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CV sins: spelling & grammar

Following on from CV sins: clichés, we are now turning the lens on spelling and grammatical errors in CVs. Everyone knows that mistakes in CVs and covering letters are a big no-no. Everyone knows to check their CV and covering letter before sending them off to potential employers. And yet we see so many CVs that contain errors.

Suzanne Wheatley says "I’d go so far as to say at least 75% have mistakes. They may not all be serious, in fact they may well just be typos but there are almost always errors in CVs. I think most people don’t check documents (CVs, letters, emails) before sending them. That’s a common error and a pet hate. It leads to names of organisations, academic institutions and products/systems being spelled incorrectly which is embarrassing for the sender."

But worse than embarrassment, it can lead to your CV being rejected. We have some clients who simply won't interview candidates whose CVs contain errors. One of our clients has, on occasion, said that he really likes the look of a candidate’s experience but won’t interview them unless they sort out their CV. In his mind, he is hiring someone who can retrieve and present information accurately and if they can’t do that with their own information, what would they be like in the workplace. He asks for the CV to be rewritten and emailed to him within 24 hours.

Donald Lickley elaborates on this from his own experience, "Having been a hiring manager in the past, and sat on many shortlisting and selection panels over the years, it’s a question of using evidence of good or bad spelling, grammar and proofreading as a method for judging people’s written communication skills.  It’s also a very good way of sifting CVs or application forms when “attention to detail” or an equivalent requirement is in the job description.  Typos and spelling errors are a short cut to the NO pile."

So what can you do to make sure your CV is on the YES pile?

  • Use your spell checker. It sounds obvious but Jeremy Clarke says it's surprising how often people don't do this.
  • Remember that the spell checker can't do everything for you. Words can be spelled correctly but wrong in context e.g. "Seeking party-time position" or "Experience of revolving customer problems" are not going to make a good impression.
  • Check, check and check again.
  • Read out loud to check for sense and grammar. It can often be easier to spot mistakes or awkward phrasing if you read out loud.
  • It can be difficult to spot your own mistakes so get someone else to read it.  Preferably someone with a good grasp of spelling and grammar and a keen eye for detail.
  • Check carefully all names of companies and institutions on your CV and in your covering letter. You will make a very poor impression on the company you want to work for if you don't get their name right.
  • Check that verb tenses are consistent throughout and that your verbs and nouns agree.
  • Check use of apostrophes. Nothing makes some people see red more than the greengrocer's apostrophe or no apostrophe where one is needed.
  • Some of the most common mistakes are with your/you're, it's/its, their/they're/there, and effect/affect so make sure these don't trip you up.
  • And last but not least, make sure you have got your own name and contact details right!

Now I'm off to run this blog past my very own tame(ish) spelling and grammar pedant, Suzanne, before posting. Nothing more embarrassing than writing about spelling and grammar only to find your own post is riddled with errors…

– Fiona

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