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Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The Devil is in the Details
How many resumes include the phrase “Detail-oriented”? These days, I’d say most of them include this phrase somewhere in the summary or body of text. Detail-oriented means the person pays attention to the little things, checks for accuracy, etc. It is a trait that is valuable in a job candidate who works with numbers, formulae, or tasks where correctness of information is vital. Generally, when I read a resume with this phrase, I inevitably find evidence in the resume that belies it or proves it wrong automatically. What is the evidence? Mechanical mistakes in the document.

“Mechanics” in a resume includes spelling, punctuation, spacing, grammar, formatting, syntax, and capitalization. Most job seekers who write their own resumes rely on the spell-checker or grammar-checker in Word to proofread their resumes. The automated feature is not foolproof and relying on it gives users a false sense of security. If someone is truly “detail-oriented” he knows better than to rely on software written by techies (and not English masters) to find mistakes in writing.

Take spelling errors for example. Manger and pubic are the two most common misspellings seen on resumes. Manger is the misspelling for “manager” and pubic is the misspelling of “public”. Both can make the reader cringe but when the job seeker has claimed to be “detail-oriented”, mistakes such as these take on greater significance. It proves the job seeker is not only NOT detail-oriented but a liar to boot.

Another common mechanical error is use of hyphens. Hyphens are notorious mechanical demons and even professional writers often have to refer to their grammar reference to make sure of correctness. Most of the time, a hyphen error occurs when a word is a compound adjective. Compound adjectives abound in a resume and knowing when to hyphenate or not is a necessary tool. Here are the rules (source: The Little, Brown Handbook):

-When two or more words serve together as a single modifier before a noun, the hyphen or hyphens form the modifying words into a unit. Ex: well-known actor, out-of-date statistics, English-speaking people, detail-oriented manager.

-When the same compound adjectives follow the noun, hyphens are unnecessary and are left out. Ex: “The actor is well known.”

-Hyphens are not used in compound adjectives containing an –ly adverb, even if it comes before a noun. Ex: “clearly defined terms” A hyphen is not needed between “clearly” and “defined” because of the suffix –ly.

Spacing errors are typical in a resume. Many people choose to right-and-left justify the text of their resume. This tends to cause spacing inconsistencies as the computer moves words to accomplish this formatting. It is generally best to left justify blocks of text to avoid these inconsistencies.

Another common spacing error is the double space following end punctuation of a sentence. This error occurs most often when the typist of the resume learned to type on a typewriter rather than a keyboard. On a typewriter, it is required to double space after the period, but on a computer it is not. The computer automatically increases the space size.

It’s necessary to be careful of mechanics in your resume, especially if you claim to be attentive to detail. Most people in our society are not language experts or English teachers and are not versed in the minutia of grammar (like hyphens). The automated “checkers” in software is not fool-proof either. It’s best to at least have your resume proofread by someone who is anal about mechanics to avoid embarrassment.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 /


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