Resume writing can be a daunting task, and it’s easy to forget how important your resume’s grammar can be in creating a positive first impression. In fact, in a recent CareerBuilder survey conducted by The Harris Poll, a large majority of hiring managers (77%) said grammatical errors and typos on a resume are instant deal-breakers.
Here are five of the most common resume grammar mistakes, and how you can fix them right now.
Resume Grammar Mistake #3: Inconsistency of Verb Tenses
When it comes to resume writing, consistency is your best friend.
The first place hiring managers will notice this is in your verb tense. These are action words, and for the sake of consistency, you’ll want to use the past tense when talking about your achievements in former jobs.
- Developed and implemented post-purchase followup system, increasing customer satisfaction scores by 20% over 4-month period.
- Organized travel for sales team of 10, freeing up time for each representative to close 2-3 additional transactions per month.
If you’re still doing those things now in your current role, use the present tense:
- Oversee post-purchase communication process to maintain 97% customer satisfaction.
- Handle corporate travel for 5 executives, saving the company an extra 10% on travel expenses.
Resume Mistake #2: Random Capitalization
Resumes are prime breeding ground for random capitalization. I believe this is a throw-back to the (really) old days when people capitalized words in order to draw attention to their importance.
Today, however, we have better ways to emphasize words, like italicizing or bolding them. (Just be sure to follow the same formatting throughout.)
So instead of using capitalization for emphasis, here the only reasons to capitalize words in your resume:
- Proper nouns (of people, companies, organizations, schools, degrees, award titles)
- Titles (Human Resources Manager, Vice President, Executive Assistant)
- Cities, states, and street names
- Months of the year
- Titles of each section
- And of course the first word of each sentence or bullet
Grammar Mistake #3: Incorrect or inconsistent punctuation
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Consistency in your resume is key, and it’s important in every detail right down to punctuation.
If you use a period when you abbreviate a word, do it in every instance. It can be August, Aug, or Aug. — but make sure every time you include a month, it follows the same format.
This goes for hyphens and em dashes too. If you use em dashes with spaces on either side, make sure every em dash has spaces on both sides. Or if you prefer no spaces, that’s fine too — just be sure to do it consistently throughout your resume.
Make sure your bullet points are the same size, and have the same indent.
I suggest using the oxford comma in resumes for clarity. This is the comma that comes before the and in a series of three or more words or phrases:
- Outperformed weekly, monthly, and quarterly sales goals by at least 10%
- Analyzed call center data, expense reports, and profit and loss statements…
Whether you like the oxford comma or can’t get used to the idea, be sure to follow the same usage throughout your resume.
And finally, there is only one space after a period. (If someone taught you to hit the spacebar twice after a period, it’s because they learned typewriter rules. More on this topic later.)
Grammar Mistake #4: Incorrect Use of Apostrophes
Over-apostrophe-ing is one of the most common grammar mistakes, both in the resume world and day-to-day communications.
Here are a few tips to make sure your resume contains only the apostrophes it needs:
Plural or possessive?
Plural words don’t need an apostrophe: managers, accountants, computers, surveys.
Apostrophes are for possessive nouns. If something belongs to one person, put the apostrophe before the -s. If it belongs to multiple people, the apostrophe goes after the -s.
It’s vs. its
Here’s your exception the the rule I just gave you: Its is the possessive — no apostrophe, even though you’d expect one.
It’s is the contraction of it is — the apostrophe here stands in for the letter i in is.
If you’re using an -s to talk about a decade, be sure to leave out the apostrophe: 1990s.
Chances are you won’t need this tip for your resume, but it will no doubt come in handy for other corporate communications.
Resume Grammar Mistake #5: Trusting Spell Check
Spell check is a beautiful thing, but it has a few limitations.
First, spell check won’t alert you to typos if the word you mistype is actually a real word.
One of the most common resume grammar mistakes is typing the word manger instead of manager.
This one is hard to notice when proofing your own resume, so be sure to share your resume with a couple of detail-oriented friends.
Second, spell check doesn’t recognize homophones — words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Some of the commonly misused homophones include roll/role, too/to/two, there/their/they’re.
Most of the time these are innocent resume errors that simply slipped through the cracks. The person reading your resume will view these mistakes as a careless lack of attention to detail — and that could cost you the interview.
Be sure to have a detail oriented (and preferably grammar-loving) friend give your resume a thorough grammar review before passing it along to a hiring manager.
And if you’d like more tips for instantly improving your business communications, be sure to download my free guide, 10 Royally Embarrassing Grammar Mistakes (and how to banish them from your writing forever).