On Advice for Resume Writing

Let’s talk resumes.

Yesterday’s Washington Post had an article in the Business section entitled “Tiny Typos Can Add Up To a Big X On Your Résumé.” Michelle Singletary asks, “Should someone’s résumé get tossed in the trash if he or she mistakenly wrote ‘Graphic designer seeking no-profit career’?”

Should it happen? If you’re the applicant making the mistake, the answer is “I’d hope not.”

Does it happen? Absolutely. As a store manager at EB Games, I chucked resumes and applications for the very thing.

“Chucked,” I should note, in this case means that the resume went in a “dead” pile that I never, ever looked at again unless I needed a laugh or I was severely desperate to hire. Applications and resumes were, per policy, held for a year. Some of my fellow managers held applications forever. Others pitched them at the first opportunity. I held onto applications for about six or seven months.

Singletary writes:

With unemployment in some areas in the double digits and job postings drawing hundreds of applicants, I understand the need to quickly weed people out. But zero tolerance for one or two résumé typos is too harsh.

Certainly a résumé or cover letter riddled with errors points to sloppiness or incompetence, but a minor mistake shouldn’t disqualify you from a job or at least an interview.

In that case, I was a right bastard, because not only did I disqualify a resume based upon typos, I also graded resumes that were clearly from Microsoft Word’s pre-installed resume templates harshly.

If I saw a resume written in Garamond, that was an immediate red flag. Did the applicant think about the resume he was constructing, or did he just fill in the blanks that Word provided for him? A resume that looked different, that showed some creativity, that had a splash of color — these were elements that I rated more positively.

For the record, my own resume is written using a Microsoft Word template. But it’s not one of the pre-installed ones, and it doesn’t use Garamond. It’s one that came from an Office website, and it looks quite different than the norm.

One thing I looked for in a resume was consistency of verb tenses and voice. If parts of the resume are written in present tense and other parts in past tense, that stood out as a sign of addition. If parts of the resume were written with active verbs and other parts with passive verbs, that stood out as a sign of inconsistency. Little things like that stood out more to me than a typo. If the applicant couldn’t see the resume in toto, what did that say about whether or not the applicant could see the totality of the job he sought? Was the applicant writing and revising a resume for me, or was the applicant simply taking his extant resume and sending it off?

That’s the great thing about word processors today. An applicant can tailor a resume to the posted job requirements. It’s not that difficult.

In any event, the article makes some points about catching typos in a resume. Proofread, proofread, proofread. It’s what every writer should do.

If you’re in the job market, watch those typos, people.

And I cannot believe that Garamond is Dave Eggers’ favorite font. Jeez.

One thought on “On Advice for Resume Writing

  1. I completely agree with you. I was the hiring manager for marketing staff. I was of the opinion that if you can’t even write a resume correctly, you should not be doing any type of writing as a career. I ruled out many otherwise qualified candidates for a single typo, poorly written cover letter, bad grammar, or even just lousy formatting.

    If you now factor in today’s competitive environment, you have to avoid any reason to get thrown in “B” pile. As you said, that “B” pile never gets reviewed again.

    Garamond is not a deal breaker for me though. Century Gothic is a plus though.

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