How One Typo Can Ruin Your Job Search

by • July 02, 2013

 

Interviewer worries about resume error cartoon.

Guest post by Robert McCauley

Job seekers receive no shortage of advice from colleagues, peers, friends, and family. Everyone has some nugget of wisdom to help you land the position. Of all the tips you’re likely to receive, this one may be the most valuable: Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

What does having strong attention to detail have to do with finding a job? Sometimes, everything. Consider these real-life resume mistakes collected by Robert Half; we call them “Resumania.”

RESUME: “Referees available upon request.”

EDUCATION: “Bachelor of ants degree.”

RESUME: “I work hard but do enjoy taking log lunches.”

PROFESSIONAL SKILLS: “Very smard.”

OBJECTIVE: “I want the job at your company so baldy.”

SKILLS: “Excel at working within a tea-oriented culture.”

AVAILABILITY: “I am defiantly open to relocating.”

EDUCATION: “I have a bachelorette degree in computers.”

QUALIFICATIONS: “Typing speed of -60 words per minute.”

TECHNICAL ABILITIES: “Great Microsoft Office skis.”

Statements like these are good for laughs. But, of course, that’s not what the professionals who wrote them had hoped for. Rather than highlighting their skills and experience, they called those qualities into question. As you can see, even a single missing or misplaced letter can make a world of difference.

Still not convinced? Consider this: Three out of four executives surveyed by Robert Half said “just one or two typos in a resume are enough to remove applicants from consideration for a job.” Forty percent said it takes only one typo to rule candidates out. That’s because hiring managers will assume a mistake in your application materials means you’re just as prone to errors on the job.

Here’s how to ensure you submit an error-free resume and cover letter:

Start with spell-check. There’s absolutely no excuse for not running your software’s built-in spell-check function. But even these apps aren’t perfect. Consider also using an additional tool such as Grammarly to give your application materials an extra-thorough examination.

Hit Print. Go old-school by printing out your resume and cover letter. It’s often easier to spot typos when reviewing a hard copy than when reading a document on screen. You also can focus on formatting elements—such as font style, boldface and italics—which spelling and grammar checks won’t scan.

Go line by line. Proofread your documents with a ruler in hand. This simple tool allows you to focus to a single line of text at a time. It’s not a quick process, but it’s worth it.
Shift into reverse. Yes, it sounds strange, but reading your documents backward will help you concentrate on individual words. You’re also less likely to assume familiar passages are OK and skip over them.

Ask for help. As a final step, ask a friend, family member or professional contact to review your resume. A fresh set of eyes may spot slipups you’ve overlooked. Another person also can alert you to sections of your resume that might be vague or confusing. Just remember to express your thanks afterward.

What if the unthinkable happens, and you send in your resume only to discover later that it contained an error? It’s happened to me before, and it’ll make your stomach drop.

Unfortunately, there’s little recourse. Resubmitting your materials—and explaining the reason for doing so—will only draw more attention to the mistake. It’s better to hope the employer doesn’t look too closely. At the very least, I can guarantee you won’t make the same mistake again.


Photo of Robert McCauley.Robert McCauley is a career expert with Robert Half, a leading specialized staffing firm that helps skilled professionals find rewarding temporary and full-time jobs in a variety of fields. Robert has been writing about the job search and careers for more than 10 years. Connect with him and Robert Half on Twitter and YouTube.

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