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September 7, 2013

Nix nicknames in resume, cover letter

People sometimes prefer nicknames when interacting with friends and colleagues at work. No, I’m not talking about someone named Robert going by Bob. I mean more playful monikers that relate to a funny shared experience or a personality trait someone may possess.

They’re fun to use in casual conversations with close co-workers who know the backstory, but keep them out of your resume and cover letter.

The following job candidates should have forgone the fake names and job titles:

“NAME: Cool Dee.”

Is that what you’d like on your business card?

“NICKNAME: The Champ.”

Of what?

COVER LETTER: “Around here, they call me Mr. Motivated.”

We’re a little less formal around here.

COVER LETTER: “I’m Mr. ROI. Return on investment right in front of your eyes! You have to see it to believe it!”


JOB TITLE: “The Expense Report Enforcer.”

He carries business cards and a badge.

COVER LETTER: “Sincerely, Jen (aka Ms. Miserable).

“Talk about a sad sign-off.

Speaking of names, do not write your resume or cover letter in the third person. It can be confusing, awkward and off-putting.

RESUME: “Along with the experience listed above, Steve has completed successful projects with many other clients.”

Is Steve interested in applying?

There’s no need to include “I” on your resume. For instance, instead of writing, “I managed a team of five Web designers,” just start your statement with “Managed.” After all, who would you be referring to other than yourself?

“WORK EXPERIENCE: I admit I make plenty of wrong decisions.”

Including this was one of them.

Finally, you shouldn’t list references on your resume. It’s simply unnecessary. But if you choose to ignore my advice, at least give hiring managers something to go on.

“REFERENCES: I worked with three separate managers on a regular basis. They go by Artie, Wade and Carla.”

Do any of those individuals happen to have a last name and phone number?

Max Messmer is CEO of Robert Half International, a specialized staffing firm. Send examples to Resumania, c/o Robert Half International, 2884 Sand Hill Road, Suite 200, Menlo Park, Calif. 94025. Or, visit

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