Why Resumes Nearly Always Include Mistakes

Recently a resume came to me with the first bullet point, “Provide trusted advise”. Another candidate wrote “CDO’s” instead of CDOs. A third person misspelled the name of his current employer. Why do resumes nearly always include a mistake? Many would likely say it’s because people are busy. Or lazy. Or distracted. I’m not sure those aren’t factors. But they probably don’t tell the whole story.

Though I’ve not studied this with a team of psychologists, I do believe that, were I to do just that, what I’d learn is that it’s a psychological block of some sort. One that’s related to a candidate’s struggle to look themselves in the mirror. In essence, an inability to grasp that their professional history is staring them in the face. It’s a bit like reading, or writing and reading, one’s own obituary.

Even professionals who have enjoyed their careers, and feel good about how things have progressed, may find it trying to write a resume that’s error free. But many find it a bit of a jolt to see in black and white how they’ve spent their time. And it can be sufficiently overwhelming that it may impact the presence of errors.

Now many hiring managers actually study resumes looking to find errors. Others don’t even read resumes carefully enough to notice them. And typos are often easier to overlook.

So, what should hiring managers tolerate? And what should candidates do to reduce the number of errors? Hiring managers who are especially fastidious may not be willing to budge on a document that has even one noticeable error. If someone is applying for a legal or compliance role, the hiring manager knows that the work requires a high level of attention to detail. If a resume has a mistake, how can the candidate possibly do the job satisfactorily? My suggestion is that if the resume includes one or two minor errors, they might speak with the candidate and, if the interview is positive, give a written test that requires the candidate to identify errors.

My bet is that on the written test, a candidate could well do a superb job. Because, in part, the psychological component that impacts writing a resume, isn’t a factor. Of course it’s possible that because the candidate knows it’s a test, they may panic and make mistakes. If that’s the case, the hiring manager may want to proceed with caution.

To reduce the number of errors, a candidate should read their resume multiple times. That should include at least one time aloud. And a few other people, preferably in the same industry, should proof it too. This doesn’t guarantee the errors will be eliminated. It should, however, reduce them.

Everyone loathes spending time on resume writing. Most think that if the resume were written a bit better, well, an interview may be forthcoming. Since everyone has a different idea about what a resume is supposed to look like/include, writing them is even more stressful. Ten people will easily give ten opinions on what to do differently. And folks love giving opinions.

Style and content aside, candidates must try hard to reduce the number of errors in their resumes. And hiring managers might consider that an occasional error is, for most, the norm. Fact is, if those same hiring managers looked at their own resumes, they may notice, or another reader might, that there are, heaven forbid, errors.