Step by step proofreading tips so your resume will be perfect.
By: Leslie Ayres
November 5, 2010
Source: Getty Images
You only get one chance to make a first impression, as they say. That's why your resume must be perfect. It's the first representation of you that hiring managers and recruiters will see, and it's a reflection of the quality of your work, so if it looks sloppy and has bad grammar or misspellings, that's a deal-breaker.
Proofreading is the important final step in creating a great resume, but as a recruiter who reviews hundreds of resumes every month, I can tell you that many people don't even bother to do it. Most of the resumes I see are badly formatted, badly laid out, and have typos, misspellings and a sense of disorder. They're a mess.
A messy resume sabotages your job search. Companies are looking for top-notch people who do good work at a standard of business quality, and a less-than-perfect resume will blow your chances at the job as surely as showing up in torn and dirty clothes.
So if you're not used to proofing documents, how can you proof your resume to make it perfect? Just follow these steps:
1. Take a deep breath, relax and focus.
Rushing will make you miss things. Instead, go into a Zen-like mode as you go through each step.
2. Start by running a spelling and grammar check.
Take your time with it, because your program will probably catch words that are not errors, such as acronyms or specialized terminology. Give yourself a couple of seconds to think it through before you click "Ignore" or "Change." For an extra level of spelling scrutiny, some people like to use an online checker like SpellCheck Plus (there is a 250-word limit in their free version, so you'll need to break your resume into sections).
3. Read through and check for common misspellings.
No spell check will catch it if you just chose the wrong word, so very slowly and carefully look to see if you made one of these common resume misspellings:
Not sure which is right? Look it up at dictionary.com.
4. Next, do a find-and-replace and change all double spaces into a single space.
There's no need for a double space anywhere on a document; only one space goes after a period, and indents should be made with tabs. But extra spaces often remain when doing revisions on the computer and a global search-and-replace cleans them up fast. Keep finding and replacing until they're all gone.
5. Now print out a hard copy.
It's much easier to proof a document on a piece of paper and to mark all of your changes before you go back to the computer. Use a colored pencil or a pen to make your notes and marks so they are easy to see when you make the changes later. If you don't have a printer, then blow it up on your screen to 125%.
6. Read it aloud slowly, word for word.
Saying it out loud helps you know if the words make sense, and if there is a flow like natural speech. An optional step is to try a free text-to-speech reader like NaturalSoft which has a downloadable software that will read your document aloud for you. The technology isn't very polished on the free version, but you can hear if words are out of place. If you do a lot of your own proofing, like I do, it may be worth investing in a paid version or you can check out other free and paid text-to-speech options at Soft Sea.
7. Now read it line by line backwards and from the bottom up.
Use a ruler or piece of paper and cover your paper or the screen, so only the bottom line shows. Proof one line at a time, reading first from right to left and then from left to right. Move up the ruler up one line at a time. When you see your words out of sequence, typos will jump out.
8. Inspect the alignment and the balance.
Pull your focus away from the words and look at the design. Is everything lined up straight? (Hint: if you've tried to format indents using spaces instead of paragraph formatting, your alignment is going to be off.) If you used bullets, are they all indented to the same point? Use a ruler if you need to. Is there a balance of text and white spaces? Are the margins wide and consistent?
9. Look at the text formatting for consistency.
If you've chosen to capitalize company names and put your job titles in bold, make sure it's exactly the same for each job listed. Check the section heads to make sure they all look the same. Check that your dates are in the same place for each job.
10. Scan your punctuation.
Make sure your commas are in the right place, and that sentences end in periods. There should never be a space before a comma or a period, or between parentheses and the words they enclose. Not sure what's right? Check out GrammarBook.com.
11. Make sure that everything is the same font and size.
You can put your name and the section headers in another font, as long as it's legible (and promise me you won't use fancy script), but unless you are a graphic artist, don't mix fonts within your resume. Check that the font size is consistent as well.
12. Double-check your verb tenses.
Your present job should be written in present tense, and all past jobs should be written in the past tense, so don't forget to change the tense for your last position when you update your resume.
13. Then go back to your computer and make the changes in the document.
I find it's easier to check off each change on the printed document as I make the correction on the computer version.
14. Get a fresh pair of eyes to look at it.
It's hard to proof your own work, especially when you've been staring at it for hours, or even days, so when something is as important as your resume, it's important to have another person or two look at it. Don't be surprised if they find something you missed.
15. Repeat until perfect.
You never get a second chance to make that first impression, so invest a little extra proofing time to make sure you don't get skipped over because of a typo.
More Resume and Cover Letter Tips:
- Six Quick Tips to Bring Your Resume into the 21st Century
- The Ridiculously Easy Cover Letter
- Hilarious Resume Bloopers
- 15 Do's and Don'ts of Cover Notes
- Employment Gap on Your Resume?
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