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A couple of weeks back I discussed submitting a resume for a potential internship with an employee of the company in question, who said he had spoken to the relevant department head and had been told that I should go ahead and forward my resume. However, right after this another individual with 20+ years of work experience looked at my resume and said there were serious problems with it, so I went to straighten it out. Between the two of us (him reviewing it and me making adjustments) it took us a couple of weeks, because he was in another part of the country and worked full-time.

My question is: Should I mention this delay in the cover letter?

If so, how? Should I tell the truth, or say something like "I was overwhelmed with classwork"?

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If the person who mentioned you could forward your resume thought it was acceptable, then you could have just submitted it as-is. If you have a personal recommendation (or at least a personal mention) from someone who already works there, that's going to carry more weight than your resume anyway.

As far as the delay, I don't think you need to bother mentioning it; they probably don't care either way so don't over-analyze the situation. If they care why there was a delay they'll ask, and if they do ask then don't lie (why would you start the process off with dishonesty?) - just tell them you wanted to spend a little time polishing it before sending it to them.

In the future, I would also focus more on hitting the deadline. To me, seeing that someone does something when they say they will is important. I think it's good that you used a second set of eyes to improve your resume, but it was already deemed acceptable, so why the delay?

Either way, it's not a make-or-break mistake. In the long run, probably not a big deal.

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    +1 for be honest, "just tell them you wanted to spend a little time polishing it" and on time is better than polished. – Mark Booth Apr 30 '12 at 17:03
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    +1 for not over-analyzing the situation. I agree it's probably not worth mentioning at all. And yes, don't lie if asked. – weronika Apr 30 '12 at 17:20
  • OK, but whether or not sending the thing "on time" is more important than it being "polished" depends on the nature of the problems. We all know that resumes can get round-filed after less than 2 seconds for a million different reasons. This document takes significant care to compose and tune for different employers. If somebody the OP trusts said it needed a lot of modification, it was probably the right move. – Angelo Apr 30 '12 at 17:28
  • @Angelo - it probably is the right move long term, but regardless of the opinion of the 3rd party being trusted by the OP, the opinion that matters (in terms of getting the job) is the person who works at the place of potential employment. You're right that resumes get trashed for a million different reasons, but that's why people recommend you customize your resume to the job instead of just passing around the same resume to everyone. You can't predict all the reasons it might get trashed - true. However, trying to create a canonical resume that will satisfy everyone won't work either. – jefflunt May 1 '12 at 13:07
  • @Angelo I agree that it is very worth time and effort to polish a resume. However, a couple of weeks is excessive, particularly when the delay makes it seem like the candidate does not produce results in a timely fashion. In this situation, the OP would have been best off finding someone else to help with their resume, so it could be improved and delivered in a timely fashion. – Beofett May 1 '12 at 14:54
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Hindsight being 20/20, I'd have made contact with the interested party to tell them that your resume was undergoing a major update, and would it be OK to send it in a few weeks. This would give the person the opportunity to write you back if the deadline is urgent. Often entry level positions and internships have very set deadlines and missing them can be a bigger problem than a less than perfect resume.

But submit it anyway. I often submit resumes with three parts: - an email with a personal note - a cover letter to the unknown main reader - the resume

In this case, my email with the personal note would include a thank you, your hope that you have not missed a deadline, and a recognition that you are several weeks late. Don't try to hide it, but don't fall all over yourself apologizing. Skip detail - but you can say that you were working to improve the resume and getting feedback took longer than expected. I would avoid any excuses (got busy with classwork) as it implies an inability to juggle multiple demands, where honesty will serve you just fine.

But keep it terse - if it's more than 3 sentences, it's probably too long.

Then in your cover letter, say nothing of it. Stick to the good stuff - why you are awesome and why you want to work at this company.

The point is that you made a personal contact who deserves the courtesy of knowing why you kept him waiting. But your contact will pass along this information to someone more involved in the hiring process who neither knows nor cares that your resume was delayed. So make it easy for your contact to see the apology, but make it easy for your full application to go through the bigger system apology-free.

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  • Beth Many thanks for your comments, however I must have been unclear. This gentleman I mentioned was simply put on the phone when the manager was unable to speak directly because he was busy - I did not know him personally. Consequently I lean more towards normalocity's answer. – jamesson May 1 '12 at 5:11
  • Agreed - didn't get that from the original post - it sounded as if you had made enough of a personal connection for the contact to even do some legwork for you. Agreed that if the contact was just picking up the phone, and did no effort at coordination on your behalf, you don't really owe an explanation. At best, give point of reference - "we spoke several weeks ago on the phone." – bethlakshmi May 1 '12 at 18:40

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