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13 Truths about Résumés and Cover Letters

If you’ve hired people yourself, you’ll know these to be true!

1. As an employer, if you receive 200 cover letters with résumé for an open position, maybe 10 are error-free, if you’re lucky. The rest are discarded.

2. Of the 10 without errors, only around five will be clear, focused, and targeted. These five or so folks are contacted for interviews.

3. What’s the lesson from 1 and 2? Your error-free, clear, focused, and targeted cover letter and résumé place you ahead of most other candidates.

4. A long cover letter is often interpreted to mean, “The following résumé may not be too clear, so here are the important things from it I’d like you to know.” Is this an admission you want to make? Instead, develop a clear and focused résumé, so your cover letter need not be a novel. Less is more. Rather than re-state chunks of your résumé, your cover letter needs only to convey your enthusiasm, getting the reader to look at your résumé.

5. A summary at the top of a résumé is often interpreted to mean, “My résumé is kind of long and tedious. Here are the highlights, so you need not read the whole thing.” Properly written, your résumé is a summary.

6. Your résumé is not intended to list every task performed at every position. Employers know this. It is a top-line, highlights kind of document intended to quickly give each reader compelling evidence of your skills, and an honest sense of where you’ve been and where you’re going. It’s not a job description. It’s not an autobiography. If it honestly gets your phone to ring, it has done its job well.

7. No one is hired simply to read cover letters and résumés. Everyone who reads these items has other work to do. If you’re lucky, your résumé will get 10 seconds of eyeball time. Direct these eyeballs carefully. Use your 10 seconds wisely.

8. Many real people have gaps in their work history. Don’t hide yours.

9. Many talented, full-blown adults graduated from college before last Thursday. If you graduated in 1962, say it. Do you think the reader won’t do the math some other way or won’t figure it out when you meet? Don’t hide your history. Your story is your story. Write it proudly.

10. Write like you speak. For example, write “use,” not “utilize.” (If you really say “utilize,” cut it out.)

11. Many folks mistakenly think colored paper, lots of bullets, underlining, bold, italics, CAPITAL LETTERS, and silly combinations of THESE will get a reader’s attention. The truth is, when we accentuate everything – or too much – then we accentuate nothing. I’m often asked, “If I don’t use these tricks, what will get attention?” Your content – your properly positioned evidence of skills and experience – will get attention. Content sells.

12. Many candidates include a long list of software skills on a résumé and then send cover letter and résumé in a handwritten envelope. Learn to print an envelope. It will make your software claims a lot more credible.

13. Clarity is excellence. If you remember only one item from this list, please remember this: as you write, think of the reader.

Scott Bennett is the author of

The Elements of Résumé Style:

Essential Rules and Eye-Opening Advice for Writing Résumés and Cover Letters That Work

The #1 best-selling résumé book on, available now at bookstores everywhere from

American Management Association’s    AMACOM Books

Paperback • 5 ½” x 8 ¼” • 128 pages

0-8144-7280-X • US$9.95/CAN$12.95

Ask for it!

Copyright 1996-2014 and beyond by Scott Allen Bennett

First Price Increase Since 1996

Effective July 1, 2014, 1:1 résumé e-consultations with Scott Bennett, author of the best-selling The Elements of Résumé Style, will increase from US$329 to US$349.  Orders received by midnight on Monday, June 30, 2014, will be accepted at $329.

Ordering is easy, secure, and confidential:

(1) Send your best attempt at current résumé — attached as MS-Word or PDF or text, or typed directly in the body of your message — to

(2) Send secure and confidential payment (US$329 through 6/30/14, US$349 starting 7/1/14) with MC/Visa/Am Ex/Discover — go to Paypal, SEND to

Scott will then ask you by e-mail to provide candid and timely responses to tailored questions, so he can continue his tradition of sending each new résumé within 10 days of order. Scott remains humbled by the overwhelming number of wonderful success stories* and exceedingly kind referrals for 1:1 résumé consultations.

Ciao for now.

*Top success story to-date: WM of NJ received job offers from three employers within 21 days of receiving her new document. Brava!


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Ciao for now.


Welcome to writeresumesright! This blog exists to: (1) help the fine folks at American Management Association (AMACOM) spread the word far and wide about their fall 2014 launch of Second Edition, The Elements of Résumé Style: Essential Rules for Writing Résumés and Cover Letters That Work; (2) announce the return of 1:1 résumé consultations with the author, thanks to popular demand comprised of busy people who insist on spending $329 for a private e-consult instead of around 10 bucks for the book; (3) create a dynamic repository of connections to useful tools for active career seekers; (4) share thoughts on strategies for transcending challenges facing active career seekers.

This blog would not exist if not for WordPress and Jackie Kellso, President of Pointmaker Communications, whose excellent WordPress blog,, inspired this one. Jackie’s guidance was invaluable, and her blog will stand as my very first recommended tool for active career seekers open to maximizing interpersonal effectiveness in any workplace.

In case you wonder what I mean by “active career seeker” — here’s a relevant snippet from the book:

Gather information, make the most informed decision you can and then support your decision by pursuing it with vigor. Focus on it like a laser beam. Learn the requirements for entering the field. Are you willing to meet those requirements? If not, move on. If so, do everything in your power to make it happen. Make the time. Ask your loved ones for understanding and support. Get the training. Look into available grants and scholarships and student loans. Earn the cer­tification. Pass the exams. Get the license. Find success­ful organizations where you can pursue your chosen path and enthusiastically target them with inquiry letters and résumé. In short, be an active seeker.

-excerpted from Second Edition, The Elements of Résumé Style: Essential Rules for Writing Résumés and Cover Letters That Work

Ciao for now.