Lessons from a Lousy Resume

Recently, a discouraged journalist wrote to me and asked why she couldn't get any job interviews. She included her cover letter and resume.

Within minutes of opening her e-mail, I wrote back and told her that the problem is her resume. I did not even read the whole thing. There were enough fatal flaws on page one to make any recruiter put her aside, despite some impressive experience and skills.

Given the huge selection of candidates these days, it's no surprise that I increasingly hear hiring managers say even one mistake can eliminate a candidate.

This is what I saw:

1. The resume was three pages long. For someone who has been out of undergraduate school for just five years, that is too long.

2. The contact information had two small punctuation errors. Example: No period after the abbreviation for apartment.

3. The resume said "residence" instead of "resident." Spell-check would not have caught this.

4. An errant "S" after the word journalist. Spell-check would not have caught this, either.

5. "Contributor for" should have been "contributor to," and "related for" should have been "related to."

6. One sentence had two conflicts with AP Style for handling numbers.

7. A terrible run-on sentence that lacked a comma.

OK, enough.

The lessons: Documents intended to help you get a new job can hurt you. Go over them very carefully. And turn to an excellent copy editor -- not merely a friend -- for an extra set of eyes.

Questions about resumes? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Friday: How social media skills can get you hired.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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