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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

Proofreading your resume: 12 tips

13 min read
Proofreading your resume
Proofreading your resume is a mission-critical step to ensuring that it contains no mistakes. These 12 tips will help ensure an error-free resume that will impress recruiters.

So, you’ve got your resume all tuned up to apply for your next job as a “certified pubic accountant”? Um … you might have overlooked the importance of proofreading your resume. 

A careful proofreading of your resume before sending it to an employer is absolutely mission-critical. Typos, misspellings, bad grammar or incorrect punctuation can all sink your chances of landing your next job. 

A resume should usually be one page only — so exactly how many mistakes do you expect a hiring manager to tolerate in a single page? One is too many!

Why should you proofread your resume?

In the rush to send your application off, you might be tempted to give your resume a quick once over and leave it at that. However, given the amount of thought and effort that you have invested up to this point, why wouldn't you choose to be overly cautious about checking for mistakes?

A mistake on a resume will stay with you for the entirety of the hiring process. Multiple people who will ultimately influence the hiring decision will read it. Maybe one of them is a stickler for correct grammar. It only takes one person to form an unfavorable impression due to a mistake and you have a black mark that you could have avoided. 

Why is it important to proofread your resume before sending it? This video should answer that question.

 

Consider the multiple ways of resume proofreading in the chapter below and spend more time than you think is required on this vital last task. You will surely find a mistake or two if you do. Why wouldn't you?

Expert tip

Proofread your resume alongside your cover letter. While you might have employed a resume writer to craft your resume, make sure that your cover letter uses similar language. If the resume and cover letter sound different, alarm bells will ring for the hiring manager. Proofread and optimize both at the same time.

How do you proofread a resume?

Here are our top 12 tips to proofreading your resume so that you don’t miss anything important. (And again, it’s ALL important).

1. Reread it very slowly, word for word and line by line.

Resume proofreading, obviously, starts with rereading, but you need to do this slo-o-owly. Often when we read, our eyes absorb big chunks of text at once. You need to slow down the process to look at each word one by one, and each punctuation mark as well. In this phase of resume proofreading, you are not looking for context, simply focus on one word at a time.

Hint: Pumping up the magnification on your computer screen may help you. 

2. Use editing tools like spellcheck and Grammarly.

Using spellcheck is a no-brainer, and you can also use programs like Grammarly that both spot errors and suggest improvements in syntax. But neither of these is foolproof — you could write “lead” instead of the past tense “led,” and a spellcheck might never catch it. 

Hint: Avoid quickly accepting each suggestion. Really look at them and decide whether the suggestion is a good one. Spellcheck and Grammarly are not foolproof.

3. Eliminate repeated words.

Many resumes are rife with repeated words that should be deleted. You don’t want to say you’re a “passionate” schoolteacher and then say you have a “passion” for early childhood education. You don’t need to use the word “skills” three times in your skills section. Many writers have certain go-to phrases that they tend to repeat unconsciously. Try doing a search for some of the major words in your resume, and you might be surprised how often you repeat them.

Hint: Try running your resume and cover letter through a word art program like Wordle to see if you have too much repetition.

Expert tip

How long should you wait before proofreading? 

Once you have finished writing your first draft of the resume, it is worth switching off and going to do something else. Ideally for quite some time. (Did you see the mistake in this paragraph? If you did, you’re well on your way to being a great proofreader. If not, go back and reread.) 

Giving your brain time to reset will let it mull over its resume activity in the background, so when you come back to the document it will be as if you are reading it with fresh eyes. One or two mistakes will likely jump off the page and you will feel a desire to rewrite certain sections. Patience pays off with job search content.

4. Eliminate clichés.

Resumes are often a minefield of clichés, in part because so many of us look at other people’s resumes as models for how to write our own. Phrases like “self-starter,” “team player,” “results-oriented” and “thinking outside the box” are a few tired examples — and how many resumes boast of “strong communication skills”? When writing a resume, the first words that come to mind may well be a cliché. Try to use original language that you’ve never read on any other resume.

Hint: Use the tools at hand. Even the best writers employ a thesaurus to find interesting synonyms.

Expert tip

Only include relevant information, that way your resume won't be too long

5. Check for missing material.

A comprehensive guide like Resume.io’s “ How to write a resume ” will provide you with a good list of all the elements your resume needs to include from the contact info in your header through the summary/profile, employment history , education and skills sections. As you carefully proofread all the text you already have, don’t forget to double-check for anything important you’re missing.

Hint: Develop a checklist and keep it handy as you proofread your resume.

6. Read your resume out loud.

By reading your resume aloud, you involve your sense of hearing. Not only can this tactic help catch repeated words, but it will also help you check for “flow.” This is an element of good writing in which one sentence transitions logically to the next, and the entire piece of writing reads like it was thoughtfully composed to go together.

Hint: This is why, if you do pay a professional to write your resume, you carefully review and proofread to make sure it sounds authentically like you.

Expert tip

Who can you ask to proofread your resume? Proofreading is not all about the spelling and grammar; it is also useful to check that the resume "sounds" like you. So, while a word buff would be useful to ask, it is also important that you ask someone who knows you well. A disconnect between how you have written your resume and how you tell your story at an interview can cause a hiring manager to wonder about your authenticity.

7. Reread your resume tomorrow.

It’s always a good idea to “sleep on it” and return to your resume the next day with a fresh eye. If you spend hours writing and rewriting your resume in a single sitting, your mind tends to get tired and fall into a rut where you don’t spot problems. Come back the next day for a second look and you’ll often spot issues you missed the day before. In fact, if you reread your resume a week from now, or whenever you need it in the future, you are likely to spot even more improvements you can make.

Hint: We know you’re in a hurry to get your resume out, but it is highly unlikely employers will close the application process after one day.

8. Print out your resume and read it again.

Printing out your resume puts it into a new visual format that will trigger your brain differently in subtle ways. It’s hard to explain why, but you can read the same line on your computer screen a half-dozen times and it looks fine, but when you see it on paper in black and white, you may spot something you didn’t notice before. 

Hint: This is a great method because HR people may also print out your application material and hand it to your prospective boss!

9. Read your resume on a different device.

A similar tactic is to email your resume from your laptop to your phone and read it on a different screen. Or send it from your PC to your iPad and read it there. A simple change in the appearance of the text on a screen will often trigger your brain to look at it in a different way. You can also just try changing the font and font size — if it suddenly looks different, you’re likely to see it in a new light.

Expert tip

Is it bad to pay someone to write you resume? Or proofread it? In terms of an investment, asking a professional to help with writing or editing your resume could be one of the best decisions that you make for your career. Resume writers are popular, but then you have to amend their language a little to make it sound more like you. Maybe a better way is to write it as best you can yourself and take on a professional to edit it.

10. Read your resume backwards.

Try reading your resume in reverse order, not necessarily word for word, but read the last line first and then work your way up to the top until you reach the beginning! This can help identify previously unnoticed issues, simply by forcing your mind to process your resume from a new perspective.

Hint: This method can also help if you’re struggling to slow down and truly see each word. It’s more difficult to read text out of order, so you will naturally take more time to understand what you’re proofing.

11. Check for any formatting problems.

Bad fonts, tiny font sizes, inadequate margins, poor spacing, and other design and formatting issues can make the best-written resume look ugly. Use a professionally designed resume template to sidestep formatting problems, and pay attention not just to how your document looks but also to how it reads.

Hint: Take your printout and tape it to the wall. Look at it from different distances and angles. A professional looking resume will entice recruiters to dig deeper.

Best resume format 2022 (+free examples)
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12. Find an editor to review your resume.

We saved the most important tip for last so you wouldn’t forget it. Unless you’re an ace copy editor, there may be writing problems that you would overlook no matter how many times you reread your material. Find an independent set of eyes to review your resume — preferably an experienced editor, an English teacher or some other professional who specializes in the written word.

Hint: Don't ask a colleague or your boss if they don't know you're looking around!

Expert tip

How do you ask a recruiter to look at your resume? One option that we have not yet mentioned is asking a recruiter to give your resume the once-over. Recruiters have a self-interest in your candidature as they will make a commission if you are placed, so many will be happy to give you tips on what to amend and give the resume a proofread. They should not ask for a fee for this, as it is not a standard part of their service, so ask nicely.

When do you proofread the resume?

In fact, it is worth having multiple proofreading sessions as you go along.

This ensures that you have a proactive attitude towards accurate language and it may also be that the above steps help you to craft slightly more compelling content. If you do the resume proofreading at the last minute, you will feel pressure to send it on and may not want to spend time changing the content, so break your resume writing up with proofreading sections.

Reflection is essential in a job search, so checking your language will also help you to check your thinking behind the language. Never a bad thing as you prepare to tell your stories during an interview.

Key Takeaways

  1. Should you proofread your resume? Yes! Should you proofread your resume more than once? Yes!
  2. Resume proofreading takes time. Don’t rush it.
  3. No one method will catch all errors so choose at least three of the above.
  4. Get another set of eyes. Choose someone who knows you and a grammar nerd.
  5. The first impression may be the only one you get, so present yourself in the best possible light by thoroughly proofreading your resume!
Build your resume in 15 minutes
Build your resume in 15 minutes
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Build your resume in 15 minutes
Build your resume in 15 minutes
Use professional field-tested resume templates that follow the exact ‘resume rules’ employers look for.
Create My Resume
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