June 20, 2018

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One 'Tpyo' Can Keep Your Foot Outside the Interviewer’s Door

Got a stellar education and employment history? Great! Got a perfect résumé and cover letter, free of grammar gaffes and typos? If not, you’re probably headed for the “do-not-call” pile, even if your credentials are impeccable. Yes, checking your spelling is tedious. It’s time consuming. It seems silly that despite your grand accomplishments you’ll be passed over because of a pesky typo. But given the number of résumés they receive, hiring managers have to narrow the playing field down somehow – and often they choose to use typos as a quick and easy way to do that.

If you’re not a grammar nerd and have no interest in becoming one, consider hiring a professional résumé writer to create your job search materials. That being said, you’ll still need to tailor your own cover letters for each position, and write personalized thank you letters after every interview.

Proofreading Tips When proofreading your job search materials, give yourself a day between when you write the letters and when you send them. A fresh eye can spot mistakes the tired one doesn’t see. Also, try not to read as you’re proofreading – just look at each word and sentence individually. Some proofreaders do this by reviewing backwards. Most of all, don’t trust the spell check tool to pick up all your mistakes. Yes, it’s handy, but it doesn’t point out that you meant “Manager,” not “Manger” because it can’t (yet!) read your mind.

Here are too-common spelling/grammar gaffes that you may want to look out for:

It’s / Its

It’s = it is or it has
It’s been a tough year for job seekers but it’s getting better.

Its = possessive
The business treated its customers well.

S / ’S

Colleagues = plural of colleague
I have a few colleagues who love to ski.

Colleague’s = belonging to a colleague or a colleague has / colleague is
My colleague’s dog is a wonderful little mutt. My colleague’s a volunteer at the soup kitchen.

Company’s / Companies / Business’s

Company’s = possessive
I look forward to contributing to your company’s success.

Companies = plural of company
I have worked for several companies in the retail industry.

Business’s = possessive
Technically, this spelling is correct unless followed by a word that begins with “s,” but many people don’t realize this and will think it’s a typo. Use company’s instead or revise the sentence to avoid the issue.

Less / Fewer

Less = a smaller amount
I have less time to get to the interview than I thought!

Fewer = not as many in number
I have fewer dollars in my wallet than I thought!

Between / Among

Between = two things involved
I can’t decide between the job in Portland or the one in Seattle.

Among = more than two things involved
The debate among the five candidates began to get interesting.

Can / May

May = permission to
May I have your business card please?

Can = able to
Can you access the Internet from your home?

They’re / There / Their

They’re = they are
They’re coming over later.

There = a place
Look over there!

Their = possessive
My brothers own a business, and all their employees work from home.

I / Me

I = in place of we
Jules and I are going to carpool. We are going to carpool.

Me = in place of us
Jules showed the article to Sean and me. Jules showed the article to us.

Like / Such as

Like = similar to
I’ve never worked for a boss quite like Reggie.

Such as = for example
I have attended several adult education courses such as writing and accounting.

Semicolon / Colon / Dash

Semicolon = separates two complete, closely related sentences or items in a list when commas are included.
I love to ski; it’s my favorite sport. I’ve been to Whistler, British Columbia; Vail, Colorado; and Killington, Vermont.

Colon Introduces a list in place of “including” or “such as” or sets up an emphatic word or clause.
I have worked for three ski resorts: Whistler, Vail and Killington.

Avoid using the dash (e.g. My last boss – the one at Vail – taught me a lot.) in job-seeking communications; it’s too informal.

Now that your foot’s in the door …

Proofreading all your business correspondence is a good idea, even after you’re hired. It shows you pay attention to detail and presents you as polished and well-educated. Today, it’s likely you e-mail people more than you actually see them, yet a lot of people worry more about looking professional than they do about sounding professional over e-mail. The first step to “looking smart” when you’re writing is to clean up the typos and fix obvious grammar errors. Next thing you know you’ll be revising your résumé again to apply for a promotion!

- Jennifer Lynham

Jennifer Lynham is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and the owner of Résumé Ink, a résumé writing service near Seattle. She’s the 2005 Treasurer for the Puget Sound Career Development Association, past-president of her Chamber of Commerce and past Chair of a nine-chamber legislative delegation. She’s had articles published on,, and several other sites.

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