Five Valuable Proofreading Tips

I will admit it; this is not one of the most interesting topics to discuss. But great proofreading must happen if your résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn documents and other written material will work for you. Here is some harsh reality: every time you apply with error-filled documents – even one error is too much – you are wasting an opportunity. You would have been better off to not apply at all.

Here are some tricks you can use to tighten up your writing.

Read it aloud. This means actual spoken words, not reading silently. I read every line of every letter and résumé I send to my clients because it works. It isn’t exciting, and the first few times you read aloud to yourself it will feel a little silly, but it will help. You will identify poor writing, poor or wrong word choices, and redundancy.

Get away from it. A little time between writing and proof helps a lot. Write it, save it, and step away. Come back later or the next day and read it after doing something else. Write, walk the dog, proofread – in that order.

Print it. I don’t like using paper and ink when I don’t have to, but a hardcopy version will give you a different perspective. Try changing the setting, too, by taking your paper to a different room or to a coffee shop. You will see opportunities for improvement.

Read it backwards. Get a ruler and read line by line from back to front, using the ruler to keep your place. This will change the context and you will notice bad punctuation, words and other errors.

Enlist help. Doesn’t everyone know a spelling and grammar freak? If you do, ask for a reading. It’s always easier to spot someone else’s mistakes than your own.

Remember that a single error on your résumé can get you discarded into the “No!” pile. Take the time and make the effort to have your very best work representing you in the career marketplace. Nothing less will do.

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See The Thank You Letter of Doom for an account of a job search blowout. The letter killed all hope.

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Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He can help you create and market yourself with error-free documents.

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The Thank You Letter of Doom

Scream Thank You LetterIn the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” This was learned the hard way by a job seeker I recently heard about. It illustrates the need to address every detail and to take nothing for granted.

When talking with a recruiter today, he told me about a candidate whom he presented to his client, the hiring company. The candidate had a solid résumé, interviewed well, and followed up with a letter after the meeting. That is where it all went wrong.

The thank you letter was poor. It was filled with awkward language, grammatical errors and other defects. The contrast between the well written résumé and the substandard thank you letter was stark. It was so bad, the client lost interest and declined to go further with the candidate. The letter cost him the job.

I will state the obvious: The thank you letter is important, but it has to be great. If you don’t write well, get someone else to help. Tend to the details and know that the job isn’t yours until you report for the first day.

Here is a related story to tell you what you must include.

Here is another piece on the importance of thank you notes.

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He can help you with a great cover letter.

How’s Your Lead

All writers know that stories that are going to be read need to start with a great lead. Those first few sentences, the first paragraph, must grab the reader’s attention. It’s true for newspaper articles, online stories and longer work. It’s also true for résumés.

In On Writing Well, the classic on non-fiction writing by William Zinsser, the author says this: “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead” (p. 9).

How is the first sentence of your résumé relative to this high standard? Go ahead, read it. Read it out loud. Does it say anything about you that will make the reader want to continue? Is it a true description of you and your accomplishments, or is it vague, generic hash?

Recruiters will make a decision to continue reading based on the first half of the first page. You have only a handful of words and a small number of lines to make your case and keep yourself in the hunt for consideration.

Try this: print a copy of your resume without your name at the top. Give it to a close friend or family member who knows you well. Ask that person to read it. What’s the reaction? Is it what you expected?

The first 100 words or so are some of the most important in your job search. Are they as influential and hard-working as you would like? Does sentence one flow and encourage the reader to move to number two and three? If not, get the red pen, eliminate the goo and make it sharp. Every word counts!

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. If you do any writing, get Zinsser’s book!

Stationary + Stamp = Standout

thank you noteEvery time one of my children goes to a birthday party, we get a thank you card in the mail. Over the last weeks, as teachers have finished the past year and gotten ready for the next, we have received notes and cards thanking us for the end-of-year teacher gifts. Each time we get one, it brings a smile, a comment about the sender’s thoughtfulness, and some excitement for our kids. What child doesn’t like to receive mail?

The thank you note should not just belong to teachers and kids. I received an email from a client over the weekend. He had been on an interview late in the week and was asking for some advice on follow up. His question: “Should I send an email or a letter?” Definitely go with the letter or a card. Here’s why.

Just as the cards we have received in our home tend to stick around for a while, the same thing will happen with your thank you card or letter. It is a tangible thing that will sit on the receiver’s desk. She might share it with others. If it is nice stationary, he may hesitate to discard it. Can any of us say the same about an email? It could be vaporized on a Blackberry or trashed on an iPad and forgotten, if it is even read at all. The extra effort will make you a standout among your candidate competition.

Your challenge: Visit a store that sells stationary (Staples, Target, CVS, etc.) and buy a package of professional-looking cards. Get some stamps. Over the coming weeks, use the entire package. Are you up to it? You get extra credit if you report back your results to this blog as a comment.

Here are some practical tips on using them.

  • Keep your message concise and clear.
  • Express why you are grateful. Example: “Thank you for the time you spent with me today. I enjoyed getting to know you and I hope that we will be working together soon.”
  • Challenge yourself to send them as soon as possible. We all get busy and the opportunity becomes forgotten and lost.
  • Get creative about to whom you will send them. The people who interview you are the easy ones. How about these people: The person who told you about the job opportunity. People who have helped by reading, reviewing and commenting on your résumé. The person who sold you your interview suit and did such a great job. That person who gave you some encouragement and a pep talk when you were feeling down.

Your gratitude, expressed in writing, will brighten the recipient’s day and make you more memorable. The very act of thinking about what and why you are grateful will lift your mood, too. Have some fun and tell us all how it goes.

Here are two other articles about less-common tactics that should be part of your career management strategy starting today.

Pocket-Size Resume: The essentials on a card.

3x5x30: Create your elevator speech now.

And a reminder of what can go wrong with a poorly written thank you letter.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Pocket-Size Résumé

Twice in the last week I have participated in conversations about personal business cards, useful for networking events and chance encounters. One conversation was with a friend, another on a LinkedIn group. In both settings, hot topics encompassed what the card should include, what it should not, and the value of this pocket-size résumé. Here are some tips on how to write it and make it work for you.

Let’s Start with the Basics

  1. Include your personal contact information. This means a professional and personal email address, not a work email that you lose when you leave a job. “Professional” means sticking with something that is your name and not much else. Examples: JoeSmith100@—.com, MaryLBaker10@—.com. Avoid potentially embarrassing email addresses.
  2. LinkedIn Profile Address. You have one, right?
  3. One phone number. Your best, can reach number that is yours alone. This is most likely your wireless number. By the way, check the outgoing message. Does it portray you as a professional? Re-record it if necessary. Now.

Brand Statement

What is your profession? What are you known for? Under your name, create a title that is reflective of your skills and career, but that is not dependent on your employer. You may be a divisional sales manager for your employer, but you should come up with something else for your personal card. How about this: “IT Sales Executive: Coach, Trainer and Leader.” This same brand statement could even be used on your LinkedIn profile.

QR Code: Yes or No?

Some people love it, others don’t. If you haven’t used a QR code before, it is that square scannable bug that you see on print advertising. Scan it with your smartphone and it directs you to some online content. The destination could be a personal website, blog, LinkedIn profile or anything else that you want. Be sure that if you use it, the destination is something that you want other professionals to see. If in doubt, leave it out.

Flip it Over

A business card has two sides. Use them. Think about your two or three most compelling selling points that you bring to the job market. Refine them down to a few bullets and get them on the card. Points that you have in your elevator speech can work well here. Or, you might change your elevator speech after forcing yourself to clarify your value proposition by going through this exercise. Whatever the case, be prepared to present yourself to people you meet and use the card to reinforce your message.

Complement Your Résumé

Be sure that the card and your résumé are communicating the same message using the same language. Think of them working together as a marketing kit, both presenting you with the same value propositions and both with special uses. You wouldn’t go to an after-work networking mixer with résumés, and you wouldn’t go to an interview with just a business card. The two work together and must complement each other.

Do you have a card that works for you? I would love to hear about it. Please comment and share your ideas.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Newsstand Résumé

Visit any airport news store or a Barnes and Noble, and you find rack after rack of magazines and newspapers, all shouting headlines to get your attention and your dollars. The same is true online, where we are all teased with silly phrases designed to get us to click (I still have never clicked on a “five weird tricks” link). Nobody does it better than the tabloids, though, with huge fonts and the promise of entertainment – and possibly a little news – for a buck.

Imagine your résumé up against this competition. Does yours have what it takes to get the attention of an overwhelmed, overworked and overstimulated screener? Does it say “read me” or “READ ME!”? More simply, is your best stuff in the top half of the first page? If not, your competition may get more attention. Here are a few pointers.

Compelling Headline. Does your headline make it obvious what you do and what you are looking to do next? Do you have a headline? If you can’t describe your career focus in a few words and display it in a headline, start now.

Concise Professional Summary. Develop a two to three sentence summary of what you offer your next employer. DO NOT include clichés that everyone uses and every recruiter hates. Out of the box self- starters with strong work ethics need not apply. IT professionals with experience in data centers and cloud-based application management experience…come right in!

Unique and Valuable Skills. If you have certifications, training or other formal credentials that are in demand, get them into the top half of page one.

You have seconds to make an impression and score an interview. If you are not getting calls, it could be that your résumé is boring and weak. Tighten it up, make it bold and make it work.

Sales Basics and the Job Search

Everyone is in sales. Whether you sell for a living or have to influence others in some way, you are selling ideas, products and yourself all the time. Having your eyes open to that fact will work to your advantage as you conduct a job search, and understanding some basic sales tactics can accelerate the process and get you doing what you love, your career of choice. Having worked in sales and sales management, I hope that these concepts that I have learned – some the hard way – can help you.

Use Your Network. People buy from those that they trust. The best way to become trusted is with the recommendation of a valued and respected insider. Continue to build and energize your network, helping others as you can. The day may come when you need a favor (maybe you need one now) and the investment you made in time and energy will pay dividends.

Sell What the Buyer Wants. You must understand the needs of the buyer. You are the seller, and the employer is considering buying your services. What is important to the company and what are the qualifications of the role? What is the organization’s culture and how would you fit in? Study the job posting, read the company’s website, research the organization through other sources (including insiders), and be ready to explain how you can help solve their problems. Focus on the needs of the organization and how you will be a great asset with the track record to prove it.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. If you have ever been on a sales call, as the seller, the buyer or just an interested bystander, you know that a professional sales presentation can lead to success. The presentation includes the person (dress, grooming, professionalism), sales and marketing materials (leave-behinds, brochures), the content of the presentation and asking for the sale. As you sell yourself, you need to consider and plan for your interviews and other interactions. What will you say? What material will you present? How will you follow up?

Multiple Contacts Increase Your Chances. This comes back to the point of trust. We don’t trust everyone we see from the first contact. That’s why you need to work to get your name, face, and work in front of the buyer as many times as you can and through as many channels as possible. At a minimum, this will include your initial contact, a phone interview, a face-to-face interview and follow up (thank you letter). You enhance your chances with a recommendation from an existing employee (back to your network). If you are in a less aggressive job search, consider a drip marketing campaign with potential employers, contact them once every 30 to 45 days with something of value.

Ask for the Sale. When you have gone through the process, ask for the job. Your request could be as simple as this: “I really would like to get to work helping your company capture market share. What are our next steps to me joining your team?”

Consider these sales basics when marketing yourself, and put them into practice. Understand that as you enter the labor market you are a sales person, so be great at it.