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How simple errors damage your CV

21 / 05 / 2019

Poor spelling and grammatical mistakes are frequently cited as the biggest blunders candidates can make on their CV.

It's not difficult to see why: employers allegedly spend only 8.8 seconds reading your resume when deciding on your suitability for a potential role. Obvious spelling and grammar oversights could easily result in your CV being filtered out before the hiring manager finishes the first paragraph.

But is it possible to quantify how significantly spelling or grammar errors affect your likelihood of landing a role? We did some research to analyse the impact.

How common are spelling and grammar mistakes?

You'd be hard pressed to find a professional candidate who is not aware of how damaging a sloppy typo can be in a job application.

So why are they so common? A recent study by job advertisement search engine Adzuna found 90 per cent of 20,000 resumes the company scrutinised had at least one spelling mistake. Only 1,134 were error free, with a staggering 12,666 having five or more.

The results from an older study in the UK were similarly bleak. Personal Career Management claimed 81 per cent of CVs have spelling and grammar mistakes. Notably, the researchers said even senior candidates were regularly guilty of unforgivable oversights.

If you're curious, Adzuna said the most commonly misspelt words were:

1. GCSEs (often due to a rogue apostrophe);
2. KPIs;
3. Experience;
4. Responsibilities; and
5. Professional.

The irony of misspelling words such as 'professional' won't be lost on many readers!

How much do employers and recruiters care?

We've established that spelling and grammar problems are prevalent, but how damaging are they? Well, countless studies suggest they pose a serious risk to your chances of securing a job.

We examined various surveys across employers and recruiters, and they unanimously found that poor spelling and grammar are a sure-fire way to see your resume on the rejected pile. A whopping 87 per cent of hiring managers in one study claimed it was the worst mistake a candidate could make.

Since then, a CV-Library poll revealed that 71 per cent of recruitment consultants cited spelling and grammar failures as their biggest bugbears. To put this in perspective, this figure was even higher than the 62 per cent who mentioned that hugely underqualified applicants bothered them.

In other words, recruiters would appear to prefer receiving CVs from unsuitable jobseekers than see spelling errors in applications from an otherwise qualified candidate.

"Employers may be put off by amateur CV errors like adding in rogue apostrophes. They suggest a jobseeker lacking soft skills, such as attention to detail," said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of adzuna.co.uk.

"When spellcheck and CV screening tools are easily accessible, there really is no excuse for error-riddled documents."

Tips on how to avoid dreaded errors

There are good reasons why spelling and grammar issues are red flags for prospective employers and recruiters.

Having all the time needed to perfect our own CV before a job application, a failure to proof-read properly at this stage could suggest even more mistakes would be made in a high-pressured work situation.

But what can you do to ensure your CV is free of errors? We've compiled some quick tips to help you avoid the 'grammar police'.

1. Don't overly rely on spell check

Technology is a useful tool, but you can become complacent if you count on spelling- and grammar-checking features. The English language is very nuanced and you can't rely on your computer to spot everything.

But don't ignore any red or green error squiggles either! Make sure you rectify or - appropriately - ignore any mistakes that spell check highlights.

2. Take a break before proofreading

If you've spent hours poring over an application, you should avoid proofreading it immediately after you've finished. You'll be so familiar with what you've just written that your brain can play tricks on you.

Take a well-earned break and come back to your CV with a fresh set of eyes - you may be surprised what you notice.

3. Ask a friend, family member or trusted colleague to check

You may not pick up on certain errors if you're the only one checking your CV. This is particularly true for awkward phrasing or colloquial word use, as these may not appear wrong to your eyes.

Ask a friend or family member to give your resume a once-over in order to avoid these problems. Colleagues may be a better option if your CV is littered with industry-specific terms or acronyms.

4. Listen to recruitment consultants

Ideally, your CV should be in pretty good shape before it reaches a recruiter's desk, but it's far better for a consultant to spot mistakes than an employer.

Recruitment firms know what businesses want from candidates, so make sure you take their advice on board if they mention your resume needs sprucing up.

What are the biggest CV blunders you've seen?

The job market is often competitive, and even the smallest error can be the deciding factor between two otherwise equally matched applicants. As we've seen, spelling and grammar errors remain a common problem, despite the negative impact they have on candidates' chances of success.

But what do you think? Have you ever missed out on a job opportunity because of a typo? Are you a hiring manager with examples of unbelievable CV mistakes? Or maybe you've spotted one or two in this article …?

Whether you're a candidate looking to optimise your CV for the next job application, or an organisation keen to source the ideal individual for a key role, please get in touch with me via email Sophie Spencer at ss@barclaysimpson.com.

Our 2019 Market Reports combine our review of the prevailing conditions in the corporate governance recruitment market with the results of our latest employer survey.

 

Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

Photo by Nhu Nguyen on Unsplash

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