Common Errors in Preparing Application Materials: How to Avoid Them: Part 2

Guest Writer: Elaine Diggs, NCC, Career Counselor in OITE’s Career Center

In a post to this blog last month, I described several errors I often see when reviewing application materials for fellows who are seeking employment Writingfollowing completion of their time as trainees at the NIH.  The errors we considered were using a curriculum vitae (c.v.) when a résumé is the proper document to use, and failing to state specifically in a cover letter how your background and qualifications match the requirements of the position for which you are applying.

Listed below are some other errors I frequently see when reviewing c.v.’s, résumés, and cover letters:

Common errors made when writing c.v.’s and résumés:

  • Including a skills section in a c.v.; not including a skills section in a résumé for a technical position in industry.
  • Including poster presentations in a résumé.
  • Using acronyms that are not defined the first time they appear.
  • Failing to use action verbs in your resume to describe what you did, how what you did made a difference in improving the efficiency of a process, reducing costs, promoting collaboration, etc.
  • Very significant data relevant to the position for which you are applying is buried at or near the end of the résumé.
  • There are spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or inappropriate information included such as birth date, nationality, marital status, or native language.

Common errors made when writing cover letters:

  • Addressing a cover letter to “To Whom it May Concern.”
  • Using a generic cover letter not tailored to the particular position for which you are applying.
  • Focusing in the opening paragraph only on what you want in a job (how the position will advance your career) and not on what you would bring to the job and how you can help solve the employer’s problems.
  • Writing the body of the cover letter as if your cover letter is a journal article—giving explicit and elaborate details about the science underlying your research without explaining its relevance to the position you are applying for.

If you are prone to make any of these errors and need to know how to avoid them, I (or any of the other OITE career counselors) am happy to meet with you.  E-mail OITE-Careers@od.nih.gov to schedule an appointment.  Here’s to your career success!

Elaine Diggs

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