The New York Times, November 24, 2002
On a RÃ©sumÃ©, Don\'t Mention Moon Pies or Water Cannons
By DAVID KOEPPEL
When MTV Networks advertised a junior-level editorial position that required
a good eye for bad English, it was inundated with nearly 800 applications -
many riddled with typographical, grammatical and spelling errors.
The incongruity is not quite so stark in other professions, but the job of
wading through all that paper is every bit as frustrating. In one of the
most competitive job markets in recent years, human-resources employees,
recruiters and hiring managers say, nearly every opening in the metropolitan
area is generating a deluge of rÃ©sumÃ©s. And yet, for all the how-to
resources available on the Internet and in bookstores, the submissions are
often so amateurish they sometimes make Mimi O\'Connor, MTV\'s editorial
manager, want to \"jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.\"
It isn\'t just the spelling mistakes, the recruiters say. It is also poor
formatting, exotic fonts, unnecessary personal information and, worst of
all, vague descriptions of professional achievements. Do not just write that
you increased widget sales, experts say; say you increased them by 25
percent, or by $2 million.
Also, they say, the days of the one-size-fits-all rÃ©sumÃ© are over;
applicants should customize each to match the job opening.
\"The biggest mistake that people are making is that their rÃ©sumÃ©s have no
real impact,\" said Martin Weitzman, president of Gilbert Career RÃ©sumÃ©s in
Manhattan. \"People need to establish their value. Many times accomplishments
aren\'t defined or focused. A good rÃ©sumÃ© won\'t get you a job, but it will
get you in the door.\"
That is a crucial accomplishment these days, when even people with
impressive job records and impeccable credentials can be lost in the
Errors in spelling, typography and grammar topped the list of rÃ©sumÃ©-writing
sins singled out by 2,500 recruiters and headhunters in a survey by
RÃ©sumÃ©Doctor, a career-services company in Burlington, Vt. But incomplete
contact information (some people actually forget to give their own names and
phone numbers), wordiness and meaningless introductions also ranked high.
Some of the faux pas cited by these professionals, though extreme examples
of how not to do it, can nonetheless be instructive. For example, one job
hunter\'s statement that he sought a job that would be less likely to give
him panic attacks than his old one and another applicant\'s request that her
letter be disregarded if anyone within the company lacked a \"pleasing
personality,\" suggest that you should focus on what you can do for the
prospective employer, not what the employer can do for you.
Similarly, personal information like one job seeker\'s description of himself
as a \"single, white male\" (which prompted the hiring manager to ask, \"Am I
supposed to place him or date him?\") and another\'s boast that he loved to
play with his \"17 children that resulted from 9 marriages\" argues strongly
for eliminating extraneous data.
Using e-mail addresses like sonofsatan, hotlips and imrbaby; enclosing a
photo showing the applicant with his children or pets or, in one case,
dressed in a tuxedo and sitting on a throne-like chair; listing achievements
like \"able to fit a whole Moon Pie in my mouth\" and \"getting shot 70 feet
out of a water cannon\"; and composing a rÃ©sumÃ© in the form of a comic
strip - all of these tactics made poor impressions. Any form of cutesiness
is generally a losing proposition.
And so is overenthusiasm, as in: \"I am an electrifying, spirited, alluring,
and amazing programmer who has been known to defy gravity, wrestle anacondas
(and win), and type thousands of lines of error-free code with my left hand
Almost as bad is unintelligibility, like this buzzword-saturated job
description: \"As the Director of Strategic Sales, my charter focuses on
catalyzing the relevant ecosystem to deliver optimized and synergized
solutions to my strategic E.U. customers.\"
How to do it right? Think of yourself as a salesman with five seconds to mak
e your pitch before a door is slammed in your face. \"Whether you\'re a
C.P.A., an electrical engineer or a nurse, you are your own product,\" said
Michael Worthington, the operations manager at RÃ©sumÃ©Doctor. \"Some hiring
managers get 200 to 300 rÃ©sumÃ©s a day and will give yours exactly 5 to 10
seconds. You\'ve got to give them the information they want on a silver
Mr. Worthington recently received a 62-page treatise from a college
professor that seemingly included every paper he had ever written. Had the
professor highlighted his most impressive achievements in two pages, he
would have received a better hearing, he said. Mr. Worthington recommends
using a professional rÃ©sumÃ© service, or at least getting another person to
look at the material you plan to send employers.
Even diligent souls who use the spelling checker on their documents can make
errors. Trudy Steinfield, the director of New York University\'s career
services center, recently reviewed a personal trainer\'s rÃ©sumÃ© that listed
\"personnel trainer\" as the applicant\'s occupation. And Eric Bacolas, vice
president for human resources at a large New York advertising agency, was
surprised to read the claim that an applicant had bolstered employee
While being creative can sometimes score points with a prospective employer,
it is generally not recommended. Dan Black, the tri-state director of campus
recruiting for Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, says one applicant\'s
decision to print his rÃ©sumÃ© on blue paper with little white clouds only
Many rÃ©sumÃ© experts say anything unrelated to job experience, professional
organizations or education is a distraction, and they counsel omitting
information about marital status, children, pets, religious affiliation or
political leanings. Even listing hobbies can backfire, according to Mr.
Weitzman of Gilbert RÃ©sumÃ©s. \"If someone writes his hobbies are gymnastics
or skiing, I\'m going to think that this person is going to break his ankle
and be out of work for six weeks,\" he said.
Some recruiters are less hard-nosed. Susie Kurtz, a Manhattan freelance
recruiter for the advertising industry, once received baby shoes attached to
a rÃ©sumÃ© that said, \"I want to get my foot in the door,\" and another time a
box of seeds and a note that proclaimed, \"I want to grow with your company.\"
She found both to be clever tactics that helped differentiate the candidates
from dozens of others.
\"In some creative careers, there\'s more leeway in how a rÃ©sumÃ© is written,\"
Whatever the profession you are in, use terminology in your rÃ©sumÃ© that
shows a familiarity with what you do, experts say. If you are applying
online for an accounting position, for example, make sure your rÃ©sumÃ©
contains the words \"accountant\" and \"accounting\" a few times.
Andrew Peck, a 31-year-old unemployed ad account executive in Manhattan,
lards his rÃ©sumÃ© with terms like \"leveraging synergies\" whose meaning he
confesses is murky. That does not bother him; in his view, a rÃ©sumÃ© is just
a calling card.
\"It\'s a first step, that proves your value in an industry and demonstrates
that you\'re worth talking to,\" he said. \"We live and die by a piece of paper
that doesn\'t really reflect who we are.\"
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