Goddam it! by wokka.In several of my classes this semester, public relations  students are writing resumes and cover letters as one of their assignments. I tend to see the same errors over and over again.

Here are some of the common errors I find:

Appearance / Overall

  • Having any typos, misspelled words or grammatical errors (some employers will discard your resume if any mistakes are apparent)
  • Not using same header for all cover letter, resume & reference page
  • Failing to include your custom LinkedIn URL
  • Using different fonts for no apparent reason

Cover Letters

  • Focusing on yourself, not the needs of the potential employer
  • Too many self-focused statements; starting too many sentences with “I”
  • Forgetting to sign letter (scan your signature to place into electronic cover letters)
  • Not stating what you can do for the employer in clear terms.
  • Not including an enclosure line (such as: Enclosures: Resume & Reference Page)


  • Longer than one page (it’s possible to “earn” more pages once you’re established in your career)
  • Not including strong action-verbs (too many “to be” verbs)
  • Providing too few keywords related to the PR field
  • Including “responsibilites/duties included”
  • Writing in first person (“I”)
  • Writing in complete sentences, rather than powerful, short phrases
  • Burying your education at the end of the resume
  • Not mentioning your education at your current university
  • Not describing your major and anticipated graduation date
  • Including high school, even though there are no relevant honors/awards/achievements
  • A low (below 3.0) GPA is listed
  • Extremely short (you can list relevant coursework if you have little related work experience)
  • Leaving to unclear to the potential employer exactly what you accomplished in your work history
  • Including too much information about the employer (all you need it company name, city & state — no need for full address, supervisor name, etc.)
  • Dates listed in chronological, not reverse chronological, order (you should list most recent information first in each section)
  • References listed directly on resume itself (they should be on a separate page)

Reference Page

  • Not using same header as resume & cover letter
  • Not including all necessary information (name, company name, title, full mailing address, phone number & e-mail address)
  • Fewer than three references listed
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Use Technology to Land Your Next Job

On March 17, 2010, in job search, by Barbara Nixon

Today I was invited by the Tampa Tribune and TBO.com to share my expertise regarding social media and the job search. Here’s a transcript of the live chat we held at noon, using CoverItLive.

Many thanks to Chris Taylor, AKA @TBOChris, for inviting me to the studio, to Daniela for moderating the chat, and to my longtime Twitter friend & Tampa Tribune writer Jeff Houck (@JeffHouck) for inviting me to lunch at The Taco Bus after the chat session.

Use technology to land your next job

Welcome to today’s chat. Thanks for being a part of the TBO.com/Tampa Tribune/News Channel 8 project “Putting Tampa Bay back to work.” Please post your question and we’ll get through as many as we can in the time allowed.


Answering your questions today is Barbara Nixon. Barbara B. Nixon, Ph.D. (ABD), teaches at both Southeastern University in Lakeland (face-to-face) and Georgia Southern University (online). After working in human resources in Fortune 500 corporations, she created all of the content for WinWay Resume, a resume writing and job interviewing software program.


Thanks for joining us, everyone! We’ll get started now.

[Comment From Sharon]

Hello Daniela. What is the best format,ie: Word, ASCI, etc. ,to use when submitting on-line to a company’s website?


Hi Sharon. I recommend sending your resume in PDF format, unless the employer has asked for it differently. Using PDF ensures that the resume will look the same when the employer opens it as it did when you sent it. Sometimes Word will change fonts or page breaks without warning, making your resume look odd. With the latest version of Word, you can easily Save As PDF. And ALWAYS open the PDF yourself, preferably from a different computer, for your own quality assurance.

[Comment From Andrea]

How can I best use Twitter to land a job?


Hi Andrea. There are a few ways you can use Twitter. Let me talk about a few of them for you.


One thing I highly recommend is for you to start following pros in the field in which you wish to work. See what they’re writing about. Respond to them. If they post links to their blogs, comment on the blogs.

How did you find out about this chat?
TBO.com homepage

( 14% )

News Channel 8

( 57% )

Tampa Tribune

( 0% )


( 0% )


( 29% )


( 0% )

Another idea for using Twitter in the job search is to post a link to your resume. (I recommend creating a profile at LinkedIn, and link to that rather than your resume itself — just so that you can keep your address, phone, e-mail private).


You can connect Twitter to LinkedIn, so that your tweets also show up in LinkedIn, but do this judiciously. Most people don’t want EVERYTHING they tweet to appear on their professional profiles in LinkedIn.


If you’re a blogger, be sure to post links to your blog posts to Twitter — that is, if you think theese posts will help create a professional appearance for you in the eyes of a potential employer.

[Comment From Lauren]

If I were to sign up for ONE social site to try to get a job- which one do you recommend?


Thanks for the questions, folks. Keep ’em coming!


Hi Lauren. The one site I recommend more than any others for job searching is LinkedIn. Not only can you post your own profile/resume there, you can easily network with others. Your LinkedIn profile can be longer than the traditional, one-page resume.

Have you been using LinkedIn in your job search
Yes, I use it all the time.

( 17% )

No, I don’t even know what it is.

( 33% )

Sort of.. I created an account but don’t use it.

( 50% )

Lauren — here’s a link to a blog post I wrote earlier this year about using LinkedIn in the job search. The post was aimed at college students and recent grads, but others can benefit from LinkedIn as well. And feel free to connect with me at LinkedIn.

[Comment From Sharon]

Is this the same answers for Facebook, too?


Hi again, Sharon. Facebook… this can be both a blessing and a burden for job seekers.


Unless your Facebook profile is marked as Private to all but your closest, in-real-life friends, you’ll want to scour through everything you have out there and think “how could a potential employer possibly misinterpret this?”   Photos are especially problematic in Facebook. Just think about how much personal information you are showing a potential employer simply through what you’ve chosen to post in your photos. Most of this information (children, hobbies, night life) has no place in a hiring decision… yet it may be in the employer’s mind when/if you make it to an interview.

Also think about any Facebook groups that you have joined, perhaps on a whim. Some of them have names that are not conducive to making a professional impression.


Every week, we ask people to send questions to us so we can ask the expert.

David asked: I’m 49-year old owner of a small environmental consulting company that is barely afloat. I’ve been looking for a job to supplement my income. How can I use technology and social media to find something?


Barbara is working on this question right now.


Hi David.  If you’ve not joined LinkedIn yet, you should consider doing it now. Besides being able to post your profile there, you can also go into the Answers area and answer questions in your field. This will help promote you as an expert in your field.

[Comment From Sharon]

Good question from David!! I’m a newbie to all these social media sites!


Also, David, if you don’t yet have a blog, you might want to consider starting one. You could write something every week or so about a topic in your field.


Another one of our users, Melanie, asked this question: Where do you go online to find openings for truck drivers?


Hi Melanie. Though I don’t have a specific site that I would recommend for seeking truck driver positions, I have a contact in the field who I can ask. I’ll get back with you via e-mail about this. If you’re a Twitter user, you might also want to connect with @TruckerDesiree. She’s a good source, especially for women who are interested in joining the trucking industry.

[Comment From Sharon]

Do HR interviewers check all these sites when considering you for an interview? I’m not in a degreed professional field…I’m in Customer Service ,Call Center worker. Will this technology benefit me too??


Hi Sharon. Yes, you WILL be Googled. (Just think, a few years ago, that wasn’t even a word.) Employers will check online to see what they can find about you before determining whether to call you in for an interview. Your goal should be to have any information they find about you to be positive and professional. The more you write in a blog, add to LinkedIn, etc., the better it will be for you — especially if you have a common first and last name.

[Comment From Sheila Surla]

I’m not exactly a professional, I have done administrative work and it doesn’t have to be tied to any particular field. How do I market myself and set myself apart from the 100’s of others who do what I do?


Hi Sheila. If you’re a top-notch administrative assistant, there is a market for you. Try to think about which two or three fields interest you most, and focus your efforts there. I’ve mentioned LinkedIn here several times, and I’ll mention it again. Create a profile for yourself there, and go to the Answers area. See what questions people have that you can help with. Make a name for yourself there, and who knows, you may land a role as someone’s Virtual Assistant.


Martha, another one of our users, asked this: How do you use technology to find out when job fairs will be happening?


Hi Martha. If you’re looking for job fairs in your area, Google will help you more than almost anything. Type in “job fair” and the name of the city where you’re seeking employment. If you’re here in the Tampa Bay area, check out TBO.com or read the Sunday Tribune classifieds section. You may come across some ads for job fairs there.

Do you have a twitter account?
Yes, and I use it all the time.

( 50% )

Yes, but I never use it.

( 25% )

No, I need to create one.

( 0% )

No, and I don’t plan on creating one.

( 25% )
[Comment From Sheila Surla]

To add onto my previous question, I have no schooling for what I do, I’ve basically been picking up skills along my career path. I think this hurts me through my resume, will linkedin help show my skills better?


Hi again, Sheila. It sounds like you might have a traditional, chronological resume. You may want to consider using a functional resume instead.

The functional format organizes your skills and accomplishments into job task groupings that support your stated career objective. If you must pull together certain skills and accomplishments from a variety of past experiences to show your preparation for what you want to do in the future, then the functional format is probably for you. People who have been out of the workplace for several years —  for example, those people who choose to stay at home to raise a family while the children are young — benefit greatly from this format. It draws attention to what you did rather than when you did it. Another advantage of this format is that it allows you greater flexibility in presenting skills gained through personal experience or through low-paying or volunteer jobs.


We’re about to start wrapping up the chat, but Barbara’s going to give you all a few more helpful tidbits before we leave.


If you’re looking for some more advice on resume writing, you may want to take a look at Resumes That Resonate, a post I wrote at my Public Relations Matters blog. One of the keys I mention in that blog post is to pepper your resume with key words / terms that an employer might be looking for. And if you are writing a resume for a position where you know what the job description is, use as much of the specific terminology in the description as you reasonably can. It will help make you look tailored for the position.

[Comment From Sheila Surla]

I’m on the linkedin website now and it’s pulled up a bunch of people I’ve maybe just e-mailed about a job, should I go ahead and connect to them?

[Comment From Sharon]

Thank you, Barbara. You have given extremely good advice today.


Barbara’s going to take this last question from Sheila, then she’ll give you her follow-up before we sign off.


*follow-up information


Hi again Sheila. Absolutely… when you send the connection request to potential employers in LinkedIn, be sure to mention in the e-mail that you’re seeking employment with the company — rather than using the generic e-mail that LinkedIn provides. It’s always smart to provide context when you are asking to connect in LinkedIn (or elsewhere).


Thanks for all the great questions today. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you here. You can find me atLinkedInTwitter, or my Public Relations Matters blog.


Thank you all out there for participating! And thank you, Barbara, for being our resident expert today. Join us next Wednesday at noon for the next installement of “Putting Tampa Bay Back To Work.” In the meantime, good luck to all of you on your job search.

[Comment From Andrea]

Thank you!!

[Comment From Sharon]

Thank you. Good bye all —and good luck!!

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[Updated from a blog post from September 2009]

As PR students are nearing the end of their college careers and beginning their job searches, one of the most powerful online tools for them is the business networking site LinkedIn. Creating a profile in LinkedIn is a requirement in my PR Practicum class and is recommended for ALL my PR students.

What’s LinkedIn? In the site’s own words,

“Your professional network of trusted contacts gives you an advantage in your career, and is one of your most valuable assets. LinkedIn exists to help you make better use of your professional network and help the people you trust in return. Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. We believe that in a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.”

So far, I’ve used LinkedIn to:

  • research companies we are discussing in class
  • ask questions of other public relations professionals
  • connect with colleagues from previous jobs
  • write recommendations for current and former colleagues
  • find guest speakers for classes
  • share my professional background with students who only know me as a professor

LinkedIn provides some helpful advice for college students.  In summary, the advice is:

  1. Present yourself (create a profile)
  2. Get connected (network!)
  3. Spread the good word (write and ask for recommendations)

This short video explains a bit further.

Also, soon-to-be grads should take a look at Chris Brogan’s 19-page eBook “Using the Social Web to Find Work.” Visit Chris’ site and scroll down to his fifth paragraph for the PDF. (I chose not to link to it directly because I want you to visit his site first. ) Chris includes many, many tips on using LinkedIn and other sites.

When you set up your profile in LinkedIn, consider also doing the following:

  • Create a custom URL for your profile to make it easier for people to find you (and because it will look nicer on your resume)
  • Include a good headshot photo of yourself, looking as professional as possible. No pictures where you can see that you cropped out (most of) the person next to you.
  • Add Applications to LinkedIn, such as a feed from your blog or SlideShare. Only add Twitter if 100% of your tweets are ones that you’d want a potential employer to read.

How do YOU use LinkedIn? How have you benefitted from it? Please share your thoughts as a comment below.


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Job Search Advice in WinWay Resume

On January 27, 2010, in job search, PRCA 3711/4711, by Barbara Nixon
A few years ago, I created much of content that is used in WinWay Resume, software that is required in PR Practicum. In this short video, I share how to find the job search advice that the software offers.

View on screencast.com »

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For this assignment (for PRCA 3711/4711 & COMM 2322 only), you will choose and interview a public relations professional, and then write about this interview at your blog. This post will be a minimum of 500 words. Post your recap on your blog, and in the Assignments area in GeorgiaVIEW/BlackBoard, you’ll need to provide me with the PR professional’s contact information information (name, title & company, phone number and e-mail address).

Though a face-to-face interview is preferred, a phone or webcam interview is acceptable. An interview that is e-mail or text-based only is not acceptable.

Schedule your interview at least a week before this assignment is due, preferably two. PR professionals sometimes have unpredictable schedules, and it’s possible that you may need to reschedule.

Include an introductory paragraph that introduces the PR professional, including title and company, educational background, etc. Mention your connection to the professional (how you found him/her) and how you conducted the interview (face-to-face, phone or webcam).

Questions/Topics you need to include:

  • What’s a typical week like? (If no week is typical, then what was last week like?)
  • Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.
  • What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?
  • What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?
  • How important is writing in your career?
  • What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?
  • After interviewing this person, are you (the student, not the practitioner) more or less likely to want to have a career in PR? Why?

Some questions you may wish to ask:

  • Did your education prepare you for working in PR? How?
  • What has surprised you the most about working in PR?
  • How has PR changed since you entered the field?
  • How does technology affect your daily work?
  • When your company is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes a candidate stand out?
  • What professional organizations are you involved in? (For example, PRSA, IABC, etc.)
  • Ask for feedback on your resume
  • More informational interview questions

Some things you may wish to do:

  • Include a photo of your interviewee. (This can be a photo he or she provides or one that you take yourself.)
  • Link to your interviewee’s LinkedIn profile and/or blog.



[NOTE: This must be an informational interview that you conduct this semester. Do not “recycle” an interview that you conducted during a previous semester.]

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Clouds with sun peeking out by you.It’s now the start of fall, even though it doesn’t really feel like it here in the Savannah area, and many college seniors’ minds are turning to “how will I get a job when I graduate.” Over the last year or so, I’ve written several blog posts on the job search. Here are a few that might be helpful. especially for public relations majors:

Are there other blog posts that have helped YOU in your job search? I’d appreciate it if you could share them as a comment here.



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resume-tee-back.jpgWhat’s the purpose of a resume? It’s not to get you a job. . . instead, it’s to provide a positive first impression that MAY garner an interview for you. The advice below comes from my years of being a hiring leaders – and listening to many more. If you’re lucky, hiring leaders may scan your resume for up to 15 seconds before they determine if it’s worth pursuing further.

  • Tailor your resume to the specific position that you’re applying for. Use the same phrasing in your resume that you’ve found in the employer’s want ad whenever possible.
  • If you have less than 10 years of experience, it’s best to stick to the traditional one-page resume. Each additional 10 years may help to “earn” you an additional page. (If you want or need to provide more details, offer the URL of your LinkedIn profile. See my profile.) If you are not yet out of college, it’s presumptuous to think you need more than a one-page resume.
  • If your blog has content that may be of interest to your potential employer, include its URL on your resume.
  • Pepper your resume with terms that are relevant to the career field and industry in which you desire employment. Phrase your work experience in terms that are relevant to your career goal.
  • Use reverse chronological order (most recent first) when listing your experience and education.
  • If you are still in college, it’s okay to leave your high school on your resume if you have available space for it, especially if you did something noteworthy during your high school years. After you graduate from college, leave high school off your resume.
  • Always start every bullet point in your experience section with an action verb. Use past tense for previous jobs and present tense for current jobs. Never start a bullet point with “responsible for” or “duties included.”
  • If you have little paid work experience, provide details on projects done in classes to show that you are prepared to enter the working world.
  • Volunteer experience counts too! Don’t forget to include service projects you’ve been involved with.
  • Explain acronyms and cryptic group names on resumes. A potential employer will not automatically know that SOCS stands for Society of Communication Scholars, ILA stands for International Listening Association, or that PRestige is a public relations firm made up of college students.
  • Many employers assume that if an organization’s name includes greek letters, it’s a social fraternity or sorority. If you belong to something Phi Kappa Phi, indicate that this is an honor society.
  • What to do about that GPA? If it’s above 3.0 (on a 4-point scale), you may want to include it. If it starts with a 2 or lower, definitely leave it off. Or, you can include your GPA just in your major if you’d like, for example “3.4 GPA in Major.”
  • Before you graduate, you can still include your anticipated degree on your resume. For example, “Bachelor of Science in Public Relations expected in May 2010.”
  • Use the same header for your resume, cover letter and reference page. Everything should coordinate.
  • To make it look more professional, use your computer, not a pen, to address the envelope.
  • Check postage prices before mailing your resume. You don’t want it to arrive postage-due.
  • In your cover letter, watch for overuse of the words “I” and “my.” Instead, be company-focused.
  • Remember to sign your cover letter.
  • Never in a million years should you start a cover letter with “To whom it may concern.” Use the name, or at least the title, of the hiring manager instead.
  • For your reference page, include complete contact information for each reference. Include name, title, company, mailing address, e-mail address and phone number.

For entry-level public relations positions, Jennifer Abshire of Abshire Public Relations & Marketing offers these additional suggestions:

  • Leave the objective off, or customize it for the specific position you’re applying for. Don’t use a generic one that you found on a template somewhere.
  • Include all your work experience, even if it seems not directly related to the position. (The worst that will happen is that it will show that you are a hard worker.) Abshire holds in high regard people who are well rounded and street smart, rather than with a high GPA and no work experience or community involvement.
  • Send a few samples of your writing or design work along with your resume.
  • If sending your resume (and samples) electronically, make one PDF file that has all the information in it, rather than sending multiple attachments. (For an inexpensive and easy-to-use program for creating PDFs, try CutePDF.)

After you’ve created your resume, have several people proofread it for you. Set it aside for a while. Then measure your resume up against this Resume Checklist.

Updated from my original Resumes That Resonate: Tips for Entry-Level Positions.

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