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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

What You Should Realistically Do When You Make a Mistake on Your Application

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You spelled the hiring manager’s name wrong on your cover letter. There’s a weird formatting issue on your interview assignment. You sent an older version of your resume that included blah, blah, blah under one of the titles.

Is all hope lost? Should you pack it in and give up, because you’re never landing that job?

Definitely not. In fact, there’s a simple way you can recover from your mistake and easily put yourself back in the running. Here’s how:

Stop Stressing

First of all, cut yourself some slack. We’re not perfect, and sometimes we make mistakes. Sure, you wished it wasn’t in the exact moment when you needed to look like a put-together professional, but it’s really not the end of the world.

“We’re all human, and the person reviewing your application is also human, so we get it,” says The Muse’s Talent Acquisition Specialist Amanda Corrado. “It’s not an automatic no. And it really depends on the role—if you’re applying for an editor role, I might take a typo more seriously than let’s say an engineering role. But don’t beat yourself up about it.”

It’s also important to remember that mistakes are inevitable both in your job search and when you start working in a role. That’s why it’s so important to prove to the hiring manager that you know how to bounce back when they do happen.

“It’s kind of a reflection of what could happen in a work environment—you make a mistake, and you have to be able to follow up in the right way. So someone who follows up in a respectful manner and catches their mistake is better than someone who just lets it slide and doesn’t address it. They may not accept your response, but it never hurts to try,” adds Corrado.

So, how can you do this?

Find the Right Point of Contact

Try tracking down who’s reviewing applications. Maybe the HR team has a general inbox you can send questions to, or you’re able to find the hiring manager’s email address online, or you use the company’s contact information on their website (honestly, it’s worth trying anything that doesn’t have a “no reply”).

When in doubt, use the phone screening to address any holes in your application.

“It’s as simple as saying, ‘It sounds like you don’t have the most updated version of my resume. Can I send you the updated one?’” says Corrado.

Follow-Up With Your Updated Materials

Once you find the best point of contact, reach out. It could look something like this:

Hi [Name],

I’m so excited to apply for [role] at [company]. However, I just realized in my excitement that I submitted the wrong [resume/cover letter]. Would it be possible to update my application with the correct information?

Thank you so much, and apologies for the confusion!

[Your Name]

Use Your Thank You Note to Your Advantage

Let’s say your typo happened later in the process—in an interview assignment or email you sent after your interview.

In this case, use your thank you note as a way to put yourself on better terms. It’s your last chance to make a great impression, so don’t be afraid to bring up any looming concerns.

You could say something along the lines of: I noticed that I may have submitted an error on my writing test, and I wanted to address this… Or, follow up with: So sorry for spelling your name incorrectly in my last email! It was lovely to meet with you [Their Actual Name Spelled Correctly]…

Let it Go

Of course, this advice is a lot more applicable to little flops. There may be times when you’ve made a huge error and there’s just no way to fix it—whether because it’s too late, it’s too big of a mistake, or because there’s no one you can follow up with.

This is when I have to tell you to let it go (I know, I’m sorry!). Like I said above, you’re never going to get everything right all the time. The best thing you can do is do everything you can to rectify it. And if there’s nothing left to do, accept that it happened, learn from your mistake, and move on.

And remember that one small mishap to you might not look like anything to a hiring manager—and you may move forward in the process not having to worry about it at all.

You know what I’m going to say to wrap this up, don’t you? Whatever the outcome of your typo now, make sure this doesn’t happen again.

What does that look like? The next time you submit an application, double check all your materials, then triple check them. Then, have a friend look them over. Then, don’t press send until you’re absolutely sure everything’s correct. This resume checklist and this cover letter one can help.