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 and have poor writing skills.

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

* Note: ‘proofreading’ as described in this article is what editors call ‘copy editing’. For more information about these definitions, go to: Copy editing/proofreading explained.

Can’t I just use spellcheck?

But if you rely on MS Word’s spellcheck to ensure your resume is error-free, prepare to be disappointed: unlike a human proofreader, Spellcheck won’t notice or correct all errors. An example of a recent error I noticed in a resume that had been spellchecked, and sent to employers, by a client was the spelling of ‘compliant’ (e.g. compliant with regulations) as ‘complaint’. Other examples of errors that can slip through spellcheck are: incorrect spelling of ‘their’ (or they’re or there); ‘on’ instead of ‘no’; or one letter typed incorrectly in the word ‘case’ which could result in ’cause’, ‘base’, ‘came’, ‘cave’, ‘cast’, etc.

That said, spellcheck is indeed a handy tool for picking up typos prior to manually proofreading a document. Australian readers, note that you’ll need to change the language settings in spellcheck from its standard US English to either Australian or UK English. Here are the instructions for doing this in MS Word: Changing spellcheck to Australian or UK English.

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 (or your friends’) knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation are not very good, ask a professional proofreader to proofread your resume. As long as it includes all the information and has been well-written, formatted and self-edited and is ready for proofreading, the proofreading shouldn’t take longer than an hour and the task won’t cost you more than $100.
  • 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 resume yourself, the result is likely to be pretty good. *

* Note that even skilled writers and editors ask someone else (a ‘fresh pair of eyes’) to proofread their own work because if you’ve written it yourself, you will miss minor errors that a professional proofreader would pick up. A resume proofread by the person who wrote it will be pretty good, but not perfect.

Tips for proofreading your resume yourself

  1. Be sure you have good knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you don’t, you won’t be able to correct the main mistakes in your resume and should ask someone else to proofread 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 self-editing your resume, you then wait a couple of days before proofreading it.
  3. Read your resume aloud as well as viewing it with your eyes. Your ear is likely to notice small errors that your eyes 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 should proofread it two or three times to make it as error-free as possible.

Additional information

This article is about self-editing and proofreading your resume. If you have written a report or manuscript intended for publication, it must be edited and proofread by a professional editors. For more information go to:

Image: Pixabay (Creative Commons licence – no attribution required)

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