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Spelling mistakes won’t ruin your resume, but these things will

It’s important to proofread your resume, but according to a recruiting professional, small typos won’t make or break your application.

Spelling mistakes won’t ruin your resume, but these things will
[Photo: Jason Leung/Unsplash]

There’s some career advice you’ll hear over and over again–one of which is that recruiters will throw out your resume in the trash the moment they catch a typo or a spelling mistake.

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But as somebody who has worked in recruitment for many years, I can tell you that this isn’t the case. I’m not saying that it’s okay to litter your resume with spelling errors, but there are much more important things you should be thinking about when writing your resume.

Imagine you are a recruiter and you need to find a candidate who has project management skills, banking experience, and a rare qualification. You search for months, and finally, you come across somebody who ticks all of the boxes. You pick up the phone to call them, only to catch a glaring spelling error on line 23. If you’re a recruiter, are you going to let that stop you? You know it will take you at least a few weeks to find someone with the same qualifications.

A recruiter’s success rests on finding a suitable candidate for a vacancy, so if your experience and skills fit the bill, they’re probably not going to let a typo get in the way of you getting an interview. Recruiters and hiring managers will call you if they can quickly see that you are suitable for a particular role from looking at your resume. Yes, it’s that simple.

Focus on avoiding these three mistakes that recruiters genuinely care about.

Mistake no. 1: You make your resume too broad

It’s tempting to cram a wide variety of skills and knowledge into your resume with the hope that it will have a broad appeal and translate to a wide audience.

The problem with that approach is that employers want to hire people who are experts in their fields and can hit the ground running from day one. They don’t want to hire a jack-of-all-trades type who has scratched the surfaces of many different specialisms but hasn’t gained a deep understanding in any particular field–especially when it comes to senior staff.

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Here’s another way to think about it. If you’re looking for a unique piece of jewelry, would you go to the big supermarket that sells every product imaginable and has a few jewelry pieces for sale? Or would you go the small store that sells a wide variety of jewelry but doesn’t sell anything else?

You’d probably choose the latter, because they have the knowledge and expertise to help you find what you’re looking for. You should employ the same attitude with your resume.

If you are considering a few different types of roles for your next job search, it’s better to create numerous separate resumes that are tailored to each one than to scattergun a generic resume to all of them. Yes, it’s a lot more work, but you have a lot more to lose by not tailoring your applications.

Mistake No. 2: You don’t understand your target role requirements

If you don’t thoroughly research the roles you are planning to apply for, it will be almost impossible to create a resume that appeals to your target employers. And spending a few minutes looking at a couple of job ads isn’t going to cut it.

Dedicate some time to looking at plenty of relevant job ads, browsing company websites, and make a list of the most critical candidate requirements. Focus on hard skills like sales, marketing, languages, and programming. Don’t worry too much about soft skills like teamwork and motivation. Your hard skills will differentiate you from other candidates and ensure your resume appears in relevant searches.

You should also locate individuals on LinkedIn who are in similar roles to the ones you are applying for. Their profiles could reveal some hidden gems. Who knows, maybe there are valuable skills for that position that you have, but that the job ads didn’t mention.

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Mistake No. 3: You don’t optimize your resume for easy reading

When writing your resume, you need to consider the attention spans of recruiters and hiring managers. Both are generally pushed for time and are usually dealing with a large volume of applications on a day-to-day basis. A lot of candidates are overcomplicating resumes these days by adding photographs, logos, and other unnecessary design features. These things won’t affect a hiring decision, and they often clutter the page, making it difficult for readers to find what they need.

Keep your resume simple by making it text-based and focusing on providing a pleasant reading experience, rather than trying to dazzle people with your design skills (unless you’re applying for a design job). This approach may seem a little boring, but recruiters will thank you for it.

Use a crisp font and a black-and-white color scheme, and break the document up into clearly visible sections using bold headings and borders. You should also break up the text as much as possible by writing in short sentences and bullet points. Big chunky paragraphs are a reader’s worst nightmare and will make recruiters reluctant to read the information in full, which means they could miss some of your key selling points.

Draw attention to your achievements by giving them a separate heading within your role descriptions, and quantify them with facts and figures. You don’t want recruiters to miss any examples of the value you can bring to an employer.

Proofreading your resume is essential, but a small typo won’t make or break your application. If you want to create an effective resume that persuades recruiters to call you, focus on the bigger picture. Create a resume that will be easy for them to read, and instantly showcases your suitability. You’ll get much more traction that way.


Andrew Fennell is an experienced London recruiter, founder of resume advice website StandOut CV, and author of How to Write a CV–The Ultimate Guide.

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