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Lack Of Editing Is Applicants' Achilles Heel

I was speaking with someone who is reviewing resumes for a job opening.

As he's narrowed down the pile of resumes, he's been taken aback by basic errors. In one case, an applicant addressed him as "Mr. insert name here." Another applicant said they were interested in the job...with a competitor. Yes, the applicant wrote the name of a competitor instead of the name of the company to which he or she was applying. Nice touch.

It turns out this bemused resume reader isn't the only one scratching his head: A new CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers finds one of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is failing to customize their resumes to each employer. A full 79% of the hiring managers surveyed said they spend more time on a resume tailored to the company and the job, which makes total sense.

I can see why some applicants are dropping the ball though. Applying for jobs blindly online feels like a total crap shoot. You're sending your resume down a black hole never knowing if a human being will ever read it, much less get back to you. For all you know, a computer in Antarctica is scanning it, then forwarding it to the digital dustbin of history. So why bother to triple-check for spelling, content and grammar?

Well, here's why: Almost half (48%) of the hiring managers CareerBuilder surveyed read 25 applications or fewer for open jobs, and about 40% spend less than one minute reviewing each resume. Nearly 20% spend less than 30 seconds on each resume. Less than 30 seconds! That's the state of the current job market, folks. Address someone as "Mr./Ms. insert name here" and you're toast. Period. Hello, slush pile.

So tailoring your cover letter is crucial to landing a job right now. Ultimately, hiring managers want to know: Why do you want to work for us in particular? And what would you offer us as an employee? Think about it this way: If you were running a company and an applicant didn't address your company or the job specifically, what would you think? Probably that the person was too lazy to do any research on your company. Then you'd wonder what kind of employee the applicant would be (hint: probably not someone who has a keen attention to detail or much fire in the belly for the work).

Do some research on the companies you seek out, because there's simply no excuse in the age of Google not to do it. Use buzz words related to the job opening. And for God's sake, don't hit "send" right away if you're applying for jobs online. Let your customized cover letter age for a few hours like a fine wine, then come back and read it again. Something is guaranteed to jump out at you, whether it's an awkwardly written sentence, a spelling error or (gasp!) mentioning a competitor. If you can, have someone else read your cover letters before you send them.

Edit, edit, edit, then edit some more because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The immediacy of the "send" button can kill your chances if you let it.

Besides, do you really want a hiring manager to remember you as the applicant who misspelled the company name? Yeah, I didn't think so.


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