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Top Three Fatal Resume and Cover Letter Mistakes

Plagiarising a job posting, spamming multiple employers with the same message and failing to spell-check are three of the most surefire ways to get a rejection letter.

Plagiarising a job posting, spamming multiple employers with the same message and failing to spell-check are three of the most surefire ways to get a rejection letter, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. At the same time, Resumes and cover letters that are concise, show excitement about the position and focus on how the candidate can specifically contribute to the company's success tend to be placed in the "Yes" pile.

Forty-four percent of HR Managers say they will automatically dismiss a Resume or cover letter that appears to duplicate the job posting. Nobody likes to see their work plagiarised, including HR professionals who authored a job posting. Copycats who cut and paste portions of the job posting into their Resumes and cover letters bring their professionalism, honesty and originality into question.

Tip: Pepper in keywords from the job posting as they apply to your skills and experience and write in your own voice. Also, to maximize your visibility, keep in mind other keywords HR managers most often use when searching through Resumes .

The most popular keywords identified by participants in this survey include:

- Problem-solving and decision-making
- Performance and productivity improvement
- Oral and written communications
- Team-building
- Leadership
- Project management
- Customer retention
- Internet
- Strategic planning

Forty-eight percent of HR managers say they will automatically dismiss a Resume or cover letter that is not customised. HR managers can smell a mass mailing a mile away, especially when the Resume includes irrelevant past jobs and the cover letter begins with "Dear Human Resources Department." Sending a generic Resume and cover letter to 200 companies screams, "I'm lazy!"

Tip: First, narrow your employer targets to those that are the best match for your skill set. Take the time to research each company and find out the name of the HR manager. A company's Website can give you great insights into company positioning, work culture and new developments that you can work into your messaging.

Forty-nine percent of HR managers say they will automatically dismiss a Resume or cover letter with spelling or grammatical errors. From the would-be administrative assistant who claimed to be a "rabid typist" to the executive who boasted that he was "instrumental in ruining the entire operation," misspellings communicate that you have poor writing skills or a lackadaisical attitude or just are not all that bright.

Tip: Don't rely solely on your electronic spell-check. Ask at least three other people to review your Resume or cover letter. Eight eyes are better than two.

"Your resume and its partner, the cover letter, can either be your ticket to an interview or to a recycling bin," said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources for CareerBuilder.com. "Thirty-one percent of hiring managers report they have seen an increase in the number of applications they've received over the last six months. If you want to be considered for a position, it's important to convey that you are original, well-informed about the company and a stickler for details."


Debbie O'Halloran