Rise above the rest by presenting a perfect, error-free resume

When you're writing a resume, you have a whole lifetime to consider – and to condense into a couple of pages. Looking back over the years at the skills you've developed, the qualifications you've gained, the courses you've completed, and the experience you've acquired both professionally and personally, you have a tough job on your hands to produce a resume that not only looks great but is packed with content that makes you shine. 

Well done if you manage to wrestle your life onto two pages! Now comes the next stage - polishing it so that you're presenting the very best version of yourself. As you're so close to it, it's natural that the odd mistake will creep in. Don't let a silly typo or misplaced apostrophe create a poor first impression and prevent you from progressing further in the hiring process. 

In this article we'll give you some hints and tips to help you with resume proofreading so that you can knock the socks off the hiring manager - for all the right reasons. We've also got some examples of common mistakes, so that you can elevate your resume above the crowd. 

Why should you proofread your resume?

Whichever role you're applying for, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Don't let that impression be one of sloppy work and carelessness! When they evaluate your resume and cover letter, employers aren't only looking at your skills, experience, and qualifications. They're also looking at the presentation of the documents. 

How well you lay out the content and articulate your suitability for the role and, yes, how good your spelling, grammar and punctuation is, all form part of that first impression. Have you noticed how many job postings specify that applicants need “good communication skills?” Accurate writing is just one of the ways you can meet their expectations. 

Throughout the hiring process, it's likely that multiple people will review your resume - and every single one of them will be left with their own impression of you. All of these people have the potential to influence hiring decisions, so why expect them all to overlook your careless typo or your poor phrasing? 

As you can see, resume proofreading isn't optional - it's a necessity! So, without further ado, let's dive into some techniques you can use to banish even the most easily overlooked errors. 

How do you proofread a resume?

There are many different ways that you can eliminate errors and polish punctuation. While you won't want to use all the methods suggested here, it's recommended that you use a variety of techniques to ensure you capture every little mistake that's crept in. 

Use spell check

Your first port of call for resume proofreading is likely to be the built-in spellchecker on Word. We've all experienced the typos that arise from rushed typing or made some of the common spelling errors that seem to be entering our daily lexicon. Working with spell check turned on means that you can make changes while you type the document, so your first draft should already have several errors removed. Beware of relying solely on spell check though - there are several common errors it won't pick up and it also won't check for sense or accuracy. 

Pro tip: Make sure your spell check is set to the right version of English for where you're applying – American English is unlikely to go down well in the UK and vice versa. 

Read the document very slowly

Great – using spell check means you now have a good draft to work with. Next up, go through the document again yourself, word by word and line by line. Try not to read what you think it says, but what it actually says. Take as long as you can to read it – don't rush. You're more likely to catch errors and typos if you take your time. 

Read aloud

Next up, you might like to find a quiet place to work, because you'll be reading your resume and cover letter aloud. There are two ways you can do this. The first is to read each word out loud yourself. The second, and best, way is to use the Read Aloud function on Word, which will read the entire document to you. 

This is a great resume proofreading technique, as you'll be able to hear errors you may not pick up visually. An added bonus is that it forces you to slow down your reading, so as each word is highlighted you'll automatically pick up further errors, such as missing commas or jarring phrases. 

Leverage technology 

While we'd never advocate using AI to write your resume, technology is your friend and can be leveraged to improve your application. While no specific resume proofreading software exists, common tools such as Grammarly and Hemmingway will flag potential issues. You could also prompt ChatGPT to spot typos or other mistakes. This is an easy way to upgrade your resume proofreading free of charge.

Pro tip: There's no substitute for a human brain – yet! Rather than blindly implementing every recommendation from these tools, take a critical approach to determine whether the suggestions are actually correct. If they wouldn't improve your documents – or would even introduce further errors – leave them by the wayside. 

Change the font

Why not try switching your standard font for one you don't normally use? Pick a serif font, rather than serif, for example. Seeing the words look different, with different spacing, might just make that misplaced letter jump out. Don't forget to change it back to your preferred font afterwards though!

Take a break

Writing a resume can be draining! You don't just need to trawl back through a lifetime of information to identify your skills, experience, and qualifications; you also need to summarize them into a compelling and persuasive document that looks good, sells you, and meets the requirements of the role. And when you've done that, you need to start on the cover letter too – or even a personal statement! 

Treat yourself to a break; you deserve it. Come back to the resume after a good night's sleep, or a day out – or even a holiday. Reading it with fresh eyes and a clear mind will help you to spot mistakes that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. 

Read it backwards

This tip won't help you to ensure that the document makes sense, but it could help you to pick up little typos and spelling errors that have crept in. Start at the end of the document and read one word at a time until you get to the top. Removing the context will prevent you from predicting the next word rather than checking it properly – and you'll read much more slowly, too!

Print it out or use a different device 

You've seen the resume on the screen you created it on – it's time to switch it up. Try printing the document on paper or viewing it on a phone or tablet. You could even do your resume proofreading in a different room. Changing the medium and the location will help you to see the document in a different light and maybe catch the last remaining errors. 

Call in your wingman

That's it – you've done all you can to catch those pesky problems. But you can still go one step further! Who is your wingman? Who do you trust above all others? Whether you have a colleague who's a whizz with words, an auntie who can spot an aberrant apostrophe at 50 yards, or a mate who'd happily take a machete to your work, don't be afraid to ask for help. After all, your own eyes are probably sick of the sight of your resume and cover letter by now. Worse, all that typing and tweaking and revisiting may have introduced even more errors!

Pro tip: A second pair of eyes on your work is invaluable - just make sure you pick someone who is willing to speak up and provide constructive feedback. Someone who tells you it's great, even if it's not, is doing more harm than good. 

Rely on the experts

If you don't want to impose on friends and family, or even if you're just keeping your job search on the down-low for now, you can still get help with your resume. Resume editing services such as TopResume have writers with excellent skills in English and proofreading and – as a bonus – they've seen all the most common resume errors a hundred times so they know what to look out for. Why not ask them to give your resume the once-over, for real peace of mind? 

Proofreading a resume - common errors

We've covered some general resume proofreading tips to make sure your resume is as error-free as possible, but we still have more for you! There are some types of mistakes that our resume writers see so often that they're almost predictable. A quick survey of experienced resume writers came up with some common resume mistakes that you'll want to avoid. 

False friends

These are words that have more than one spelling, sound similar, or are regular victims of typos. Check that none of these have slid in when you settle down to your resume proofreading:

Role / roll: You almost certainly want to use role – this is the job you do, as opposed to roll – a bread product or the action of turning over. 

Manager / manger: Your manager is your boss, a manger is where the baby Jesus was born. It's a dead certainty that the first version is what you should be using on your resume, but unfortunately in March 2024 there were 14,000+ people on LinkedIn describing themselves as mangers. Don't be one of them!

Customer / costumer: A customer is the person you serve, a costumer is someone dealing in snazzy outfits. Again, you probably need the first option. 

Diary / dairy: Executive Assistants and Administrators who say they're involved in dairy management can expect to see more cows than anticipated in their next role. Use a diary for recording your appointments and a dairy for milking your herd of cattle. 

Compliment / complement: Hopefully you get a lot of compliments at work – that's when someone says something nice about your work (or your new hairdo). Complement means that things fit well together – like apple pie and custard. 

Lead / led: While both words have a place on many resumes, led is the past tense (e.g. I led a team in my previous job) and lead is the present tense (e.g. I lead a team at the moment).

Rapport / Rapour: You strike up a rapport with someone – rapour isn't even a word, but is a common example of people spelling as they talk. Spellcheck has underlined it for a reason!

Ethic / ethnic: Ethic commonly sits with work (e.g. I have a great work ethic), whereas ethnic commonly sits with minority (e.g. a disproportionate number of ethnic minority children are excluded). Choose wisely as that one letter makes all the difference!

Other common resume and cover letter errors

Of course, not all mistakes are caused by false friends like those above. Some are introduced as deliberate choices due to a misunderstanding on the part of the writer. That's why having someone else review your resume can be vital in picking up errors that would otherwise be missed. Common examples are: 

Spelling of proper nouns: Proper nouns are names and therefore are often not in a spellcheck dictionary. You can expect to see spell check highlighting some proper nouns on your resume, but that doesn't mean they're wrong – they may even highlight your own name as a typo! Don't automatically ignore the spell check in these instances though – on a resume, it's important to double-check the spelling of company names and software in particular. 

Check not just the spelling, but also capitalisation and spacing as well. Brands are often keen to stand out by taking a quirky or unconventional approach to spelling, punctuation, and grammar! Make sure you use the brand name exactly as it's designed. 

Capitalization: When you're proofreading your resume, watch out for your use of capital letters. Often they sneak in when they shouldn't. Capitals are most commonly used correctly to start sentences or for names and titles. Don't use them to add emphasis or just because something seems important. For example, “I specialize in Financial Investigation, Reporting, and Data Analysis” has altogether far too many capitals. 

Apostrophes: Those that can, love them. Those that can't, hate them. The controversial topic of apostrophes is very relevant to resumes, as they are so frequently misplaced. Acronyms don't need them and neither do plurals – it's KPIs not KPI's, and targets not target's, for example. Apostrophes are only ever used for omission and possession, but if in doubt, call in your wingman. Or a professional. Or even AI. Just don't throw them around like confetti!

Spacing: Resume proofreading isn't just about the words, it's also about what's between them. Ensure there's plenty of white space between sections and that the spacing is consistent throughout the document. Also, remember that the standard these days is one space after a period, not two.

Consistency: A resume that uses words and abbreviations consistently is one that shines with attention to detail and accuracy. Choose your format and stick to it. For example, don't write “$10million” in one place, “$10M” in another, and “$10m” in yet another. Similarly, keep monetary values in one currency wherever possible to support comparisons – don't mix $, £ and € unless it's unavoidable. 

Repetition: Is your resume an engaging and interesting read? Or is it dull as ditchwater? If you've started every other bullet point with “managed” or “responsible for,” I'm afraid you fall into the latter category. Shake up your vocabulary and use a variety of words to stop your reader falling asleep halfway through. Why not create a word cloud of your resume? The words you use most often will appear in a larger font and you can use this information to identify where you need to switch it up. 

Accessibility: This is another area where input from your wingman is invaluable. Do they understand the entire resume? Remember that, initially at least, the resume may not be read by someone with an in-depth understanding of your role. Maybe a recruiter, HR Manager or executive has got their hands on it. If it's filled with acronyms, abbreviations, and industry jargon, their eyes will glaze over and their brain will switch off. TL:DR: make sure your resume makes sense to a layperson.

Finally: Don't forget to proofread your resume any time you make changes to it. If you're doing a major update, such as adding your latest role, you'll definitely want to check through the entire document at least once more to catch mistakes and ensure it aligns with your current career aspirations

It's all about how you're presenting yourself

Of course, everyone wants an error-free resume and cover letter when they're applying for a new job. With these hints, tips, and hacks, and a commitment to resume proofreading, your job search documents should be ready to wow hiring managers and land you that interview.

If you'd like a fresh pair of eyes on your resume, why not submit it for a free resume review by our experts? Take the guesswork out and increase your confidence with the knowledge that you've done all you can to make the recruiter's jaw drop.

This article was originally written by Amanda Augustine and has been updated by Jen David.

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