Consistency reflects good writing skills

An applicant’s writing skills may be judged on the quality of their resume and application. If these documents are riddled with grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors a reader may conclude these reflect your wider writing ability.

Consistency is one aspect of writing that can be overlooked when proofreading documents. Typical instances of inconsistency occur in lists.

1. Inconsistency between first and third person

Resumes are usually written in the third person, yet people may slip into using first person such as when listing achievements. For example, responsibilities for a current role may include:

  • Provide direction, support and mentoring for team members.
  • Prepare submissions, proposals and reports.
  • Liaise, negotiate and consult with various stakeholders.

These duties are written in the third person.

Then, under achievements, these items are listed:

  • I have researched and analysed material to input to a policy discussion paper on reducing emissions.
  • I have identified major risks associated with implementing the Gas Innovation Program.
  • I have prepared a complex technical submission to the Innovation Program Assessment Committee.

These are written in the first person.

To be consistent, all the lists need to be in the third person. So the list of achievements would be changed to:

  • Researched and analysed research to input to a policy discussion paper on reducing emissions.
  • Identified major risks associated with implementing the Gas Innovation Program.
  • Prepared a complex technical submission to the Innovation Program Assessment Committee.

Note that these are written in the past tense because they are completed, and start with a verb.

2. Inconsistency in lists

When using lists, all points listed must logically follow from the opening to form complete sentences if they were written separately.

To illustrate this, a person writes the following:

I have managed multiple projects within budget and deadlines. These projects demonstrate my:

  • ability to use project management software;
  • My skills in adjusting work to meet milestones;
  • Staff’s capacity to learn from my coaching;
  • skills in negotiating with stakeholders.

The first and fourth points follow logically from ‘my’, making complete sentences. For example, ‘These projects demonstrate my ability to use project management software’. The second and third points do not follow logically. They do not create complete sentences following from ‘my’. Plus, there is inconsistency in how each point starts: the second and points start with a capital letter. None of the points should start with a capital because they are not sentences.

These two points need to be changed to read:

  • skills adjusting work to meet milestones;
  • coaching skills to build my team’s capacity.

So the final, consistent version reads:

I have managed multiple projects within budget and deadlines. These projects demonstrate my:

  • ability to use project management software;
  • skills adjusting work to meet milestones;
  • coaching skills to build my team’s capacity.
  • skills in negotiating with stakeholders.

When proofreading your resume or application, check you have used third person throughout and that your lists all form a complete sentence if read individually.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist® specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.