Take the 2-minute tour ×
The Workplace Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for members of the workforce navigating the professional setting. It's 100% free, no registration required.

As a student I'm applying for a student role within my University, or College as known in the USA, and one of the skills it requires is attention to detail.

Unfortunately, I've not had much work experience so I'm somewhat stuck to what example to use. I was considering of using the way I ask questions on Stack Overflow, by providing suitable code, using headings to separate texts and explaining what the problem is as clear and concise as I can. I've linked one of the questions below. It seems a bit silly to me to use that example, though, but I want to express how I like to take time and care to consider how someone else would interpret what I would say. On the other hand, this post was somewhat rushed because I have somewhere to go, so I apologise for any lack of attention to detail.

Example Question

share|improve this question
7  
First place is in your resume. If you claim attention to detial, make sure your resume and cover letter have absolutely no spelling or grammar mistakes. –  HLGEM Jan 30 '13 at 18:25
6  
@HLGEM: Was your invocation of Muphry's law deliberate? –  Keith Thompson Jan 30 '13 at 18:30
    
@KeithThompson, was yours? –  HLGEM Jan 30 '13 at 18:38
    
My resume does contain fewer typos than my comment here. –  HLGEM Jan 30 '13 at 18:39
1  
@HLGEM: Of course. Follow the link. –  Keith Thompson Jan 30 '13 at 18:43
show 8 more comments

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think a STackOverflow reference is GREAT! But then those of use that love StackExchanges are going to think that. :)

I do, in fact, list my participation as an interesting community involvement item on the end of my resume. I link to my profile and mention what areas I do particularly well at question-answering (since that's my main involvement around here). If you haven't done a ton of answering, you may also point out some particularly interesting work - like your example above.

A cover letter is usually a summary and doesn't get too heavy on the details. What you may want to say is that you are:

  • passionate about solving problems by listening to the real needs of the people with who you collaborate
  • focused on getting it right, and aware that small details can have a big impact

And then gently mention that one place you've practiced these skills is StackOverflow as can be seen from the details in your resume. I'm angling gently away from "I have a great attention to detail" as a term or general phrase to describe yourself, because my experience has been that "attention to detail" can cut both ways. Attention to detail is great when the details are crucial. But knowing when to see the big picture and gloss over a few details is also important. So phrasing it as knowing how to use details to get good work accomplished is quite a bit more powerful and moves the reader away from a vision of a guy who is counting the grains of sand on a beach while everyone else is trying to make a sand castle.

The other trick is covering the fact that your submission may or may not exist in electronic form in the company. A hip young company almost certainly will keep resumes primarily in electronic form. But a bigger company with a more old-school system may still be passing resumes by paper. Even in a big, well networked, computer-oriented firm, the last thing to be updated can often be the HR systems. So some poor manager may be looking at a really long URL or a URL that was a hyperlink, but is now pure text and he's wondering what on earth you mean by "Example Question"

If you really want to highlight work that is accessed electronically try:

Contributor to Stack Overflow - Brownish Monster at www.stackoverflow.com, particularly interesting work expressed in "Why are there random characters appearing in my decrypted text?"

That will make it relatively easy to get to your user profile. Also it's easy to keep this fresh - if you should have other interesting highly voted answers, they'll show up in your profile.

share|improve this answer
    
Hey, thanks for answering. I understand what you're saying about how "attention to detail" can cut both ways, so I'll definitely mention that I can see the bigger picture as well mention that I have attention to detail. I feel like I'll have to mention "attention to detail", just in case they don't pick up on it. –  Brownish Monster Jan 30 '13 at 20:45
    
The thing is I don't really answer questions on SO, mainly because I'm not a professional developer so nearly all of the questions are quite complex. Also I'm not sure if you noticed but, about the question I linked to, I asked it then answered it myself once I found the solution, sorry I didn't point it out. So, I don't think I can really say I listen to the needs of other people. I wasn't considering of hyperlinking it, just mentioning it somewhere in letter. Thanks for you answer. –  Brownish Monster Jan 30 '13 at 20:46
    
My experience has been that you don't typically need to cite examples in the cover letter. "Attention to detail" is a very vague requirement, and you're most likely best saying that you have a strength in your attention to detail, and the ask in the interview if they can describe the kinds of details they need you to pay attention to. Then be ready to speak to that. Attention to detail in - say- debugging code, is a lot different than attention to detail in filling out forms. –  bethlakshmi Jan 31 '13 at 19:39
    
Ah, thanks for the tip. I ended up leaving it out so, hopefully, they wouldn't scrutinise it as closely. –  Brownish Monster Jan 31 '13 at 20:18
add comment

What examples can I use for “attention to detail” in my cover letter or CV?

As a student I'm applying for a student role within my University, or College as known in the USA, and one of the skills it requires is attention to detail.

  1. Make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect.
  2. If at the same University, go talk with the person(s) hiring for the role prior to applying. Ask about the job, have questions and a notepad to take notes, etc. If not same university, try to call (if possible - most universities have phone numbers of staff/faculty online) and do the same thing.
  3. Reference when you write your cover letter. Bonus points if you are able to combine information you learned into the cover letter.

In your case, I would not put your StackOverflow profile on a resume, for the following reasons.

  • People familiar with StackOverflow are more likely to look at it than others and you do not really have an overly impressive profile as people will likely judge it very quickly based on total reputation
  • People unfamiliar with it will see "Brownish Monster" and this is not necessarily the most professional to give off to a non-SO familiar person
  • Most of your questions have comment trains asking clarification - I'm not sure you would give the impression you want to give (in fact the opposite is entirely possible)

Also, assuming you get to the interview stage, you can show attention to detail very easily:

  • Bring a notepad and take notes during the interview
  • Bring prepared and printed questions

Probably 99% of people don't do those and both give a strong sense of attention to detail.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.