This question was asked to a fellow student by the career development course instructor at my public relations certificate program after the instructor reviewed a draft of her resume. A missed “L” in what was supposed to be the word “public” not only implied this student was looking for an entirely different career, but also earned her a failing grade on the resume assignment.
The importance of proofreading:
Not all typos in a resume or cover letter will be so hilarious, but they can all guarantee the same result – a potential employer or manager will question your attention to detail and seriousness about your own career. Hence the “F” grade in the above example, as the instructor wanted to drive home this key message.
Remember the following tips as you proofread your resume or cover letter:
- Spelling: When drafting a resume or cover letter using Pages, Word and even Gmail, these programs provide the luxury of highlighting spelling errors. On many devices, the software automatically corrects typos for us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much stopped using the actual spell check tool. However, it’s important to do a formal spell check to ensure you don’t become blind to some of the obvious errors. Remember to check the context of how a word is spelled, as you may have accidentally typed something that’s technically spelled correctly, although you wanted to say something entirely different (for example, the spelling of “Public” and “Pubic” in the above example).
- Punctuation: Let’s be honest, no one really knows how to use a semi-colon (;). That’s okay! Just don’t pretend you do in your resume or a cover letter. When in doubt, stick with direct, simple sentences that incorporate action words. Avoid using confusing phrases with extra commas or dashes that may distract the reader from the overall piece.
- Proper names: Remember to double-check proper names. This may include the name of your high school or university, the name of a company or employer, a reference or even the person you’re addressing the cover letter to.
- Using numbers: If possible, avoid starting a sentence with a number, but if you have to, spell it out. Also, a rule of thumb is to spell the number out if it’s nine or below, and to use the numerical form if the number is 10 or higher.
- Contact information: Lastly, make sure you thoroughly check even the taken-for-granted details, including your phone number and email address. You may have reviewed your resume or cover letter many times, so your eyes may just glaze over your contact information. It would be a shame if you lost out on a job or volunteer opportunity because the hiring manager couldn’t get in touch to tell you how awesome you are!
As a communications professional, I usually defer to the Canadian Press (CP) Stylebook if I’m unsure of the spelling, Canadian spelling or proper usage of a word or phrase. The CP Stylebook and other related manuals are available online here. To quickly confirm a word’s spelling or usage, you can also look it up in a top-tier news outlet, such as the Globe and Mail or National Post to see how these outlets spell or use it. The journalists and editors at these outlets usually follow the CP Stylebook as well.
What tips do you have for proofreading your resume or cover letter?