Dare I say that “attention to detail” is on a majority of job postings? Would you agree with me that it is an important part of most jobs? Yet, this three-word phrase means something different to everyone in the hiring process.

AND …your résumé has several audiences. Each audience sees different details as they read. Consequently, you must demonstrate “attention to detail” for each audience.

“Attention to Detail” —NOT!

This week I received a package from UPS. Unfortunately, it wasn’t addressed to me. The little detail called the zip code was the culprit. My zip code has three zeros in it. The intended receiver’s zip had zeros as well, but the third one was actually the number eight. The handwriting was quite clear. However the person who entered the zip into the UPS system replaced the “8” with a “0” —and so it was left at my door by the UPS driver.

So I went online. I couldn’t get UPS to respond to my inquiry. I found an article that indicated UPS will not pick it up and if the intended receiver calls them they would give my address so the person could come pick it up. (WHAT!..no thank you!) I finally found the sender’s website and through the “Contact Us” form, I described the situation…it’s been three days…nothing.

Can you identify the “attention to details” described so far? Let’s see:

  1. The UPS agent didn’t input the zip code accurately.
  2. The sender didn’t check their UPS receipts for the correct address.
  3. The printout from the UPS system wasn’t the same as on the package and no one noticed. Not any of the UPS agents who handled the package.
  4. The driver delivered the package to the wrong address – and didn’t notice that he wasn’t anywhere near the address on the box.
  5. I didn’t notice the name on the box before I opened it. It wasn’t from a vendor that I would have ordered from and I missed that too.
  6. The UPS online system doesn’t have any way (that is apparent) for me to bring this situation to their attention. Their tracking system doesn’t consider that a package might erroneously be delivered to the wrong address.
  7. The vendor that sent the package hasn’t checked their website inquiries…or they did and just haven’t responded.

Have you checked these on your résumé? —a classic faux pas!

Before applicant tracking systems became a standard in hiring practices, and over a holiday weekend, I called a client to try to encourage her. She seemed to be doing everything right yet no one responded to her job applications. Together we could not figure out what was wrong.

I entered the phone number from her résumé and waited. Then came the message: “The number you have dialed is not in service. Please check the number and dial again.” Huh? I opened her original résumé and saw that one digit of her phone number was incorrect. No wonder she wasn’t getting any calls. I checked her email address on her most recent résumé…similar issue.

When I reached her for a conversation, I explained what I had found. For four months, she had been applying to jobs with the wrong email and phone number. She cried, made the change and landed a job about a month later.

All the right details —but HR wouldn’t choose him.

Several years ago, I was working with an interior architect. He was applying for a position to design the inside of a veteran hospital and he was quite excited about the position. It was personal to him because a friend of his, a classmate, had lost a limb while serving in Afghanistan.

His mind was hard at work and moving at light speed as he talked through his process of interior design. I thought the level of detail was stunning. Here are a few things that he mentioned:

The space itself has to have an ambience. Especially for veterans, they need to feel safe and comfortable. So the choice of materials is as important as the colors and texture. Everything contributes to the overall experience:

  • Carpet: color, texture, material.
  • Walls, ceiling – all contribute to the feel of the room:
    Wood? Cloth? Paint?
  • Furniture: comfortability for people with different conditions (PTSD, severed limbs, facial scars…).
  • Use of space to provide openness and privacy at the same time.
  • Areas for medical staff and patients to interact with privacy without feeling closed in.
  • Place for community: areas where small groups can connect (family, friends, other vets).
  • Lighting is critical.
  • Then there is the management of sound. Noises without immediate origin can put a veteran on alert – like the heating and cooling system. And if the acoustics are especially “live,” then the sound can be a challenge to manage.

This was just the beginning of his considerations. It’s been at least three years and I still remember the conversation.

Do you have a clear idea that this young interior architect was on top of his game? Did the level of detail support his credibility as you read the list?

POINT: The right details make you memorable and credible!

YET, when this same individual proofed his cover letter and résumé, he consistently overlooked detail after detail!


Attention to detail? YES! But are they the right ones?

I’ve come to the conclusion that people, in general, have a much better chance for attention to detail, if it is in their area of expertise.

Perhaps you know of an editor who can spot a misplaced comma, semi-colon, or esoteric (or common) spelling error with just a quick glance. A friend of mine is a fine cook and his sense of smell tells him exactly when a loaf of bread is ready—I can tell you when it’s burning—too late.

Are your details causing you to lose out?

What is your area of expertise? There may be several areas where you have sensitivity to the details of the situation. But if your areas of sensitivity to details don’t match the needs of the audiences for your jobsearch—you may be losing out.

For the jobseeker, there are several audiences and each one has a sensitivity to detail that must be addressed. Are you addressing their sensitivity in a way that brings credibility to your candidacy?

How to identify the right “Attention to Detail.”

Here is a list to give you an idea of how to identify the details needed in your jobsearch.

Human Resource professional:

  1. Résumé: Spelling, grammar, clarity of thought. Ability to address the requirements clearly and succinctly. Details in your experience that demonstrate credibility.
  2. Phone screening/interview: Are you articulate, pleasant, professional (avoid the list: yea, uh-huh, okay, sorta, maybe, uh, oh…)
  3. Interview: Conservative dress (usually) and hair syle, firm handshake, eye contact, no fidgeting, professional demeanor, well groomed (fingernails, shoes, pressed suit/dress, hair again).

Hiring manager/Decision maker:

  1. All of the above.
  2. Ability to manage the details of the position to bring credibility to your candidacy as they relate to your job function.
  3. Finance, analysis: Handle numbers and jargon with ease.
  4. Customer service: Your demeanor, the way you describe former clients and customers (an attitude of care and service).
  5. Management: Decisive, yet someone who develops and coaches others and champions them to succeed.
  6. Marketing: Understanding and articulation of the audience, the tools, the company brand, the messages.
  7. Executive: High-level thinking, strategic, ability to quickly grasp vision and long-range concerns, understanding of the industry and future risks.

Critical success factors:

The level of detail, whether written, spoken, or non-verbal, will communicate a myriad of information that will either bring credibility or dismiss your candidacy.

“Detail” is specific to each person. Are you incorporating the appropriate level of detail for the different readers of your résumé? Consider making a list of your audiences and the detail that is important to them.

Detail makes you memorable—IF it connects with the concerns of your audiences. Carefully think through the detail on your résumé and your LinkedIn profile. Who are your audiences? What detail is needed to bring credibility and move you toward an offer?

Finally, if you don’t excel at copy editing (like your cover letter, résumé, and LinkedIn profile) then find someone who is good at it so you can be sure you aren’t being eliminated during the hiring process.


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