The Importance of Proofreading Your Résumé

by • December 05, 2013

proofreading, resume, mistakes, job searchDid you know that recruiters only spend an average of six seconds reviewing your résumé? You have a very small window in which to wow them, and in this competitive job market, even the smallest mistake can be enough to knock you out of the running. There are three main aspects of proofreading: spelling, grammar, and consistency. We’ll look at each of those below, but first, some sobering statistics about how many errors we found in a sampling of résumés.

Grammarly recently conducted an audit of 50 active résumés on Indeed.com, learned the following:

  • There are 5 potential errors on a typical job seeker’s résumé, and most of these issues (nearly 60 percent) are grammatical.
  • Female job seekers make an average of 4 grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes in their résumé, while male job seekers average more than 6 mistakes.
  • The average job seeker makes more than 1.5 punctuation errors, but very few spelling mistakes (less than one per résumé).
  • Job seekers from the southern U.S. make more mistakes (6) on their résumé than any other region: Northeastern U.S. (3.9), Midwest (3.6) and West (3.6).

Since most word processing programs have built-in spell check, actual spelling errors are not as common in résumés. However, most programs don’t recognize contextual spelling errors—you meant to type manager but typed manger instead—so don’t rely entirely on them to do your proofreading.

Grammar errors are much more common than spelling errors. Sometimes these are simply slips of the keyboard—you meant to add a comma but hit the period key instead. Those typos are relatively easy to spot and correct, but there are other, more subtle errors that are harder to catch.

Make sure that you are deploying your hyphens correctly. If a compound adjective (two words that together describe something else) comes before the word it modifies, it should be hyphenated, as in “entry-level position.” However, if it comes after, it should not be hyphenated, as in “the work was entry level.” For a full rundown of compound adjectives, check out this article.

If you are still currently employed at a position, use the present tense. If you are no longer at the position, use past tense. Keep an eye on wandering tenses! Stay consistent within each section of your résumé, and stick with either the simple past (I worked, I typed) or the simple present (I cook, I create).

Although not technically an error, passive voice is considered to be incorrect (The documents were filed, etc). Make sure that the descriptions of your experience are always active: “I filed the documents.”

While proper nouns—names of companies, managers, and schools, for example—should be capitalized, common nouns should not. Some jobseekers have a tendency to capitalize certain common nouns for emphasis, but this is a mistake and should be avoided.

Although it may not immediately spring to mind, catching errors in consistency is an important part of proofreading your résumé. Check to make sure that the dates have all been formatted in the same way (e.g. month/day/year). Ensure that if you bolded your job title, you did so every time. If you notice extra spaces, remove them—this includes two spaces after periods, extra returns between paragraphs, or spaces at the beginning of a line. Ideally, your résumé should be cleanly and consistently formatted, easy to scan, and laid out logically to make the most out of those precious six seconds.

Still not convinced? Check out this composite of the “Worst Résumé Ever” created by Vivian Giang and Danielle Schlanger of Business Insider. They assembled the worst jobseekers sins in one painfully terrible résumé.

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