Last week I had to take an online editing test where the instructions were as follows: There are 16 mistakes in grammar/spelling/punctuation in the following paragraph. Find them and correct them.
The first 12 mistakes jumped out at me, and I fixed them fairly quickly.
But the last 4 weren’t as easy to spot, and I had to reread the lines several times before putting my mental finger on what was wrong.
(By the way and in case you’re wondering, no Googling allowed here. It was all up to me and ‘the little grey cells’, as Poirot would say. And I was being timed to boot.)
An editing challenge
A few days later, I was reminded of this challenge while editing a technical CV whose author had English as a second language.
If I asked you to find the mistakes in the following Summary paragraph, what would you put down?
“I am an active master student at the University of Leeds and SPE Leeds chapter, specializing in Well Planning with a particular interest in digitalization and programming. I have a background from Bermuda where I completed my Bachelors Degree in Petroleum Engineering as a top-grade student. I am friendly, proactive and very eager to learn new things.”
I can imagine you might reply that apart from a few minor technical errors (f.ex. the ‘m’ on master should be capitalized), the writing here is okay.
Well, yes, the writing itself is okay because there are only some minor adjustments that need to be made to improve the grammar.
Q & A
Question: What if I asked you what the biggest mistake was here?
Answer: It’s the one that a huge number of job seekers make when putting their Summary together. They fail to use this most important space – the one the reader sees first – to tell us 1) what they want to do 2) where they want to do it, and 3) how their skills would be a good match for the first two points.
Instead, they often state their educational/work background and follow it up with a clichéd phrase about how they see themselves, in this case ‘friendly, proactive and very eager to learn new things.’
Don’t make this mistake on your own Summary. Take the time to think through what it is you want to do at your next job and in which type of organization you’d like to do it in. Be as specific as you can. Then briefly describe why you think you’d fit in well in this new work situation.
I’m worth it
Like I’ve asked so many times before, is producing a terrific Summary easy? No.
Does it take time and effort? Yes.
Will it land you the job you both want and deserve?
Well, if not a straight yes, it will get you a whole lot closer than if you just follow the CV-writing herd – which is, now and always, a big mistake.