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May 19, 2004

How Not to Get Hired

I'm not hiring, but the occasional resume finds its way to my mailbox. Or I stumble across them on the web.

Today's is a hum-dinger. One of the most important things, many hiring directors will tell you, is to spell things correctly. Since you went to all the trouble of typing it up on a computer, it's obvious you had spell check available and didn't even try it. A single error might be written off as overlooked or a typo.

Then there's this resume. Nearly every other line has an error. 14 errors, and that's just on a first read-through looking for spelling mistakes. There could be worse mistakes hiding under the surface.

In fact, while beginning to copy the mistakes, I just caught another one.

The following are not words and/or should not appear in a resume you want to be taken seriously: buisness, intership, corrdinator, representitive, incress, customers (should be possessive), puting, additude, familys (should be families), buisness (again; it should be "independent contractor," but I digress), my self (myself), andworking, computor, errons (twice), misspelling of a city, misabbreviation of a state.

Since this person is apparently talented with a computor, not a computer, I suppose some of his or her sins can be forgiven. Apparently computors running Microsoft Word (which this person lists as a skill) don't have the spell-checking functions the computer versions do.

The real rub, however, is not that I'd readily dispose of this resume if it crossed my desk. No, it's this person's desired field of employment: writing.

I had a stint as an editor in high school. I had one author who, despite writing an article on one subject, spelled this subject differently every time he named it. I didn't discover this until he submitted it right before we were supposed to go to press. There were also sundry other grammatical and spelling errors present. I though the layout goddess (if you're out there, Erin, drop me a line sometime!) was going to flip when I told her. I had to run to computer lab, retype the entire thing, correcting every mistake along the way, and then fight with a lab full of students trying to print off assignments for the class that was in that room at the time.

Editorial duties are fine when your writers are apt. It's fun when they bounce ideas off you or ask you to proofread an article or make suggestions about how to successfully do x. When you're saving your ass and the publication's ass by saving someone else's ass because they're too inept to proofread or spell check, it's not so much fun. And I sure wouldn't hire someone on purpose who demonstrated with their resume that they would need excessive amounts of my time dedicated to correcting their follies.

While I did score adoring praise from Erin for my ability to fix things under pressure and a very tight deadline (hooray for 60wpm!), I shouldn't have needed to receive that praise or the hug that went with it.

It's obvious the writer of this resume hasn't had some of my college professors, one of whom (who's an art history teacher, not an English teacher) would grade down a full letter for each mistake after the first three. If this person did get stuck with that professor, he or she would be wise to consider him or herself lucky negative grades don't exist.

Except negative grades do exist in the job market. A resume like this could easily drop your standing into the molten core of the earth.

As a result of my teaching and editing, I developed a mnemonic for writing. It saves you from skin cancer, and it will save you from screwing yourself looking for a job: SPF.

1. Spell check: It won't catch all your mistakes (homonyms, for example), but it may well catch the most obvious (like 90% of the mistakes above).
2. Proofread: Read it to yourself, both silently and aloud. Spread your readings out to increase the chances obvious mistakes will spring off the page. This is more likely to catch grammatical errors, since people who can't spell won't see their spelling mistakes (which is also why it's the second step and not the first).
3. Friend: Have a friend proof your writing. They'll catch things you won't.

Posted by Colin at May 19, 2004 1:43 PM

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aCk! I'm twitching over here from the horror that is that resume.

P.S. - You might check your individual archive template - the text is there, but the background isn't. It shows up with white text on a white background.

Posted by: D at May 19, 2004 4:42 PM

Thanks, D. Looks like I accidentally overwrote MT's default stylesheet with my own yesterday, so everything but the main page is hosed at the moment.


Posted by: Colin at May 19, 2004 4:49 PM

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