July 27, 2010

Save yourself from looking silly in just 5 minutes.

Yesterday, I received a cover letter from a job applicant which quietly featured this sentence as the opening to its third paragraph:

Another couple sentences on what makes you stand out and valid for the position based on facts and experience.

Indeed.  Those sentences would have been quite useful at just that juncture in the letter.  But the transparent – and clearly inadvertant – stage direction sadly negated  their benefit.

With less than 5 minutes of proofreading, this woman might have scored an interview with me…one skim of this letter would have caught that preposterous mistake.  And had she done so, I’m sure her heart would have skipped a beat and she would have said to herself, “Good god.  Can you imagine if I had sent THAT??”

Alas, she did not proof the letter.  And now her poor judgment is forever immortalized here, after we had a good chuckle over it in the office.  Well…we sort of chuckled, as we sheepishly remembered preventable mistakes we’ve each made in the past.

No one is perfect, and mistakes will be made.  But when communicating in writing, you have the power to prevent them by resisting that almost-primal impulse to hit “send” the moment you finish putting your thoughts to paper. 

Ideally, you can focus your attention elsewhere after finishing a draft of something — even if it’s only a 4 or 5 line email! — and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  You will be amazed at the silly mistakes you can catch that way.

My motto:  better to have your heart skip a beat at the thought of ALMOST looking ridiculous, than to feel the kick in the gut that comes from actually LOOKING ridiculous.