Your tie is straight and your hair is neat. You’ve practiced that perfect handshake. You’re more than ready to dazzle a potential employer…but none of that matters if you haven’t yet gotten the call for an interview.
Remember: it’s not only your experience or skills that will make or break your application; in many cases, it’s the grammar on your resume.
Your resume is the first thing about you a potential employer sees—and even though your skills and past experience will be carefully evaluated, so will your professionalism. One of the fastest ways for a potential employer to get a sense of your professional character is the spelling, grammar and punctuation on your resume. A resume without typos can mean the difference between being called in for an interview or being passed over for another candidate.
More than two-thirds of all office jobs require a significant amount of writing, making written communication a key consideration in hiring. The bottom line is that employers need to be totally sure you’re able to fire off emails, reports and other documents quickly and flawlessly—and your resume is an effective measuring stick.
Although that seems obvious to many job seekers, a recent Grammarly study found the average candidate makes up to six spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes in his or her resume. Six! With that many errors in a document meant to showcase your talents, imagine how many mistakes might end up in an email or report.
Here are a few steps to ensure your writing will not scare off potential employers:
1. Use Spell Check
Seriously. When you stare at your resume for too long, simple mistakes (such as spelling “and” as “adn”) can go unnoticed. Only contextual spell checkers like Grammarly (full disclosure: that’s where I work) account for words that are spelled correctly but not in context. Examples include confusion between “your” and “you’re” and “then” and “than.”
2. Review Your Grammar
Linguists and writers consistently argue about the specific rules related to proper use of grammar. And, although “grammar” is a pretty broad term, for the purposes of your resume and job search, there is only one true metric that potential employers consider as they look to decipher the grammar in your resume: does this make sense?
When talking about past work experience, consistently use verbs in the past tense. Job seekers who talk about a current position should use the present tense (“lead” versus “led,” etc.). Makes sense, right?
Use a thesaurus to find words with the same meaning so you don’t sound like a broken record. A wider vocabulary shows your potential employer you are creative and resourceful, while “I am a dedicated person who is dedicated to my job” does not. It just makes sense!
Read your writing aloud when proofreading. You will catch errors you might miss otherwise. You will also notice if your sentences make sense or sound odd, which is something spelling and grammar checkers cannot tell you.
3. Use Consistent Formatting
Choose a format, and stick with it! Having bullet points in one section of a resume and numbers in the next is distracting. Make sure all your fonts are the same type, size and color (which should always be black). Review your resume or document for general uniformity, and if one section stands out, tweak it to match the rest.
Checking for all these seemingly minor errors might make you cringe, but many resources online can help. Websites such as Words, Answers and Handbook are just a few of the online resources you can use to catch mistakes and improve your writing.
Good resume writing can help you land that dream job interview—and, once that’s in order, you can take advantage of that perfect handshake.