The Most Common Error in Resumes

Published on 27 May 2010 in Blog


The most common mistake I see in resumes is having a mix of hyphens and en dashes in the resume date ranges.

There are three types of dashes in the world:

Hyphens: used to join compound words. Example: mother-in-law

En Dashes: a dash that is the width of a letter “n.” Used to show ranges. Example: 2005–2009

Em Dashes:  a dash that is the width of a letter “m.” Used to show additional information. Example: My mother made a pie on Monday—boy, was it good!

The AutoCorrect feature in MS Word tries to be helpful and when you type “space hyphen space” it thinks “oh, this is a date range” and will turn the hyphen to an en dash for you (unless you disable this feature).  But if you type, “space hyphen up-arrow” it does not.

Thus one can get a mix of hyphens and en dashes in your date ranges.

According to The Chicago Manual of Style a date range should be punctuated using an en dash and no space before and after: 2005–Present

Check your resume—this is an easy error to fix!


My next blog post: Overcoming Resume Myopia

Feedback from Hiring Managers 1.2

Published on 20 May 2010 in Blog


I recently asked hiring manager what “soft skills” do they look for when interviewing candidates. Here are answers from individual managers:

“I think the list of required soft-skills depends on the size/type of the company’s environment.  Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked in many types of environments, including in an information services bureau and in more traditional industries such as manufacturing, and discovered along the way that approaches that worked in one environment sometimes backfired in another.”

“Here is a rule of thumb that I swear by:  You can tell more about a candidate from the questions they ask than the answers they give.
Do they ask about your business model?  Where they fit in?  Why the position is open?  Are there any ‘challenging’ projects or people they should be aware of?

Do they ask about what problems you are facing that they can solve?  What keeps you up at night that they can take off your plate, etc…?”

“Business acumen. Understanding the basics of how and why an organization ticks and what motivates managers in general so that when specifics come around no one is surprised. Oh, yeah. Business acumen.”

“I would rate Listening Skills and Research Skills as my two favorites when interviewing for new folks.”

“A technical communicator needs to have some drive and be willing to go get the info they need. Being proactive does not come to all folks naturally so I look for some passion for the job and the ability to use social engineering skills when neededExample: A couple of years ago we had two writers—-the pushy little flower that is me, and a guy who sat in his cube and waited for people to come to him.
I’m still here and he’s not.”

“I like to see passion: does the applicant get excited about something. It doesn’t have to be work-related; it can be music, travel, food, whatever.
Another skill I value is balance. Can the applicant treat critical tasks as urgent yet remain calm.

Lastly, does the applicant pick up on body language and move on or shut up when I indicate that I’ve heard enough of an answer…?”

  1. Assertiveness (the ability to effectively push back on unreasonable demands AND make requirements known).
  2. Tact (the ability to accomplish #1 without giving offense, embarrassing or otherwise making enemies).
  3. Relationship-building, especially in situations where the other person is remote and there are no opportunities for face-to-face interaction.
  4. Ability to plan, keep to plan and keep stakeholders aware of necessary changes to plan.
  5. Ability to follow instructions (for example, when someone asks for information to be sent off-list).”

“In my experience, the essential soft skill are the ability to perceive how others are perceiving them, and to adapt as necessary to differing personality types among the subject matter experts with whom they have to deal. It is a surprisingly rare attribute.
Without that ability, the technical writer will have difficulty forming and maintaining the collegial interactions necessary to get the job done.”

“I hired a great writer once because of curiosity. I talked to him on the phone and asked if he knew Frame. He didn’t. I called him back about four days later to ask another question and he had downloaded the Frame trial and was working hard to learn it. And had some good questions.\

I liked that initiative and curiosity. I liked the ‘Go Get It’ attitude. I could see that would be priceless in our environment. I could teach him my writing standards and the products. But that attitude I couldn’t teach.

I could see moving him to more advanced projects over time and as team lead eventually.”

“Analytical skill, definitely!”

Lately, I see people wanting to become content strategists, but the questions they ask aren’t in the strategic range. They can’t seem to bump up their thinking to the next level, of content analysis.

And that goes for just about any career-track position, whether it’s tech comm or consulting.”

“Business acumen has been mentioned—but I’d like to highlight it a bit.

It isn’t necessarily a must have for a brand new shiny grad, but, if you wish to fill a slot with a grizzled veteran, knowing how your function might fit into the company’s success is very valuable.

“Years ago, we got the team together (pushing 40 writers/editors) for a yearly face-to-face. The group was highly distributed (as a result of a merger and acquisition binge), and most hadn’t met any of their colleagues from other facilities.

One of our goals was to get folks talking to one another, so the question was asked, ‘What makes a good document?’
The answers were all over the map, as you’d expect, with copies of Strunk and White being brandished, Chicago Manual of Style used as a weapon, curses in COBOL being lobbed across the room, and the expected pleas for just ‘one more round of reviews and editing to get it perfect.’
One of the more senior writers sat quietly with a Mona Lisa smile on her face. When asked her opinion, she said:

  • On time
  • On budget
  • Fulfilling requirements”

“At ProSpring, the first attribute I list in the Recruiter job description is, ‘Curiosity and the desire to help.’ I think that summarizes what we’re all looking for in an employee, eh?”

Feedback from Hiring Managers 1.1

Published on 08 May 2010 in Blog


I recently asked hiring manager what “soft skills” do they look for when interviewing candidates. The top answers:

58% – Excellent communication skills

22% – Ability to work alone, work in teams

18% – Ability to adjust to changing priorities, deadlines

18% – Ability to multitask/juggle multiple projects

14% – Good organization skills

12% – Attention to detail

10% – Strong interpersonal skills

6% – Self motivated

Feedback from Hiring Managers 1.0

Published on 06 May 2010 in Blog


I recently published the following question to a Manager’s email list to which I belong:

I know what’s popular these days with respect to tools and technology, but what “soft skills” do you  look for when interviewing candidates? Or, which soft skills do you wish your staff had more of?

I copied the responses into a file and then sorted and tabulated the results.

Here are the top key words sorted alphabetically:

Read more »

When Applying for a Job

Published on 16 April 2010 in Blog

Mistake #5:  Not summarizing your experience.

Rather than saying “Please review my resume to determine if my qualifications fit your request”, you are FAR more likely to receive an interview if you say, “Here is a summary of how my experience matches each of the job requirements:”

Four Critical Steps to Acing a Job Interview

Published on 08 April 2010 in Blog


By Jack Molisani, President, ProSpring Technical Staffing

Most candidates do not have interviewing strategies—they just answer the questions an interviewer asks and then leave hoping they did well enough to get a second interview.

This article explains four critical steps you can take to proactively control a job interview and lead it where you want it to go. Read more »


by Jack Molisani, President, ProSpring Technical Staffing

In the mid 1990’s I was laid off from my full time job as a sales engineer with a bank technology company. I spent months looking for a new engineering position, but no one was hiring.

A friend of my family put booths into home and garden shows selling Ginsu® knives and asked me to fill in for a worker who had to miss a show.  I did well, and ended up working the home and garden show circuit for the rest of the summer.

It has been fifteen years since then, but I will always remember seven business lessons I learned from selling Ginsu knives. Read more »

2010: The Year of Reinvention

Published on 17 January 2010 in Blog


Let me start with a confession: Scott Abel was right. More specifically, Scott Abel was right and I ignored his advice.

One of my favorite sayings is an expert is someone who has made all the mistakes possible in a given field. (Assuming, of course, you don’t keep repeating them.) But just when I thought I’d made all the mistakes possible in my field, they go and change the field!

I am referring to the explosion of social media and networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and blog-enabled corporate websites, etc.

Another confession: I am resistive to change. Not all change—I absolutely loved the jump from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 and the next generation of online help available as a result—but I have finally realized that when it comes to certain technological changes, I am resistance personified. Read more »


Recruiters (both HR and agency recruiters) receive tens if not hundreds of resumes a day, each of which must be read, evaluated against current job requirements, processed, clarified and filed.

If you want them to help you find a job, help them do their jobs. Read more »