It takes just one teenie-tiny typo on your otherwise awesome résumé to ruin your chances of landing a job.
Of course, there are some employers who are willing to overlook a spelling mistake or two on your job application (after all, your qualifications and experience are what really matter here), but for many others, it can signal that you’re careless and unprofessional.
And no potential employer who thinks this of you will ever consider hiring you, especially when you drop something like having a ‘keen eye for derail’! I can assure you that you do not have a keen eye for ‘derail’ – or detail, for that matter!
So, to save you from potential embarrassment and missing out on the career opportunity of a lifetime, here’s a compilation of proofreading tips and techniques that will help you improve your résumé – and job prospects in the process.
1. Use Spellcheck
First things first, make sure you’ve enabled the spellcheck feature of your chosen word processor as you set out to write your résumé. This can be incredibly handy for catching any grammar and spelling errors you’ve made.
You should also make sure the language is set to British English instead of American English or vice versa – whichever is applicable to your particular situation. If you’re in the UK and applying for a job in the US, for example, you’ll be writing a résumé instead of a CV, and you should make it a point to use local grammar and spelling conventions rather than those you learnt at school in the UK.
That said, you shouldn’t blindly trust spellcheck with your career prospects. While it will catch most mistakes, it won’t highlight every mishap– for example, it will most likely miss the omitted letter in ‘Working as a hiring manger’ or the stray letter in ‘Working in a busty office’. And it is because of potentially embarrassing mistakes like these why you should always – always – personally review your résumé before submitting it to employers.
2. Have a Break
Have a Kit Kat.
Well, not necessarily, but you can if you really want to!
The point here is to get away from your résumé for a bit once you’ve finished writing it and right before you start editing it. Ideally, you should leave it to ‘soak’ overnight, or for a few days if you’re able to, but if you’re not, then a couple of hours will suffice.
This little break will enable you to get some distance from your own writing and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes when you’ll be able to identify any issues you may have missed the first time around.
Be sure to plan for this break when applying for a job, though. The last thing you want to be doing is scrambling around on the day of the applications deadline trying to get everything in order. The more rushed you are, the more mistakes you are likely to make – and miss!
3. Print Your Résumé
Although not as good for the environment as a digital copy of your résumé, a printed version is easier to edit: grammar and spelling mistakes will stand out more, meaning you’ll be less likely to miss them.
Our brains seem to prefer reading information on paper rather than on screen – and there’s been a wealth of research to support this claim. Indeed, ‘digital readers are more focused on skimming, scanning and searching for keywords than on constructing meaning, analysing the text and learning how to sustain attention long enough to purposefully engage on a personal level with the text,’ according to Kimberly Carraway, the author of Transforming Your Teaching (paid link).
When proofreading a hard copy of your résumé, do remember to use a red pen to mark your corrections – blue, or especially black, ink can easily blend in with the rest of the CV and, as a result, you may end up overlooking important notes.
4. Read it out Aloud
There’s one proofreading technique that all writers and editors swear by, and that’s reading out loud what you’ve written. Sure, it can feel a little weird reading your résumé out to yourself, but as long as you aren’t doing it in public (for example, on a bus on your way to work), then no one’s going to question your sanity.
When you’re reading a piece of text silently, your brain ‘auto-corrects’ what it’s reading and often sees what it wants to see, adding words that aren’t even there. When you’re reading it out loud, though, you’re more focused on what’s on the page and, as a result, you’re better able to identify any problems in wording or sentence structure.
In other words, your ears are better trained at catching mistakes than your eyes.
5. Break it Down
While you’ll typically create a résumé across two pages (or more, depending on your level of experience and the particular industry you’re applying for a job in), you’ll probably find yourself skimming the text if you proofread those two pages in one sitting – and, therefore, missing potentially embarrassing spelling mistakes.
In order to ensure you don’t miss any typos and that you avoid using any banned words and phrases (think ‘track record’ and ‘best of breed’), break your résumé down into smaller, easily digestible chunks of information.
In other words, split your résumé's sections (personal details, employment history, skills and so on) into separate pages and go through them one at a time. This will help you focus on the specific section (and page) you’re reading and, therefore, prevent your eyes from jumping ahead.
Make sure you place emphasis on reading each section line by line and word by word – you might even want to take it one step further and use a ruler to slowly guide you down the document.
6. Read it Backwards
Once you’ve read your résumé from the top down, read it again but this time from the bottom up. Start with the last sentence, then move to the second-last sentence, then the third-last and so on till you get to the first sentence.
While it might seem a little tedious, to say the least, it will help you slow your reading speed down and break the logical flow of language, forcing you to focus more on individual words, punctuation marks and spaces rather than complete sentences – effectively preventing your brain from subconsciously correcting spelling and capitalisation errors.
7. Narrow Your Focus
Instead of reading your résumé from start to finish in one sitting, looking for every mistake at once, narrow your focus to editing one issue at a time. This will get tedious fast, yes, but it effectively ensures you’re not missing anything that could potentially harm your chances of getting a job interview – which, of course, is the whole point of your résumé.
In other words, go through your résumé once looking for spelling mistakes, then again for capitalisation, then punctuation, then verb tenses, then formatting and so on.
And I can’t stress enough the importance of proofreading your résumé (and accompanying documents like your cover letter) for factual accuracy and consistency. For example, if you mistakenly (or, worse, intentionally) put the wrong employment dates on your résumé and the HR department of the company you’re applying to discovers these inconsistencies or blatant lies (through a background check, for example), then rest assured it will reflect badly on you.
So, make sure you check (and double-check and triple-check) the names of employers, job titles, dates of employment, portfolio URLs and your contact information! After all, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime because you mistyped your phone number!
8. Change the Font
If you’ve spent hours and hours writing your résumé, you’ve probably grown accustomed to your font choice, especially if it’s one that you use for practically everything – both at work and at home. But this can work against you, as it makes it harder for you to spot any mistakes you’ve made.
One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to change the font on your résumé before you begin proofreading. This will freshen it up a little bit and encourage you to be more focused and critical in your editing.
Which font you choose to use is entirely up to you, but the more distinctly different it is from the original font, the better. Comic Sans, for example, is a common suggestion – and probably the only time it’s actually useful!
Whatever you choose, though, do make sure it’s legible and that you change it back to a more professional-looking font (like Calibri or Garamond) once you’ve finished editing your résumé!
9. Use an Online Tool
If writing a résumé isn’t your forte or English isn’t your first language, don’t worry: help is at hand. In fact, there are plenty of online proofreading tools out there – some free, some not – which can help you create a résumé that ticks all the grammatical boxes.
Take Grammarly, for instance, which scans text for more than 400 grammar rules, or LanguageTool, which is available in more than 20 languages. Then there’s Slick Write, which will even flag sentences starting with the same words!
On a side – but very relevant – note, don’t just focus on proofreading the content of your résumé. Make sure that all the little things have been checked over, too! After all, chances are the HR manager responsible for reviewing applications won’t even bother opening your résumé if they spot a typo in the file name!
10. Ask a Friend
We can be a little biased when it comes to editing our own work, which is why, in the professional world, expert editors are called in to take care of stray commas and awkward phrasings in books, newspapers and websites.
Since you know what you want to say, you’ll find it difficult catching any mistakes you’ve made on your résumé, so the best thing to do is ask a trusted friend or family member (or two) to look it over for you. Not only will they find the typos you’ve missed but they’ll also be able to give you constructive feedback on your document's overall content and layout.
Send them a copy of your résumé in MS Word format and ask them to enable the ‘Track Changes’ function so you can easily see what they change, and then use their feedback to complete your final edit. It’s also a good idea to send them a list of questions and things to look out for, for example:
- Is your career target clear?
- Is the font choice and size legible?
- Is the format consistent and visually appealing?
- Do bullets accurately explain your contributions and achievements?
- Is the résumé as a whole easy to read?
You may be a perfect match for the job you’re applying for and you may have faithfully followed our tips on writing the perfect résumé , but if you forego the proofreading stage, then you’re setting yourself up for certain failure. Especially if you’re guilty of misusing there/their/they’re or highlighting your fluency in ‘Spinach’.
And with the help of the tips and tricks above, you’ll be able to create an error-free résumé and effectively improve your chances of landing the job of your dreams.
Can you think of any other résumé proofreading techniques worth mentioning? Join the conversation down below and let us know! We also want to hear your stories about funny typos you made (and missed) in your job applications!