If you have read any of my previous articles, then you would know that I really do not place a huge emphasis on resumes, or cover letters for that matter. Of the two, I probably would lean towards the cover letter as being the more critical. And that sort of unscientific lean is based on my belief that if you just send a resume – forget it. But if you just send a cover letter, still a chance. A chance for what I do not know, but still a chance.
All joking aside, I profoundly disagree with those that believe you need a perfect resume to get a job. You could get a job just as easily without a resume as you could with a resume. Why do I believe this? Because I have validated it through my life’s experience. Yes, it is not the most scientific measurement out there, but it is all I have.
I have worked for many companies and I have hired many people. On both sides of the equation, it was the networking and the aggressive research that worked. I believe Richard Bolles is dead on when he states that resumes are something you leave behind, not what you send ahead of you.
All that said, if you believe that you must have a resume and cover letter in order to get hired, then please just do this one thing before sending that cover letter…
PROOFREAD!!!!!! (sorry for the caps – and shouting, just wanted to make sure you got the message.)
So simple, yet, a whole lot of folks simply do not pay enough attention to proofreading. There is nothing more devastating to your job search efforts than one word not spelled correctly. That one word could be the name of the addressee or maybe the name of the company.
It is a given that both the cover letter and resume be grammatically correct and focused. Not really. A short while ago, I was looking at a resume, thinking – “Wow, this is from a college educated person.”
Okay, what I actually want to do in this article is talk about how I proofread my important letters and documents. I begin by adhering as much as I can to the following guidelines:
- I speak out the words, as I write. I use commas and periods wherever I naturally pause. I do not initially pay much attention to whether it should be a comma or semi-colon.
- I write three to four sentence paragraphs (occasionally five).
- I do not use contractions.
- I keep multi-syllable words to a minimum. I am not looking to impress an English professor.
- I use terms like “And” and “More important” to flow from one paragraph to the next.
I begin the actual proofreading by:
- I run Microsoft grammar and spell check. It covers the basics and catches most of the misspellings and converts commas to semi-colons where appropriate. It also catches poor conjunction usage.
- I print out the letter or document. I have a hard time proofing on a computer screen. I need it on paper in front of me – with me holding a red pen. Yes, the red pen!
- I read the letter out loud, word for word. It is almost second nature for some of us to inadvertently skip words, especially the articles. Read out loud, word for word.
- I give the document to a trusted friend and ask for his input. Currently, my most trusted friend lives in another state, so I email him the document.
- I make all the corrections.
- I let it sit a day or two, before going back and proofing again.
If your principal job search technique is to send out cover letters and resumes to published job openings, you have no margin of error when it comes to having a correctly written cover letter and resume. Notice, I said, “correctly written.”
Now, should your writing skills be “not so great,” you may have to have your documents written for you. Or you may need to invest in a template or software such as Phil Baker’s One Click Cover Letter, or even the Guerilla Resume program that does it all for you.
A note of caution, I personally have never used a “free template” found on a thousand and a half websites out there. Several years ago, before leaving Korea, I did have a resume service write mine for me (cost about 100 bucks back in 2002). Beautiful resume, never really used it.
If you think you need a template and do not want to pay 30 or 40 bucks for it, then just go to the library. Skip the free templates. You are looking for a real job that pays well, why would you depend on a free sample, template. Anything of value will cost you either money or time. Free templates are of minimal value because they cost you nothing!
Instead, go to the library and pay for a great resume with your time and effort. Just grab any book on resume writing and write out your entire resume, long hand. It will be a great exercise and will produce a resume and cover letter that will be more sincere and natural, than any free sample on the internet.