I will admit it; this is not one of the most interesting topics to discuss. But great proofreading must happen if your résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn documents and other written material will work for you. Here is some harsh reality: every time you apply with error-filled documents – even one error is too much – you are wasting an opportunity. You would have been better off to not apply at all.
Here are some tricks you can use to tighten up your writing.
Read it aloud. This means actual spoken words, not reading silently. I read every line of every letter and résumé I send to my clients because it works. It isn’t exciting, and the first few times you read aloud to yourself it will feel a little silly, but it will help. You will identify poor writing, poor or wrong word choices, and redundancy.
Get away from it. A little time between writing and proof helps a lot. Write it, save it, and step away. Come back later or the next day and read it after doing something else. Write, walk the dog, proofread – in that order.
Print it. I don’t like using paper and ink when I don’t have to, but a hardcopy version will give you a different perspective. Try changing the setting, too, by taking your paper to a different room or to a coffee shop. You will see opportunities for improvement.
Read it backwards. Get a ruler and read line by line from back to front, using the ruler to keep your place. This will change the context and you will notice bad punctuation, words and other errors.
Enlist help. Doesn’t everyone know a spelling and grammar freak? If you do, ask for a reading. It’s always easier to spot someone else’s mistakes than your own.
Remember that a single error on your résumé can get you discarded into the “No!” pile. Take the time and make the effort to have your very best work representing you in the career marketplace. Nothing less will do.
See The Thank You Letter of Doom for an account of a job search blowout. The letter killed all hope.
Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He can help you create and market yourself with error-free documents.