Resume Guide: Finishing Touches and Checking for Errors


Your resume is probably just fine, but it’s always advisable to double check for style, appearance and accuracy.  The most important thing you want to double check is your contact information.  You’re better off with a miserable piece of paper containing your correct address than you are the other way around. Apparently it is very easy to mistype or forget to update your information.

The number of resumes with no phone numbers or disconnected numbers, with no email address, because they think that the person who gets it will take a moment to note the address of the email (they will not) is surprising. You should  check this information every time you update or write your resume and any time you send it.  Ask your  husband, roommate, teenager to double check, letter by letter.  You need the email address, by the way, because someone who doesn’t consider you for one job may put your resume on file for future opportunities. You want to be accessible. You know you do.

Your resume is  supposed to present you well – to put you in a good light, so it ought to be clean, well spelled and accurate. It suggests to the person reading it not only your history and skill set, but your attitude, your attention to detail, your sense of order. It should look neat, it shouldn’t sound arrogant or full of yourself or sloppy. An employer will read it thinking, “What kind of person wrote this? Would I like him? Is she tidy? Is he realistic? A good communicator? ” All that information is suggested beneath the surface of what you wrote.

One thing that strikes at first sight is spelling. Another  is grammar. We get hysterically funny resumes which just don’t make sense.  Being something less than a spelling bee candidate, I take spelling fairly lightly, and foreign English is usually just a delight, but I am not in the majority. There are spelling fanatics reading resumes under the assumption that if you don’t put effort into your spelling, how well do you manage people? I have a little problem seeing that particular connection, but the fact that correcting spelling is fairly easy and your resume is presumably your best foot forward, it does make sense. If you can’t take the time to check it for mistakes, how accurate can an employer  expect the inventory to be?  So you need to check, and it isn’t easy. Seeing our own written mistakes is something few of us can do.

Being the world’s worst proofreader of my own material, I have a few tricks for that.

Why is proofreading so difficult? (It really is.) Because your brain is smarter than you are. It’s also lazier. It knows what it intends to write and remembers that extremely well, so as you “reread” what you wrote, your brain is two steps ahead of you, finishing your sentences with what it meant to put on the page rather than what your fingers typed. Your eyes pass over a spelling error or something just wrong, and your brain reads what you think you wrote. Annoying, isn’t it?

So you fool the sucker. There are a several ways to get past it’s self assurance.

First,  the computer gods gave you tools, among them spell checker. I suggest you don’t keep it on automatic (which can correct technical terms that aren’t at all wrong), but run it when you are finished, so you can check every questionable spelling. This also lets you add phrases to its dictionary. Mine doesn’t like a lot of food jargon.  I keep the spell check icon in my tool bar. I also  have the thesaurus icon there.

Spell check doesn’t speak kitchen, and it hiccups at words like Sous Chef and Sommelier and Garde Manger, which if  left to its own devices it will change to Sioux Chef and Summer and Garden Manager, so you wouldn’t want to leave it on automatic pilot. As for Sommelier, or is it somlier or sommileer.??  If you are not sure just Google it. Little trick for the technical vocabulary: Google is the world’s best spellchecker.  Keep a window open and write in the word you’re not sure of – Somellier. Try it. Google will say helpfully, “Do you mean “Sommelier”?  Put it in and add it to your dictionary, when spell check identifies it as an error.

Check your dates. If you look as if you were in Colorado and Florida at the same time, people will wonder.

Style and content are a different matter. Your brain thinks whatever you wrote is hunkey dorey for some time  after it’s written, so let a little time pass before your final proof read. Sleep on it. Look at it in 24 hours or better 48. There’s a good chance you will find at least one thing you don’t want to say.  You will probably have better ideas on phrasing and content.

Next trick: Read it backwards from the bottom.  This is one of the niftiest self editing  tricks I know.  It let’s you pick up on many small mistakes.

In addition to letting what you wrote settle over night so you can see it with fresh eyes,  you should  let someone who isn’t hampered by your mental muscle memory  read your resume  slowly, sentence by sentence. Your kids usually do a good job of that. As a matter of fact, twelve to sixteen year-olds make excellent if occasionally snarky proof readers.  Give it to your wife, boyfriend or land lady – anyone  whose eye isn’t jaded by your brain’s assumption that it makes no mistakes – and ask them to be detailed and brutal. Give them a paper copy and a pencil and leave them alone.

Finally check the formatting. How does it look.  I keep telling people, “You don’t frame it.  You read it. It’s the content that counts.” That’s not completely true.  Your resume  should look attractive. That doesn’t mean fancy or flashy, but it should be balanced, There should be some white space between segments but not so much that it looks lacy. It should be evenly aligned.  To get a better impression of the visual impact of your resume hold it at arm’s length or zoom out on the document on your computer. If you are not satisfied, work to format it until you are.  You’ll find  tools for this here.  If a line or paragraph looks out of sync with the rest of the document, play with it until it’s symmetrical.  If there is too much space and not enough content, you can use lines (any time you don’t know how to do something, just press F1 for help and write it in, in this case, “insert line”.) But not pictures. You can shorten a resume by splitting your address and contact information – align your name and address on the left, phone numbers etc on the right using left tabs (in the previous section or check F1 for help).

If paragraphs are split between pages,  play with the space between them until they line up correctly.  Your text should not be so tightly together that you can’t see where one  segments ends and the other begins. If it is spread it over more pages or cut out unnecessary information.

And  you’re done.

At least for now. This is your basic resume. There is no rule that you shouldn’t change it, add to it, subtract from it. It’s more important to subtract in most cases than embellish, but depending on the job you are looking at, add that your worked as a server or leave out your ice carving, point out your customer interface qualifications or erase your pastry skills. You are remembering, of course, to target your audience.  You can have one or twelve.

For more on resumes and job career development tools  watch the blog.