Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
JOB SEARCH / MAY. 15, 2015
version 3, draft 3

Classic Grammatical Errors Job Seekers Make

Many factors can influence your success in securing an interview, particularly for highly competitive job vacancies. Interviewers face the challenge of drawing up a short list for interview stage, and oftentimes the simplest grammatical error in a CV or cover letter can result in the candidate receiving a rejection letter. It is therefore paramount that your CV is written in both a professional and grammatically correct format. By proofreading your CV and cover letter several times, you can lessen the risk of including grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

The most common grammatical errors derive from homophone words, which are words that sound like another when spoken but have different spellings, and completely different meanings. These words are often the cause of errors in the English language, and as a result, tend to be found in CV applications. Some of the most common errors that job seekers should be aware of are listed below.

Your/You’re

Your: The possessive form of ‘you’. (Ensure your CV is written professionally.)

You’re: In simple terms, this mean ‘you are’. (You’re top of the list for the job.)

Their/There

Their: This is the possessive form of ‘they’. (Candidates submitted their application forms last week.)

They’re: Simply, this word is a reduction of ‘they are’. (They’re getting anxious about the interview test.)

There: This word is usually used in reference to a place. (The interview room is over there.)

Its/It’s

Its: Is a possessive pronoun and belongs to the same family as his and hers. (The company is known for its reputation.)

It’s: Is a contraction for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. (It’s time for my interview.)

A good test when deciding whether to use ‘its’ or ’it’s’ is to replace the word his or her into your sentence where you want to use the word its; if your sentence is still grammatically correct then you will use its. Usually, unless you are trying to say ‘it is’ or ‘it has’, then you will use ‘it’s’.

Affect/Effect

Affect: This word is typically used in context as a verb, and means ‘to influence’ or ‘change’ something or someone. (The stressful interview negatively affected the candidate.)

Effect: This word is usually a noun and used in context to refer to an ‘outcome’ or ‘result of’ something. (The effect of making the correct career choice is job satisfaction.)

A useful test to do when you are unsure of which word to use, is to consider whether a verb or noun is needed. If you require a verb and if you wish to describe something altering or changing something else, then use ‘affect’. Otherwise, use ‘effect’.

To/Too

To: Use the word ‘to’ when using it as a preposition. It should be used in context when expressing direction, position, in relation to something, identifying a person or thing, identifying a relationship between two things, etc. (You have to submit your application before Friday.)

Too: This word is an adverb and is used when trying to add emphasis to something, or to imply something is desirable. It can be used as an informal way of saying ‘very’ or ‘in addition’. (I will apply for the job, too.)

Everyday/ Every Day

Everyday: This word is an adjective and used when referring to something ‘daily’. Everyday can also be used when describing something that is ‘commonplace’. (You should not wear an everyday outfit to your interview)

Every Day: Use this combination of words when describing something that is ‘each day’ or ‘regular’. (I practice my interview techniques every day.)

Who’s/Whose

Who’s: This word is a contraction of who is, or who has. The word ‘who’s’ should be used if your sentence can also state ‘who is’ or ‘who has’ and still be grammatically correct. (Who’s next in line for the interview?)

Whose: This is the possessive of who, or which. (Whose CV is this?).

As a general rule, use ‘who’s‘ if you can replace it with ‘who is’ or ‘who has’; if you cannot replace these words then use the word ‘whose’.

Knew/New

Knew: This word is the past tense of ‘know’. The word ‘know’ is to be used in context meaning ‘well informed about…’ (I knew the interview would be difficult, and I was right.)

New: Although it sounds the same as the word ‘knew’, it has a completely different meaning. ’New’ means ‘made for the first time’, ‘original’, ‘unique’. (The interview test was completely new to me)

Importance of commas

When writing a CV and cover letter, it is paramount that the use of commas are implemented correctly. By using a comma where it is not needed, or placing it in the wrong part of a sentence, may result in your sentence having a completely different meaning. Usually, a comma will be used to separate the elements of a sentence, particularly when there are three or more things. It is also appropriate to use 2 commas where you intend to set off interruptions within a sentence, e.g., CVs are, of course, the most important recruitment tool for job seekers.

How to use an apostrophe

Generally, a simple rule can be used when deciding whether to use an apostrophe or not. If something is plural, you will not use an apostrophe. If you are indicating possession of a word, then it is appropriate to insert an apostrophe, e.g. The candidate’s CV was very impressive.

If you are referring to something being possessive, which is also plural, then you should insert the apostrophe after the s, e.g. The Candidates’ CVs impressed the interviewer.

An apostrophe can be used to indicate the possessive, omission of letters or words, exclusion of numbers and time or quantity. With regards to indicating the omission of letters –known formally as a contraction – it is appropriate to insert the apostrophe where the letter would have appeared, e.g., cannot, becomes can’t. Commonly, the apostrophe is used to shorten ‘it is’ to ‘it’s’. As a general rule, if you can change it’s to it is within your sentence and it remains grammatically correct, then you can use it’s. If it is not grammatically accepted, then its must be used.

Ensure your tenses are consistent

It is advised to use the same tense throughout your CV and cover letter to avoid complications and to ensure a clear and flowing text. It is prudent to use past tense where you are detailing accomplishments and experiences, while a present tense should be used to indicate current duties and responsibilities.

Once you have completed your CV, it is essential that you proofread it. You should read it from top to bottom without interruptions to ascertain if the flow of the CV is right and to assess whether you have left important information out – gaps in your CV will not go unnoticed. Once you are happy with your CV and cover letter, it is advisable to ask a family member or friend, who is apt in spotting spelling and grammar mistakes, to proofread your CV. This will give you a greater guarantee that your CV is professionally written and structured. 

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