How To Avoid Resume Typos

Oops, I meant to write, dear sir or madame (as opposed to the madam who manages a brothel).

If I had made that mistake on my cover letter, should that disqualify me for consideration for a job?

Should someone’s resume get tossed in the trash if he or she mistakenly wrote “Graphic designer seeking no-profit career” under career objective?

Well, it appears that in this tight job market, those tiny mistakes could leave you jobless, according to a survey by Accountemps, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance.

In interviews with 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies, 40 percent of the respondents said that just one typo on a resume would kick a job candidate out of the queue for consideration. Thirty-six percent said it would take just two mistakes before the resume was discarded.

“The way we see it, there’s so much competition out there. There’s no room for error,” said Natasha Melgar, branch manager of the Washington, D.C., office of the staffing firm Robert Half International. “The resume is the first opportunity to present yourself.”

With unemployment in some areas at double digits and job postings drawing hundreds of applicants, I understand the need to quickly weed people out. But zero-tolerance of one or two resume typos is too harsh.

Certainly a resume or cover letter riddled with errors says someone was sloppy or is incompetent, but a minor mistake shouldn’t disqualify you from a job or at least an interview.

In fact, a perfect resume doesn’t guarantee that a company is getting a great job candidate. In a Robert Half survey, 72 percent of executives polled said it is common for candidates with promising resumes not to live up to expectations during an interview.

By the way, Accountemps is a division of Robert Half. In one survey, the staffing conglomerate found that, overwhelmingly, hiring managers were intolerant of a few errors. In another, it found managers admitting that candidates weren’t living up to their stellar resumes.

So once you know that many managers are screening you based on perfection, how do you avoid getting your resume pushed to the side? Accountemps offers the following tips for creating error-free resumes:


  • Find another pair of eyes. Get someone to proofread your resume. Seriously, don’t dismiss this simple tip that you probably know already. Do I have to repeat again how tough this job market is? So don’t send out a single resume or cover letter without having someone read it over for you.
  • Put the resume down and come back to it later with your own fresh eyes. Take a break and reread it when you may be less harried.
  • Print a copy. Please don’t skip this suggestion. It’s so easy to overlook errors after staring at a computer monitor for a long time. My husband often uses a ruler and places it below each line he’s reading.
  • Read your resume aloud. I’ve read my share of resumes, scratching my head wondering what in the world was the candidate trying to say.
  • Review your resume from the bottom up. Starting from the back and moving forward will help avoid skipping over certain sections.

There’s a Web site you should visit: The term “resumania” was coined by Robert Half, who founded the staffing company. The company has posted resume and cover letter errors its clients have found and solicits authentic examples from Internet visitors. Here are some resume blunders submitted to the site (some of the Web postings are blooper legends):


  • Education: “Studied public rations.”
  • Work History: “Faxed documents to attorneys over sees.”
  • Objective: “To get an opportunity to proof what I know.”
  • Job Duties: “Assist callers and answer heavy phones.”
  • Job History: “Grocery store catchier.”
  • Additional Skills: “Computers and off ice machines.”
  • Experience: “Detailed-oriented saleman.”

“If you make errors on your application materials, the assumption is you’ll make mistakes on the job,” says Max Messmer, chairman and chief executive of Robert Half. Messmer regularly comments on resume and cover letter gaffes in his Resumania column.

Tempted to skip reading your resume aloud? Here’s an example from of what one candidate wrote under job objective: “To secure challenging opportunities in which I can see a real value in terms of rendering a valuable and valued service to people.”

I guess this person really values being valuable.

Join me online at noon EDT on August 27 at for a discussion on job hunting. Executives from Robert Half will be available to take your questions.

Some hiring managers may see the humor in trivial typos. But they are still making quick judgments based on what you put on your resume. Do what you can to give them as little reason as possible to pass you up.

By Michelle Singletary