By Allie Gray Freeland
Your resume is your best foot forward within a company. It’s a hiring manager’s first exposure to who you are as an employee – and if it is laden with grammatical errors – your lack of attention to detail will translate to your prospective employer as carelessness and lack of professionalism.
With the piles of resumes sent to hiring managers on a daily basis, whether you are a business degree graduate or an experienced professional, here are some of the most common grammatical errors found in resumes – and tips to avoid them:
1) Changing Tenses
Your description of duties at each respective organization is a must – but often times people switch between present and past tenses. An example:
CBS News – Minneapolis, MN (1/1/2000–1/1/2010)
- Edited website copy and press releases.
- Writes national sales e-newsletter.
See the inconsistency?
Mitigation: Do not switch tenses within your resume. The duties you currently perform should be in present tense (i.e., draft reports), but ones you may have performed at past jobs should be in past tense (i.e., drafted reports).
2) Date Format Consistency
As a job seeker, it is crucial to document the dates of employment or education. This shows prospective employers the length of time you worked at an organization, and subliminally your level of commitment. But resumes have a heap of ways dates could be written out. Examples:
- March 2011 to March 2012
- Mar. 2011 to Mar. 2012
- March 2011–12
- March 2011–2012
See how many variations I can come up with in just one range of dates? Job seekers often have inconsistent date formats – which is a minor mistake – but annoying to those hiring managers who are looking for a detail-oriented individual.
Mitigation: Pick one standard way of formatting dates. Whether you abbreviate the month, or use numbers, it's up to you. Just be consistent.
Resume writing is not run-of-the-mill essay. Proper nouns are everywhere, from company names, to degrees and certifications.
Mitigation: Capitalize all proper nouns. Any company/organization name, college or university, degree program, or certification must be capitalized. Any other qualms about capitalization? Do a quick Google search.
4) Justification and Returns
A simultaneous grammatical and design error – varying justifications and spaces between sections in a resume is a common, but easily avoidable mistake. Often, job seekers put too many spaces between sections and too few in others. More, some sections of the resume are indented or returned, when others are flushed left justification.
Mitigation: As you are editing your resume, go back in and verify that you used the same spacing and indentation between every section.
5) Punctuation Mistakes
Those little commas, periods, and hyphens can be tricky. Job seekers often lack a fine-tooth comb when looking for punctuation inconsistencies.
Mitigation: Check for periods at the end of all full sentences and be consistent in your use of punctuation. Also, watch your Oxford comma. When you are writing a series choose one of the following routes and stick with it:
- “ I owned, managed, and operated…”
- “ I owned, managed and operated…”
Whether you are just racing to complete your resume, or you are just not the best speller. Either spell check is not run – or some words are not caught. Here are some common misspellings that are not caught in spell check:
- from – form
- their – there
- personal – personnel
- role – roll
Mitigation: Have a friend, colleague, or instructor (if still enrolled in a college or university) review your resume. Another tip from copy writing pros is to proofread the text within the resume backwards. Your brain sometimes “finishes” words, even if they are incomplete or spelled incorrectly. Reading backwards will help you catch misspellings because your mind will not naturally “finish” the misspelled word.
7) State Abbreviations
Because the “best practice” in resume writing is to state the location of each higher education institution and former employer, adding states is a tricky but necessary task.
Mitigation: All state abbreviations are two letters - no periods. For example, New York is abbreviated NY, California is CA, and Florida is FL. Look up other state abbreviations.
Allie Gray Freeland is editor-in-chief of CollegeOnline.org, a guide to online schools and distance-learning education. Allie earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and has worked as a copywriter for nearly a decade.