I was helping a friend hire a new marketing manager for the mid-sized website he works at, and one word on a resume led me into a bit of a generational divide. My friend had been trying to replace a rather irreplaceable member of her team, and the unique skillset was proving hard to find.

A senior executive at the company recommended an associate that he had worked with previously. My friend asked me to look over the resume and help vet the candidate. She had a wealth of experience in increasingly high-ranking roles for major brands. She’d managed big budgets and large teams.

However, the resume worried me a little bit. There was no mention of content or social media or anything interactive in her past experience.

That’s a red flag, especially if you want to work for a website. Digital marketing is marketing. Communications necessarily includes social media. It’s no longer a separate job for an intern or a ‘nice-to-have’ if you’ve got the time to broadcast out your latest tagline. It’s an essential part of a brand voice, and one that is interactive, responsive, and real.

But the real problem with the candidate’s resume was one word that stood out. I couldn’t take my eye off it. The one vaguely web-related experience she listed was having managed an E-Mail campaign. An “E-Mail” campaign.

No one in the industry, who works with the tools, trends, and technologies every day (as the person needed for this role would need to do) would ever spell email with a capital E, a capital M, and a hyphen. Some variations are acceptable, and her spelling may not even be technically a mistake. Lots of people still use the hyphen. But the hyphen with the caps is straight out of the nineteen nineties. (I’m not actually sure that the M was ever capitalized.)

That’s the ‘generational issue’ I mentioned in the opening paragraph. And it’s not actually generational, since this candidate and I were the same age. (She mentioned her age in the interview.) But she was an old-school marketer of big budget campaigns and direct mailings and one-way communication, and this role was a marketing / communications position at a website.

The large projects and major departments she had been in charge of on her resume could have included digital strategies, masking some of these skills. (In which case she was simply unsavvy for not calling them out more in her resume.) But I couldn’t believe that someone with up-to-date knowledge, who had worked in the industry recently, would use such an outdated spelling.

Because she had been recommended by one of the big bosses, we took her candidacy seriously and interviewed her. (Plus, y’know, I could have been wrong, maybe that one word on a resume wasn’t the dead give-away that I thought it was.)

But it was. Despite the fact that the candidate had held enviable positions at large companies in increasingly senior marketing roles, she hadn’t kept up with the times. She had no knowledge of digital marketing or most things web.

Of course that spelling issue is only relevant to this very unique role in this industry. But there are broader implications about keeping up with the lingo of your time and your field.

There are two lessons here:

    The first is: details matter. When you’re writing your resume, your portfolio or any other personal marketing materials, don’t get complacent. Just because you spelled the word E-Mail like that when you managed a campaign in 2004, doesn’t mean that this is how people refer to it now. You have to keep up with the language and spelling trends of the times you are in, or you’ll risk looking obsolete.

    In 2014 references to ‘cyberspace’ or ‘The Information Super Highway’ will kill your chances.

    The second is: don’t be obsolete. Even if your career is progressing successfully, you mustn’t stop learning. It’s vital to continuously expand your skills, keep up with the technical advancements in your field and beyond, stay on top of the latest developments. The world of work is changing rapidly, and being good at one thing and expecting that skill to sustain your career isn’t good enough. Evolution is the key to success and survival on the job.

See also:

The one word that can basically ruin your credibility

How I know I’m not going to hire you before I even meet you

The worst job interview answer ever

The best thing you can say in a job interview

Peter Harris

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