You only get one chance to make a first impression. According to conventional wisdom, recruiters spend an average of about 6 seconds reading your resume on the first pass, if you can even call that ‘reading.’ 6 seconds isn’t very long. You have a very short window to make a good first impression.

You want the focus of those very short 6 seconds to be all the relevant, important details that speak to your skills, capabilities, and experience. You know… the stuff that positions you as the obvious choice for the job at hand. But as talented and capable as you are, if your resume is misspelled, poorly written, or grammatically incorrect (or worse, all of the above!) you may find it ends up in the ‘no’ pile before you’ve had that chance. Hence the crucial step of proofreading!

proofreading isn’t the same as editing

Don’t mix up editing and proofreading. Proofreading is the process whereby you carefully check your resume for spelling, grammar, and consistency after you’ve completed all your edits. During the editing phase you may still be making a change here or there that significantly alters the text to achieve the tone or flow you’re looking for. During the proofreading phase, you’re done editing and merely double and triple checking for errors. You’ll only make changes if something is incorrect.

Here are a few general suggestions for proofreading your resume like a professional.

1. take a break first

If time permits, don’t edit or proofread your resume and cover letter immediately after writing them. Your brain needs a break in order to zero in on errors you missed during the editing phase. Remember, your brain is programmed to fill in the blanks and make sense of what it sees, which isn’t always exactly what you’ve written. Fun fact: did you know our brains are programmed to decipher words based on the first and last letter, so it’s more common to miss typos in the middle of a word than at either end?
You want to proofread with fresh eyes. Many professionals suggest you print out your document and proofread it in hard copy as it provides a different way of viewing the document, which may help highlight errors you might miss on screen. And our brains don’t seem to digest information on the screen as thoroughly as they do on a page. That’s why many people still prefer to read a real book as opposed to using eReaders.

2. never rely on spellcheck

Your word processing program will provide a basic spell check, but you should never rely on it, as spellcheck often misses contextual errors. Don’t rely on autocorrect, either. Autocorrect can be even worse, in truth. Technology has a way of assuming what we meant to say, even if it’s completely incorrect, inappropriate and out of context.

There’s so much information available on proofreading and how to do it that there’s no excuse for avoiding it, especially when you have so much at steak. Did you catch the error in the last sentence? Because spellcheck didn’t. Instead of ‘steak’ it should have been ‘stake.’ These are the kinds of errors you need to proofread to catch.

Besides not providing the correct word in context, spellcheck is also unreliable when checking words like its/it’s, their/there/they’re, or your/you’re – always make sure to check the correct versions are used.

3. check all criteria individually

What we mean by this is that you should make separate passes over the document, each time checking for different things. Make one pass for spelling, another grammar, and yet another to fact check. Focusing on a single task ensures that you don’t miss anything. It’s more time consuming, but it'll be well worth it when you have an A+ professional resume that’ll land you your dream job.

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