Woman's hands typing resume on a laptop keyboard

First impressions are made in a matter of seconds. It’s important to remember that your first impression to recruiters and potential employers isn’t made when you shake hands in an interview; it’s made almost immediately after eyes are laid on your resume.

Beyond the layout and structure of your resume, grammar is crucial. A 2018 survey conducted by TopResume’s Amanda Augustine polled 379 current and former recruiters, hiring managers and human resources professionals. 80% of respondents stated that spelling and/or grammatical errors are the biggest resume ‘deal-breaker’ and can cost a candidate the job.

Here are some points to be wary of when writing and reviewing your resume:

1. Past Tense vs. Present Tense

It’s important to use the correct tense—past or present—when describing your duties and accomplishments. Use present tense (example: ‘analyze user data’ or ‘coordinate events’) when talking about a current role. Use past tense (example: ‘analyzed user data’ or ‘coordinated events’) when talking about a past role. You should also do the same on your LinkedIn profile, to ensure it matches your resume and accurately reflects your current employment situation.

2. Formality

Your resume is a form of professional writing. Avoid using slang, textspeak, abbreviations, and other forms of informal language. You may be tight for space, but simplifying and being concise with your descriptions is better than substituting ‘w/’ for ‘with’ or ‘&’ for ‘and’. Abbreviations may be acceptable in certain cases, such as industry-specific titles or certifications. When in doubt, go the formal route.

3. Bullet Points

Use bullet points when describing employment experiences. Each bullet should convey a single key point and be one or two lines long. With this in mind, specificity is important: Fewer but precise words will meaningfully convey your experiences and expertise while ensuring each bullet point is digestible for recruiters and potential employers to skim. A thesaurus is infinitely useful in helping to condense your words and avoid repetition.

4. Misspelling

It’s important to review your writing after you’ve completed your resume, but it can help to mindfully proofread each line as you go along. Ensure that spellcheck is set to the appropriate dialect of English (Canadian, American, British, etc.) and be wary of its suggestions for revisions—autocorrect isn’t always right! It is also worth your while to seek additional external resources. These include professional resume services, aid from recruiters, and getting a second opinion from a trusted friend, colleague, or manager. There are also programs and plugins you can download that go beyond default spellcheck. Grammarly is a great example-—while the paid version offers enhanced grammar revision suggestions (such as context awareness, vocabulary enhancement, etc.), the free version offers critical grammar and spelling checks across your personal computer.

Grammar and spelling errors in your resume reflect poorly on you as a candidate. They can give the impression to recruiters and potential employers that you are lacking in communication abilities, attention to detail or time management skills. Remember to keep your resume skimmable, but do not skim when editing it!