Proofreading Tips for Job Seekers

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Employers can be very picky during the hiring process. The smallest typo on your resume, cover letter, or other application materials might prevent you from getting an interview.

Therefore, it is important for you to proofread all of your application materials before sending them to an employer. Below are a few tips to help you proofread thoroughly.

Don’t Trust Spellcheck

While spellcheck can help you spot obvious typos, it misses a number of common errors. For example, spellcheck does not notice if you write “your” instead of “you’re” —one of the most common resume and cover letter mistakes. Therefore, thoroughly edit each document yourself.

Take a Break

Do not edit your resume, cover letter, or other application materials immediately after writing them. Take some time away from the document; this will allow you to edit with a fresh set of eyes. While many in academia recommend a 24-hour break before proofreading anything you've written, you might not have that much time if you’re facing a deadline. Even taking a couple of hours away from the document before editing it will help.

Print It Out

Proofread a printed copy of your resume and cover letter rather than looking at them on a computer screen. You have likely been looking at the document on a computer screen for a long time, and a printed version will help you see it with a fresh set of eyes. Printing it out will also help you see the document as the recruiter will see it. This way, you can spot and fix any awkward page breaks.

Read Out Loud (And Backwards!)

Read your document out loud while you proofread. It will force you to slow down while you’re reading and pick up on any errors.

Many editors also recommend reading backward (edit the last sentence first, then the second-to-last, etc.). Not only will this also slow down your reading, but it will break up the logical flow of the document, allowing you to focus on the spelling and grammar.

While you read out loud, you can also follow along with your finger. This will help you focus on each word.

Narrow Your Editing Criteria

It can be hard to edit for both grammar and spelling at the same time. For more thorough editing, only edit one type of error at a time.

For example, do one proofread for spelling, one for punctuation, one for verb tense, one for the format, one for factual information, and so on. While this might take a bit more time, it will help you catch every type of error.

Check for Consistency

Many people simply look for spelling and grammar mistakes when editing, but you should also make sure your layout is consistent.

First, make sure that your font size and style are the same throughout the entire document—if you cut and paste sentences, you might have different fonts within the same document, which looks messy. Of course, in a resume, your font sizes might be different based on whether you are writing a headline or a bullet point. That is fine, but make sure that you are consistent. All your headlines should be the same font and size, as should all your bullet points.

Also, make sure your grammar is consistent. For example, if you capitalize all the words in one headline, make sure you do the same for other headlines. If you use complete sentences and a period in one bullet point, do the same for all the other bullet points.

Proofread Personal Information (For You and the Employer)

Many people simply skim over their personal information (name, address, email address, etc.). However, a mistake in this information can mean the employer is unable to contact you.

It's also important to proofread the information you include about the company for which you are applying.

Check the spelling of the employer’s name and company name, and be sure that you get the address correct. Also, make sure you use the proper company name! If you copy and paste a company name into a cover letter, for example, you run the risk of pasting the wrong name.

Ask Friends or Family

People who are less familiar with a document can often see errors more clearly. Ask a family member or a friend to edit your document for you using the above proofreading tips.