Resumes – if they’re worth writing, they’re worth proofreading

Why is it important to proofread your resume?

Proofreading * your resume is particularly important if you intend to apply for jobs that require good writing skills or attention to detail. But even when applying for jobs that don’t need those skills – e.g. roles in retail, or hospitality – a spelling mistake might make the difference between your potential employer giving you a ring to arrange an interview, or your potential employer not calling you for an interview because there were spelling mistakes in your resume.

No matter how good your experience or skills or what sort of job you’re applying for, a resume that contains spelling or punctuation errors says: I’m unprofessional.

On the other hand, a resume that is well-presented with no errors says to a potential employer: I’m professional.

* Note: ‘proofreading’ as described in this article is also called ‘copy editing’. For more information, go to: Copy editing/proofreading explained.

Can’t I just use Spellcheck?

Spellcheck is a handy tool for picking up typos prior to then proofreading a document. But if you rely on Spellcheck to ensure your resume is error-free, prepare to be disappointed: unlike a human proofreader, Spellcheck won’t notice or correct all errors.

Furthermore, if you are applying for a job in Australia you need to use Australian spelling. Spellcheck won’t tell you how to correct (the Australian way) words that are spelled one way in America and another way in Australia. In fact, Spellcheck will tell you the Australian spelling is incorrect and to correct the word into American English. And Spellcheck certainly won’t regard words spelled the American way as incorrect. On the other hand, a proofreader will know the Australian spelling of all words and be able to make sure everything is spelled correctly (the Australian way).

A few examples of the many words spelled differently in Australia and America are: ‘organisation’ (Australian); ‘organization’ (American). ‘Colour’ (Australian); ‘color’ (American). ‘Centre’ (Australian); ‘Center’ (American). 

Can I proofread my own resume?

After writing and editing your resume, I suggest that if you have any friends or colleagues with good knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation, you ask them to proofread your resume for you. They are likely to notice the errors you have not noticed and may discover something important that’s been left out (e.g. your email address, or missing page numbers).

However, when you don’t have a friend or colleague with basic proofreading skills available to help you:

  • If your knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation are not very good, ask a professional proofreader to proofread your resume. As long as it’s been well-written, formatted and edited and is ready for proofreading, the proofreading stage shouldn’t take longer than half an hour and the task should not cost you very much.
  • If your spelling, grammar and punctuation skills are very good, you can proofread your own resume and if you follow the below Tips for proofreading your own resume, the result is likely to be quite good.

I proofread my own blog articles as well as the profiles, submissions and applications I need to write as part of running my editing business.  However, 1) I always take a couple of days’ break after self-editing my document before going back to proofread it, 2) I’m a professional editor and proofreader so I have the knowledge required to do a good job, and 3) I’m fully aware that as proofreader of my own writing, it’s very likely my document still contains some minor errors.

Tips for proofreading your own resume

  1. Make sure you have good knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you don’t, you won’t be able to correct all the mistakes in your resume.
  2. There is an old saying about the importance of using ‘a fresh pair of eyes’ to proofread because if you know the  material too well, you won’t notice all the minor errors in the document, whereas if you don’t know the material very well you’re more likely to pick up on those mistakes. Therefore, make sure that after writing and editing your resume, you wait one or two days before attempting to proofread it.
  3. Read your resume aloud with your voice as well as viewing it with your eyes. Your ear may notice small errors that your eyes may miss.
  4. If someone else is proofreading your document, they probably only need to go through it once. If you are proofreading your own document you’ll need to proofread it two or three times to make it as correct as possible.

As mentioned, I proofread my own blog articles, and it’s impossible to always notice every error when you proofread your own writing. If you see any minor errors in this article that I’ve missed, please let me know!

Additional information

This article is about self-editing and proofreading your resume. If you have written a manuscript intended for publication, it needs to be edited by a professional editor and proofread by a professional proofreader.

When can you self-edit and when do you need an editor?

Copy editing/proofreading explained

Other articles about editing and proofreading.

I’m currently writing another article about how to write, edit and proofread your own job application… so watch this space.

This article is based on my experience over the past 20 years, working with selection panels and resumes; editing and proofreading reports, policy documents and my own and others’ publications; self-publishing mainly non-fiction hardcopy publications; and online writing and publishing (of my website and blog). Keep posted for future articles about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading.

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