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.

===

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

===

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

Advertisements

Annual Review Lemonade

Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.
Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.

Everyone hates annual reviews, right? Many are dealing with the process now, either writing their self-evaluations or thinking and writing about their employees (or both). The whole effort takes a lot of time, and many see it as just a necessary hoop that must be jumped through to placate the HR people to get to the raise on the other side. Here is another way to look at it: Use the time to capture the history of your best work.

Annual reviews are often the best source of information for people to use when writing résumés, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters. It’s also a terrific resource to refresh one’s memory before a job interview. As a pro résumé writer, I love it when clients have reviews available as there will be solid and quantifiable information to include in the career marketing package.

Here are a few compelling points that should change your mind about annual reviews.

It’s a paid mini-résumé writing session. Think about the résumé creation process. You have to sit down and think about the work you have done and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Isn’t that what happens when you do your self-review? You are writing about your year and putting your work in the best possible light to earn a big, fat, bell-ringing raise. Your employer is paying you to write this year’s section of your résumé.

You have access to information. When you write a résumé after leaving an employer, you may or may not have access to the data you need to tell your story. How much was that sales increase in 2009? You have access to information now that you can include in your review, and nobody will think twice about you researching it. If asked, you say, “I’m writing my self-review.” Done!

You get documented feedback from your boss. Many people complain that the only good feedback that they get is at review time. If that is you, capture this information and use it later if needed. Positive quotes can be showcased in a cover letter or (sparingly) in a résumé.

Get copies and bring them home. Be a freak about this! Ask for or make hardcopies of your completed, delivered reviews (with your boss’s comments and scores). Bring them home now and file them where you will find them later. Gather previous year’s reviews if you don’t have them.

Keep this in mind and use the annual review process as your time to document your year. Annual appraisal lemons can be squeezed into résumé lemonade later.

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it. Also, be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of new stories. Thanks!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. After writing hundreds of résumés, he knows the value annual reviews in the résumé writing process.

Seven Critical Cover Letter Checks

checkmarkBefore you send out another résumé, either electronically or physically, check your cover letter. Is it doing all that it can to make the case that you are the candidate they should consider most closely? Work this list every time.

1. Does it exist? Sometimes people ask if a cover letter is needed. Look at it this way: if two résumés detailing equivalent experience and qualifications arrive, and one is accompanied by a well-written letter than sells the candidate, who is more likely to get the call? A great letter can tip the scales in your favor. Do it!

2. Is it a proper business letter? This isn’t an email. Nor is it casual correspondence. Use a formal business letter format that includes the date, inside address, a colon (not a comma) after the greeting, and a professional closing.

3. Do you state your purpose? Your first paragraph should clearly state the position for which you are applying, the location where you want to work, and where you found the position advertisement. If you were referred by a person, state it plainly.

4. Do you make a customized pitch? The most important purpose of a cover letter is to sell you for the position. Imagine that you have two minutes with the hiring manager to explain why you should be hired. Write this. Tie your reasons to the qualifications, requirements, and perceived culture of the company. Answer, “Why should I hire you?” Your cover letter should be customized for every position for which you apply. More work, but it’s worth it.

5. Did you address obvious questions? Relocations and long-term unemployment experiences that will be questioned should be addressed. Develop a one-sentence explanation. Something like this can work: “After a large reduction in force with my last company due to industry contraction, I am ready to bring my skills, experience and business acumen to your organization to be part of a successful future.”

6. Did you say “thank you”? You might find it hard to believe, but many letters get sent without the common courtesy of thanks. Don’t let that be you.

7. You proofread, right? Employers rightfully assume that if you are sloppy in your job search – when you have all the time you need to get it right – you will be sloppy as an employee. Simple typos can kill your chances (see The Thank You Letter of Doom for a real horror story). Don’t let it happen to you.

Do you have cover letter success stories to share? Tell everyone about it in the comments below.

Work your cover letter hard and the effort will pay you back. Good luck!

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it. Also, be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of new stories. Thanks!

Three Reasons to be Bold

Understatement will hurt you in your job search. The essence of the work is marketing. Seekers create (either themselves or they pay a professional to do it) a batch of documents, both physical and electronic, to tell the world about themselves. Here are three reasons to be bold with your résumé, cover letter, follow up communications, LinkedIn profile and other activities.

Marketing Emphasizes Strengths. Hyundai doesn’t say, “The Elantra: Not a bad small car for the money.” PepsiCo doesn’t entice you with, “Mountain Dew: We’re not sure why people like this stuff.” Instead, marketers use all of their communication tools to sell the sizzle. What’s great? What’s exciting? What makes the product or service special? Do the same for yourself.

You Are Competing. Even though the job market has improved, many employers are still very cautious about their hiring decisions. They are still looking at their options, evaluating many candidates for each open slot. Every job seeker is in a battle with all the rest to get the interview and offer. You must outshine your competition if you are going to be successful.

Boldness Builds Confidence. Sometimes people say, “I don’t want to come across as over-confident, arrogant or boastful.” This is a good thought, and you won’t. But, by cataloging and presenting your accomplishments concisely and professionally, you will be in a better position to interview well because you will know your best stories and will have the opportunity to discuss them.

Your marketing activities and tools will not get you the job. They will get you the interview, and that’s what it’s all about. Review your résumé, LinkedIn profile and other documents. Ask yourself, “Are these doing everything possible to help me market myself? Am I bold enough?” If not, fix them.

What to Include in Your Thank You Letter

The “Thank You Letter of Doom” piece has turned out to be one of the most popular ever on the Work blog. It made very clear what shouldn’t be in a follow up letter – spelling and grammar mistakes are just the start – but didn’t talk about what should be included (at least one reader asked). Here is the structure to follow.

Professional Greeting. This is a business letter, so use a formal greeting followed by a colon, not a comma. “Dear Ms. Jones:” or “Dear Mr. Smith:”

Lead with Thanks. Thank the interviewer for the time and consideration. Explain that you learned a lot and that you are excited about the prospect of working there.

Follow-Up Thoughts. You took notes during the interview, right? Explain how you have been thinking about one or two of the points during your discussion and how you can help the company with those issues. You want to reinforce that you were paying attention and that you can see yourself there making a difference. As importantly, you want Ms. Jones to see it, too.

Example: “As I thought more about our discussion about the Alpha initiative, I realized how my past work on the Phase III project at ABC Company was so closely related. Your company will benefit from the experience and knowledge that I have from that effort.”

Close. Explain that you want the job and will look forward to the next steps. Thank again. Sign off with a professional closing (“Sincerely” works).

Print it. Read it again. Be 100% sure that it is error free. Send it. Wait for your job offer.

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

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.

Four Job Search Truths: Take Nothing for Granted

“Should I customize my resume for each job?”

“Do I really need a cover letter?”

These are two questions that I heard recently from people concerning their job searches. Let me answer your question with a question. “Do you want the job?”

If the answer is yes, then the answers are yes to both questions. And that’s just the beginning. Here are some harsh realities of the 2013 job search.

Networking is essential. If you see a job that you really want, work to identify someone in your network who can get you in invitation to interview. This might be a second or third level LinkedIn connection. It may be someone you know in the “real” world. It will be worth your time to find the connection, because your competition is working to get the advantage of a warm introduction.

It’s You Versus the Machine. I’m referring to the ATS (applicant tracking system) machine. Employers are flooded with résumés from people with little or no qualifications, so they set their force fields on “high”. You must (must, must, MUST) customize your résumé and cover letter to match the qualifications and requirements of the position. Don’t do it and your résumé will never be seen by a human. You will be filtered out and auto-rejected by ATS.

Sell Yourself with the Cover Letter. The letter explains why you are the best candidate for the job, what special skills you have that make you a cultural fit, and addresses any easily identified obstacles or objections. For example, if you are applying for a position in a different city, explain your relocation plans and that you will NOT be looking for relo assistance. Answer the obvious questions. Each letter should be different.

It’s Hard Work. There it is! Finding work is work. You must take the time and invest the energy into making yourself appear to be the ideal candidate for every position that you want. If you don’t, someone else will. Quality of your marketing documents beats quantity, but you need quantity, too. You are facing intense competition for every position.

If you aren’t making a full-time effort at finding your next full-time gig, you are not working hard enough. Make a plan to conduct meaningful job search activities every day. Then do them. Take nothing for granted and assume that the competition will be willing to do the things that you don’t feel like doing. Work hard. It will be worth it.

Here are some earlier stories to help you jump-start your search and find your next job faster:

8 Résumé Must-HavesStart Your Résumé Strong!Get Busy!Do What You Can

Bill Florin, CPRW & CEIP, is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT