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Editing: A lesson in helping others, help YOU.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
By: Aishah Schwartz
Someone launching a new job search wrote to me recently asking for assistance. I am not a job recruiting agent (nor am I promoting myself as such), but that doesn't stop this kind of request landing in my inbox from time-to-time.
Being as the person making this particular request happened to be someone I actually knew vs. a total stranger, I was inclined, in the very least, to look at the person's CV and cover letter.
A cover letter is similar to a first meeting -- the first impression can be a deal-breaker.
In this case, at first glance, I instinctively knew the cover letter and CV were headed straight to 'File 13' - the proverbial trash can.
The cover letter and CV set out that the applicant's skills included 'precision', 'perfection', an 'excellent' oral and written command of the English language and use of Microsoft office products, specifically Word and Excel. The documents I received did not reflect these skills.
Rather than simply making the necessary edits, I replied in kind suggesting a self-help editing exercise.
I requested that the sender actually print the cover letter (as a start), and with pen in hand, that the letter be read with the aim of circling any mistakes it contained; simple mistakes like using a lower case "i" instead of "I" were clear throughout.
After identifying the mistakes, I asked that the letter be self-edited and returned to me a second time. The point being that it is not the job of an editor to make another person appear as a qualified job applicant. And if a person is not willing to help him/her self then, quite simply, my effort is better spent on other projects.
The reply I received from the owner of the cover letter and CV stunned me. Simply stated, the person "saw no mistakes in the letter".
Moral of the story?
I am generally happy to help; but you have to help me help YOU. It is counterproductive for me (or anyone) to simply make the corrections, particularly in this case, because if the cover letter were sent as-is, no human resource manager would ever read it. The letter would literally be dropped into the trash can.
A good employment candidate has to be able to perform according to the qualifications and skills set out in a cover letter and CV. If I had corrected the letter myself, it would be representative of my skills and not the skills of the applicant.
Secondly, the fact that the person appeared unable to consider that there was even one mistake in the cover letter says to a human resource manager that the applicant considers his/herself above reproach, "I am perfect", "I don't make mistakes"
We all make mistakes. The probability of opening a finalized project and finding a mistake after it has already been self-edited numerous times, is as likely as the sun rising in the east day after day.
Self-editing exercises are designed to help a person help him/her. Being willing to self-edit before submitting a project is a giant step forward in becoming a polished writer; or even a job applicant.
Moral of the story. When you ask for help and suggestions are offered in return, do not just dismiss them because you think your work is already perfect. The fact of the matter is, if the suggestions were made in the first place, it is a sure sign your work needs editing.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle.
Cover Letters http://jobsearch.about.com/
How to Write a Cover Letter http://jobsearch.about.com/
Cover Letter Samples http://jobsearch.about.com/
Targeted Cover Letters http://jobsearch.about.com/
Sample Cold Contact Cover Letter http://jobsearch.about.com/
Resume and Cover Letter Guide http://jobsearch.about.com/
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Aishah Schwartz, a Muslim American, serves as Founder and Director of the 2006 established Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA). She is also an internationally renowned human rights activist, writer and photo journalist focusing on the rights of Muslim women and the plight of the Palestinian people affected by the Israeli imposed illegal embargo on Gaza. Biography: http://bio.prlog.org/