How to Avoid Unforced Errors

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: June 12, 2008 - 10:42 AM

Are you secretly sabotaging your hunt for a new job?

You may be if you're making any of these five mistakes. The following blunders are all taken from real-life job searches gone bad.

Avoid them and get hired faster!

Unforced Error #1: Misspellings and Grammatical Gaffes

It may sound like a broken record, but for the record, here it is again: errors in spelling and punctuation can kill your job search faster than Raid on a cockroach.

Here are two recent examples from my e-mail inbox:

1. A cover letter with the wrong year (employers will think: Did you miss that day in first grade when they taught dates?)

2. A résumé with the heading, "Professional Skills" misspelled as, "Professional Shills" (thus creating an unintentionally hilarious statement that torpedoed the document).

The solution is simple.

Have not one, but two, trusted friends read your résumés and cover letters. Tell them to pay close attention to your name, phone number, address and the headings in your documents -- most mistakes happen there.

Unforced Error #2: The Answering Machine From Hell

I got an e-mail ten days ago from a man, distraught because he'd been looking for a management job for over a year. So I called him to give encouragement.

This was the greeting on his answering machine: "Howdy! We're out chasing the horses around probably, but we'll be sure to call you back after we kick the mud off our shoes. Yessiree. Buh-bye!"

Would you offer a management job to the creator of that comic masterpiece? Me neither.

So, what does your voicemail say about you? Is it professional and courteous, or a rambling mess, with barking dogs and music in the background? Either way, it may be the first impression employers get when they call you.

Don't kid around.

Unforced Error #3: No Answering Machine At All

Almost as bad as a silly greeting is no answering machine at all. Because most employers will call you between 9 and 5. If you're not home and they can't leave a message, they'll call someone else.

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