re the one for the job.”

Highlighting the Wrong Details

TrashBruce Hurwitz, president of a New York staffing firm, recommends being as specific as possible by focusing on accomplishments instead of job duties.

“The key is to highlight one success,” Hurwitz says of cover letters. “For example, ‘I successfully increased sales 500 percent over two years, resulting in increased, sustained revenue of $25 million.’ Once I read that, I look at the resume.”

Lack of Tailoring

Cover letters and resumes aren’t one-size-fits-all documents. Using the same generic text for every job application is a great way to ensure you never get a call for an interview.

“Employers want you to write a resume specifically for them,” advises Peter Vogt, a senior contributing writer for Monster. “They expect you to clearly show how and why you fit the position in a specific organization.”

Inconsistent Formatting

Think formatting isn’t important? Think again. Like sloppy writing, poor formatting shows hiring managers that you lack professionalism and attention to detail. It can also make your resume and cover letter a lot harder to read.

“Don’t let your resume get out of hand with fonts and graphs and distract the reader from what’s important (how qualified you are),” Christine Ryan Jyoti writes for Fast Company. “If you’re going to use bullets, they should be the same size and shape in each section and align from page to page.”

Burying the Lede

LightIn journalism, the “lede” is the hook that catches a reader’s attention. If you bury the lede, you fail to hook your readers in the first words of your story. Your resume and cover letter should have a similar hook. Remember, hiring managers may see hundreds of applications for the same position — and most of them will begin with some variation of the words “I am writing to you because I want a position at your company.”

Here are five examples from Glassdoor of first lines that will get your cover letter noticed!

Grammarly wishes you the best of luck in your job search! Leave a comment to let us know which of these tips works best for you.

Read more in Resume Writing

A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and nearly FIVE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
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