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Five Critical Resume Mistakes

A strong resume is one of your greatest assets in the job search. A resume is more than just a record of your past employment and educational background. It’s a targeted marketing tool that, pills if done right, can make you stand out from the crowd and catch the attention of managers and recruiters. Competition for most jobs is stiff, and most resumes are skimmed rather than read. Avoiding these five critical resume mistakes can help keep yours out of the reject pile.

Mistake #1: Not adapting your resume to the specific job you’re applying for. No matter how many resumes you send out, each one must be tailored to match the requirements of the job. If you use a one-size-fits-all resume, you’ll miss opportunities.

Mistake #2: Not including keywords from the job description in your resume. Many companies use an automated tool to scan incoming resumes. If yours doesn’t contain the keywords the machine is looking for, it may never be viewed by a human.Resume

Mistake #3: Including too much content on the resume. Your resume shouldn’t provide complete job descriptions for each of the jobs you list—just the highlights, and especially those highlights that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. When it comes to content, more isn’t always better.

Mistake #4: Using non-standard formatting. Unusual formatting can make your resume stand out…but not necessarily in a good way. Using non-standard formatting might make the reader think you’re not professional or you don’t know what’s expected of you. Find other outlets for your creativity–in most fields, your resume isn’t the place for it.

Mistake #5: Allowing typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors to remain on the resume. Recruiters and hiring managers are often looking for any possible excuse to eliminate a resume from consideration. You could be the best fit in the world for the job, but if your resume is sloppy, it will likely be discarded. To be safe, ask a friend–or even a professional editor–to proofread your resume before you send it out. It’s well worth the extra step.

Avoiding these common mistakes will take a little extra effort on your part, but it can help set you apart from the competition and pay off in the form of more interviews and, with luck, job offers. Good luck!

Don’t Bury the Lead!

The term “bury the lead” comes from journalism. In a news story, purchase the “lead” is the first sentence, help which concisely conveys the main point of the story. Ideally, ambulance a reader should be able to scan just the first sentence or two of a story and come away with a clear idea what that story is about. A good lead will also “hook” the reader and motivate him to read further. A story with a buried lead begins with the secondary details, forcing the reader to continue reading to discover its main point.

Burying the lead is considered a mistake in journalism, because it can cause a reader to lose interest in a story and stop reading. For the same reason, burying the lead is also a bad idea in your e-mails. Your readers are busy people, and if you want maximum attention—and maximum action—you’re better off beginning your e-mails with your main point and providing the secondary details below. At the very least, you should be sure to get your main point in the first (brief) paragraph of your e-mail message.

The next time you write an e-mail, read it over before you hit “send.” Have you buried the lead? Will your reader get your main point in the first sentence, or at least in the first two or three lines of the message? If not, try revising the e-mail to bring the lead to the front—you’ll get more attention from your readers and more action on your requests.

E-mail: Pet Peeves and Preferences

Everyone has a pet peeve or two when it comes to e-mail. For Len Elliott, Financial Aid Director at a major Midwestern research university, it’s thank-you e-mails. “The thank-you is implied,” says Len. “There is no question this is what I’m expected to do. I don’t want a thank you email. There’s nothing endearing to me about the thank you email.” Len processes financial aid payments to hundreds of students, including all internal and external awards for Ph.D. students in 15 research departments. He estimates he receives about 70 e-mails a day, 30 of which involve “serious problems” that each require as much as four hours of work. Sometimes, during his busy season from July through September, Len misses checking his emails for several days: “I look at my inbox and it has 400 emails in it. And I think, ‘is this something else I have to do?’ I dread opening them. And then there’s nothing worse than a stale thank-you.’”

But what about courtesy? Isn’t it polite to say “thank you” when someone helps you? “I really don’t need a thank you,” says Len. “But if it makes you feel better—if I really got you out of a bind or something—just put it in the subject line.” Len goes on to talk about Katherine, a former colleague in the Registrar’s office. Once she had finished a task, she simply added the word “done” in front of the e-mail subject line, and her readers understood there was no need to open that message. “’Done,’” says Len. “That’s my favorite four-letter word.”

Katherine’s solution is one that organizations are adopting to cut down on the time spent on opening e-mails needlessly. Many people now write their entire message—as long as it’s brief—in the subject line, followed by “(eom)” for “end of message.” For instance, when a programmer writes “Adam working from home today (eom),” his colleagues know they don’t have to open that message; they can simply delete it from their inboxes.

As the technology of communication evolves, so do its protocols. Staying flexible and being sensitive to the needs of others is the cure for most e-mail pet peeves.

What are your e-mail pet peeves?

Are Your E-mails Mobile-Friendly?

Recent research shows that more people read their e-mail via their smartphones or other mobile devices than via a desktop or laptop computer. This fact can have important implications for the readability of your e-mail messages.

Real estate marketing guru Carl White of Marketing Animals presents some very useful strategies for formatting your e-mails for maximum impact on mobile devices. Check out his video here.

Although Carl’s primary business is real estate marketing, the lessons he teaches in this video are invaluable for anyone who wants to ensure their e-mails get read. Carl’s main message is well known among Web writers–that chunking your text into very short paragraphs makes the copy more inviting to the eye and increases the likelihood that viewers will actually read the message, rather than just looking at it and moving on. Carl also offers some phone-specific hints that can help you format your e-mails for the best possible experience on the very small screen.

Carl’s weekly “Saturday Strategy” offers lots of helpful communication and marketing tips. Thanks, Carl!

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Over 85% of the clients I’ve worked with report experiencing writer’s block. It’s a very widespread phenomenon—and an absolutely miserable feeling. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in front of your computer, pilule the minutes ticking by, pharmacy and not getting any writing done.

The good news is that writer’s block is a completely curable condition. Here are a few tricks to help you get started writing when you’re feeling stuck:

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I Need to Write Faster!

Many of my clients tell me that one of their most pressing needs is getting through their writing tasks faster. We’re all in a terrific rush these days, patient and writing has become a critically important part of many jobs.

Here are a few tricks to help you get through your writing tasks faster:

Use a template. If there are writing tasks you do frequently, take a few minutes to create a template that you can use over and over again. The point here is to avoid reinventing the wheel every time you write. Your template can be as simple as a paragraph outline. Refine the template as you continue to use it, to make it as efficient as possible.
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