Four steps to an error-free resume

3 mins | Travis O'Rourke | Article | Resumes & cover letters

Woman on her laptop

We all know that applying for a new job can be a time consuming and sometimes all-encompassing task. It’s one that requires dedication, concentration and focus that extends to the seemingly minor details. For instance, checking and double checking each element of your application for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, formatting and consistency. 

Neglecting this vital stage of your application, and submitting a resume packed with errors could prevent you from being invited to an interview, no matter how qualified you might be for the role. 

This scenario is completely avoidable and the good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you, even if, admittedly, your attention to detail can be somewhat lacking. 

Here are the most common errors seen in resumes and how you can overcome them: 

1. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors 

With all the technology and software available today, spelling errors are inexcusable. So, before submitting your resume and cover letter, you must always: 

  • Use the spell checking software on your computer (ensure it is set to the correct language) 

  • Print off your resume and/or cover letter, you will find it easier to pick up on mistakes 

  • Read your resume aloud, again this will highlight any glaring errors to you 

  • Read your resume backwards – it might sound odd, but this is a proven way to pick up errors 

  • Ask a friend or relative to proof read the documents for you 

  • Make use of free online software such as Grammarly, Slick Write, or PaperRater to help you spot any grammatical errors 

It can also help to change the font or colour of the font used, to help you see your application in an unfamiliar light, and therefore make it easier to spot mistakes. Just remember to change it back before you send it off. 


2. A lack of consistency 

Ensure all elements of your application are consistent. Here’s how: 

  • Consistently use the same simple font and font size throughout your application – the same goes for bold and italicized copy 

  • Don’t switch from writing in the first person, to the third person, and vice versa. Write in the first person throughout 

  • Similarly, ensure you maintain a professional tone throughout. Avoid using a casual tone at all costs 

If you don't know how to keep your resume consistent try using our free resume template.


3. The application is poorly formatted 

Formatting is often one of the first things a recruiter or hiring manager will notice. Here’s how to make the best first impression possible: 

  • Keep your reader in mind; your application must be as easy to follow as possible. Therefore, avoid large paragraphs and break key information up using bullet points 

  • Avoid using logos and pictures on your resume, not only are they not necessary, but they can result in a poorly formatted resume, and one which doesn’t translate well onto other systems the recruiter/hiring manager may be using 

  • Keep it simple – avoid the temptation to get carried away using backgrounds, borders or clipart. If using Word, zoom out of the document to get a clearer view of formatting 

  • Print the documents out to quickly flag formatting errors – this way, you will soon see if something doesn’t look quite right. If your resume is more than one page, ensure your page transitions are smooth. For example, avoid listing one job at the end of the first page, which then leads on to the second page 

  • Once you are happy with the formatting, try converting the document into PDF, which should ensure the formatting stays as you intended it to be 


4. The application doesn’t flow 

This is particularly important if an email and/or cover letter are part of your job application. Take time to double check the following: 

  • Do your paragraphs flow? 

  • Does your writing flow and make sense to the reader? 

  • Read it out loud to get an idea of any tricky to read sentences. Reading out loud should also help you flag any overused words in a particular paragraph or sentence 

  • Read it to a friend or relative to double check that they understand what the key messages are.

In summary, give yourself plenty of time to ensure you have taken each and every one of the above steps before you hit ‘send’ on your next job application. By doing so, you will highlight to the recruiter that you are both diligent and conscientious, thus making it even more likely that you will be asked to attend an interview.

About this author

Travis O'Rourke
President of Hays Canada & CCO, Hays Americas

Travis is a Marketing graduate from Fanshawe College and was the 2023 recipient of their Distinguished Alumni Award. He joined Hays after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays' outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.

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