Résumés That Can’t Get to First Base: They Strike Out Even Before Getting to Bat

Advice to people who post résumés at the RTNDA convention: Find out how to write the name of our organization.

This year’s crop of résumés posted on the bulletin boards had several creative renderings:

“Radio-TV-News-Directors-Association.” (Apparently she gets her hyphens wholesale.)

“Radio & Television News Directors Association.”

“Radio/Television News Directors Association.”

“Radio Television News Directors Association.”

“Radio and Television News Directors’ Association.”

“Radio and Television News Director Association.”

Would that lone director—or anyone else—hire a job applicant who couldn’t get the name right?

Suggestion: If spelling out Radio-Television News Directors Association poses too much of a challenge, go with the initials RTNDA.

But there were other problems. One applicant spoke of working on the “Five a Clock” news. Another mentioned receiving a “Hugh O’ Brian Youth Leadership” award. “O’Brian” has no space after the apostrophe. Another résumé merged words: “coordinatedand edited feeds.” Which is why I sometimes get the uncomfortable feeling that I’m reading a résumé even before the person who wrote it.

One supplicant said she anchored a biweekly newscast. Did she mean twice a week or once every two weeks? The American Heritage Dictionary’s first definition: “happening every two weeks.” She also said she “interviewed live guests.” Sure, dead men tell no tales.

Another job-seeker wrote that two years ago he “ran assignment desk when assignment desk manager or editors are [were!] out.” Tense situation.

A résumé posted by a reporter said she works “everyday.” Everyday is an adjective, as in an everyday occurrence . She meant every day . But doesn’t she ever get a day off? And another reporter’s résumé said he generates story ideas everyday. There’s no need to mention generating story ideas; that’s what reporters are paid to do–every day. Here’s an idea: Buy a dictionary. And use it.

One of the bugaboos of résumé-writers is the “objective.” Their objective should be to learn enough about writing to call it a goal —and then not to mention one at all. Employers are concerned about their goals, not ours. A cover letter accompanying a résumé should tell a news director what job the applicant is applying for, not deliver a mission statement.

One writer’s “objective”: “To gain mastery in the broadcast television industry.” How about mastering some basics? The writer said she had worked as a waitress and that her responsibilities were “assisting the customers [duh], setting up for banquets, serving meals [double duh] and cater in different weddings.” She should have kept the series in parallel by making that “catering.” Weddings have to be different. They can’t all be joined in one unholy matrimony.

Another job-seeker’s “objective”: “To secure a Weather Anchor position, as a Chief Meteorologist, or as an integral part of a dominant weather/news team.” Are there any submissive weather/news teams?

An anchor listed four Professional Objectives: “To report interesting and newsworthy stories that educate and entertain the viewer…[Want to entertain? Join the circus.] To provide flexibility to a news department…To work as a team member…To be involved in the community, building respect and recognition….” And her Personal Objective: “To empower others with a sense of importance and self-worth by providing them with beneficial information and by being a role model.” Isn’t that what social workers are all about?

She went on to enumerate what she calls her special skills: “terrific live interviewer,” “spontaneous & resourceful,” “creative, articulate & intelligent,” “raised/showed Yorkshire Terriers, excellent animal handling abilities,” “very upbeat and perky personality.” Don’t be so modest. And don’t perk.

Another résumé posted at the Las Vegas convention in early April started with GOALS: “As a senior at the University of ______, I am looking forward to the very real near future. [By now, that future is in the pasture.] At present, my plan is to…work in media management on various different levels in a variety of markets and conditions [various different…variety?]….”

In her two-page résumé (confine yourself to one page, even if your family owns a paper mill), she listed among her duties as manager of a campus station: “perform hire, training and suspension of DJs.” To qualify as English, that should be “perform, hire, train and suspend DJ’s.” Does that mean she appears on the air, hires and trains staff members, and suspends DJ’s? Or performs as a DJ, and hires, trains and suspends DJ’s? Or what? News alert: “newsworthy” is one word.

Another writer said she has been active in her sorority and in Panhellenic organizations: “We bring the Greek community together by doing activities together.” Now that’s togetherness. She also says she “taught swimming lessons.” She means that she taught swimming. (In a secretarial pool?)

One writer said on his résumé, “Because of my degree from ____ University in corporate communications and my experience working in television and print journalism, I feel confident that I am qualified to work in the communications field.” After reading his one-page letter and one-page résumé in six-point type, my judgment is, “Don’t be too confident.”

A woman said she writes “about civil rights stories.” That differs from writing stories about civil rights. She also said she writes about “other newmaking happenings.” Newmaking ?

More than one résumé bore a handwritten “Hire me.” Which is as unnecessary as telling your mirror, “Show me.” One hire-me résumé also had a written pitch: “Need a blue-eyed blonde reporter? I have experience.” Doing what?

Another résumé carried the handwritten name of a Las Vegas hotel and a room number. Hmm. Ten days later, I phoned her. She said she (not a prankster) had added that line but that no one had phoned her room. I also phoned the “blue-eyed blonde” to see whether she herself had written that description. Yes. She said she added it because so many résumés were tacked to the boards that she wanted to take an extra step to catch someone’s eye. See, it worked.

One intern wrote that she had “performed phone interviews for use in on-air stories.” The only place I know where they perform phone interviews is “Saturday Night Live.” Another woman said she had “monitored news stories as they came in and out on a minute-to-minute basis.” When stories come in, don’t they stay in? And minute-by-minute?

Another résumé listed five radio stations where the writer said she had worked, consecutively, as “overnight on-air personality,” “part-time on-air personality,” “mid-day personality,” “fill-in on-air personality” and, most recently, as “part-time on-air personality.” Sounds like a contestant for “Miss Personality.”

One writer listed four references and added, “More Available on Request.” No need to list any references. If a news director is interested in you, she’ll ask for references. And no need to note, “References supplied on request.” If asked, would you refuse?

But there’s more to writing a résumé than avoiding mistakes. Read a good guide to constructing résumés. Consult someone who’s savvy. Remember: one page, plain paper, no words in red or blue. And please write in English.

The RTNDA Communicator published this column in July-August 2003.