We’ve all heard that recruiters toss out resumes for something as simple as a typo—which is why it’s always a good idea to have someone proofread it before you hit submit. However, it’s not realistic to get someone to review it after every little tweak. But, it also doesn’t change the reality that it gets really tricky to pick up on your own mistakes, especially after a few edits.
So, what can you do? Try to be as careful and thorough as possible, of course. (Here’s a guide for that.) But also be extra mindful of these five areas whenever you’re editing it yourself.
1. Mistakes in Words in All Caps
I can’t tell you how many resumes I’ve seen with “Massachusetts” misspelled—and I work with a pretty talented lot at MIT. But, once you put that word in all caps, it’s easy to not catch an errant “s” with the naked eye. Or with spell-check, since it conveniently doesn’t screen words in all caps.
Pro Tip: Spell-check is great, but you can’t always rely on it. Go through your resume and manually check all the spelling in words that are in all caps.
2. Little Inconsistencies
If you want to stand out (in a good way), you’re going to have to pay attention to the details in order to keep the entire document consistent. That means getting into the nitty-gritty details and deciding whether or not you’re going to have periods at the end of your bullets or how you’re going to format employment dates. Yep, that means not switching back and forth between dates that feature months, just years, or seasons.
Pro Tip: Make up some rules for your resume and stick with them. Consistency will help create one that’s easier on the eyes.
3. Incorrect Contact Information
When proofreading, most people skip the name and contact info section and go straight to the content. You would think that’s not a big deal. Well, I, Lily Zhang, career counselor, have a confession to make. I’ve definitely sent out a few resumes with a typo in my email address before. Don’t let this be you!
Pro Tip: Mentally make a note to go edge to edge when you proofread your resume. Take nothing for granted.
4. The Wrong Verb Tense
It’s easiest to make a mistake on the verb tense of your bullets when you’re trying to update an out-of-date version with your most recent accomplishments. It’s common to forget to change older experiences to past tense or switch back and forth between simple present tense and present continuous tense. You might not notice the weird tenses, but a recruiter definitely will.
Pro Tip: Do a run through of your resume where you just check to see if you’re using the right tense for each bullet. Since it’s not a spelling error and not technically a grammar error, you’ll have to catch these discrepancies on your own.
5. Lack of Context
Probably the hardest thing about editing your own resume is that you will always know what you mean—even if you write some incredibly vague and incoherent sentences. Your goal, however, is to make sure recruiters and hiring managers who’ve never met you before or heard anything about your work history will understand what you’ve written.
Pro Tip: Attempt to look at each bullet as a stand-alone entity and see if your bullets make sense without any additional context. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than not trying.
Job searching can be a lonely process, and you have to rely on your own resilience for much of it, but every once in a while you’ll get the chance to get an extra pair of eyes on your resume. Take it. And until then, keep these five pointers in mind each time you need to tweak it a bit.
Photo of woman editing courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author