Keep Your Eyes Peeled: These Are the Most Common Spelling Mistakes on Resumes

Jun 18, 2021 | Resumes

A title graphic featuring Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo and an alternate version of the article's title: "Hiring Managers are People Too: Here's What They're Thinking"

Proofreading your resume is an extremely important final step before sending it out in the world. Read on for common mistakes job seekers make, so you can know what to keep an eye out for.

By: Jennifer Meehan | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Say you find a great job opportunity. You dedicate a week to updating your LinkedIn profile, trying to make connections in the company, writing the ideal cover letter, and creating a perfect resume. Time to fire off that application as soon as you’re done, right?

Not so fast. As the very last step before sending your job application, check and recheck your spelling on your resume and cover letter.

More than half of recruiters say they will reject a resume because of spelling and grammar errors. And speaking as an editor and former copy chief for a magazine, I can guarantee that a spelling mistake will get your resume tossed even if your qualifications are good otherwise.

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Brush up on these common resume spelling mistakes to stay free of errors (and be sure to read on to learn why spell check alone won’t save you!)

The Most Commonly Misspelled Words

dictionary. Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

If you don’t know how to spell something, don’t guess – look it up! Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

According to Business Insider, these are the most often misspelled words on resumes. In fact, the word misspelled is often (ahem) misspelled.

definitely vs. definatley
separate vs. seperate
manager vs. manger
identify vs. identity
judgment vs judgement (both are acceptable, but judgment is definitely preferred)
compliment vs. complement
led vs. lead
implement vs. impliment

Notice that only two of these, “definatley” and “seperate,” are actual misspellings. “Manger” and “identity” are actual words, but they look very similar to “manager” and “identify.” Imagine writing “Identity inefficiencies in supply chain” or “Report to manger of public relations.” You would be horrified if those kinds of errors made it through.

The rest are homophones, words that sound the same but mean different things and are spelled differently. These trip everybody up, from the freshest to the most experienced professionals. (More on this later.)

It’s also important to verify the names of people and companies. Your resume and cover letter may be perfect, but if a single name is misspelled, they lose credibility. If you include any hyperlinks in your resume or cover letter, double check the spelling on those too.

The Pitfalls of Spell Check

person at computer. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

While spell check is an essential first step in proofreading your document, it may not catch every mistake. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Spell check is a good first step when proofreading. It’ll point out or autocorrect mistakes like particulary for particularly and definitaly for definitely. It will also generally pick up on homonyms like their when you mean there or they’re.

But spelling and grammar checkers are not infallible and the mistakes they miss are very annoying for readers, especially recruiters. You really don’t want to depend on them for accuracy.

If you’re an otherwise great speller, homophones can still trip you up, and spell check will rarely check homophone mistakes since they replace one word with another correctly spelled word. Be sure to check for affect vs. effect, except vs. accept, are vs. our, led vs. lead, and several others.

It’s/its

My biggest pet peeve is the homophone it’s when you mean its or vice versa.

Here are some examples:

The word it’s is a contraction meaning it is or it has.

It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

(If you’re not sure how to spell it’s, there’s nothing wrong with using it is or it has.)

The word its is a possessive pronoun meaning something that belongs to whatever the “it” is.

The company traces its roots to the Midwest.

(If like many people you have trouble with its/it’s, say the sentence in your head. You would never say “traces it is roots to the Midwest.”)

Their/there/they’re

Other common mistakes involve their/there/they’re.

Their is a possessive pronoun, like its. There is an adverb meaning “in that place.” And they’re is a contraction meaning “they are.” For example:

Their suggestions were very welcome.
I learned a lot there.
They’re branching out into electronics (Better: They are branching out…).

There are too many homonyms in English to highlight all of them here, but these are the biggies that can make a difference between getting an interview and your resume never seeing the light of day.

Proofreading Tips

printer. Photo by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash

You’re more likely to spot typos if you proofread a printed version of your resume. Photo by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash

Finally, here are some proofreading lessons learned from my long career in the word business. It may sound tedious, but think how good you will feel when you find and correct a mistake!

Use the dictionary.

Never assume you know how a word is spelled. That’s the first instruction every proofreader/copy editor gets. Of course, you don’t have to look up every single word, but it’s so easy to just pick up your phone and type in the word if you’re not absolutely sure. I just had to look up seperately. It’s important to use the right source, though. Merriam-Webster is the editor’s dictionary of choice, so I head to merriam-webster.com. There’s even an app for that.

Take a break.

After you’ve been working intensely on a writing project your eyes will actually skip past the typos and misspellings because you’ve seen the words so often. A word of advice: When you’re finished updating your resume and writing your cover letter, leave it for a while. If I have time, I prefer not to proofread until the next day. But even a couple of hours will give your brain enough of a rest to read clearly.

Print it out!

This is an essential step. I know you are dying to send the whole thing off right away, but we’re talking one or two pages here, not to mention your cover letter. To proofread the whole thing better, print them out to scan for typos – you will be more likely to catch errors. Besides being able to read the hard copy more clearly, you can also check the format and make sure your margins aren’t totally off.

Read from the bottom up.

This is almost like reading something you’ve never seen before. It really makes you look at every word rather than glossing over a sentence that you think is fine. It will be much easier to find the mistakes this way and you’ll pick up the habit once you try it.

Don’t let a careless mistake ruin your chances of getting the job you want. If you take just a few extra steps, you can be comfortable knowing you’re sending out the best possible documents. Then you can take a bit of well-deserved rest until the next job application.

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