9 Common Resume Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

If your reading this and can’t immediately spot the spelling error in this sentence, then you’re in trouble – because silly spelling or grammatical errors and typos in your resume or cover letter could immediately sink any hope you have of getting an interview.

These are the common mistakes that are all too easy to make – but as trivial as they may seem, they can ruin your chances of landing a job. Spelling and grammar mistakes are the number one reason for recruiters to dismiss a candidate before they’ve even had a chance to say ‘Dear Manger’.

If you don’t want to have your resume thrown in the bin, make sure you follow these important rules:

1. Use appropriate spelling

Receiving a resume full of Americanised words for an Australian job can irk many recruiters. Make sure that you use the spelling that's appropriate in the country where you're applying for a job. Do NOT rely on your computer’s spell-checker, as many computers will automatically ‘correct’ spellings to the American version – so you will have to go and change the words back. If in doubt, consult a dictionary.

Examples of words which are commonly autocorrected to American spelling are organise, specialise, prioritise, realise, colour, honour, theatre and centre.

2. Know your apostrophes

Untold resumes have come undone because of that tiniest of errors – the misplaced apostrophe. The most common confusions occur between words like its/it’s and your/you’re. 

Apostrophes are used to indicate possession (John’s car) or contraction (‘it’s’ is the contraction for ‘it is’). However, the possessives ‘your’ and ‘its’ do not have apostrophes (you like your job, the company just had its AGM). Apostrophes are never used for plurals, and you are a child of the 1980s, not the 1980’s.

And remember – its’ is not a word. Ever.

3. Don’t use, unnecessary commas

Misplaced commas are almost as common, and just as irritating, as misplaced apostrophes. Just look at the sub-heading above: Don’t use unnecessary commas! 

Commas should be used to separate items in a list or separate adjectives (it was a challenging, rewarding role), after introductory phrases and words (after five years in this position, I am ready to take on new challenges), to separate two strong phrases joined by a conjunction (I have really enjoyed my time here, but I am ready to move on), and after words like ‘however’ or ‘therefore’ (I understand your position; however, I do not agree).

Commas should not be used after words like ‘because’ (‘I am late because, I missed my bus’ is incorrect) or be randomly inserted in the middle of sentences.

4. Use the correct word

It’s really important to make sure you use words correctly, and to not make the same mistakes that so many others do. That means knowing the difference between commonly confused words like then/than (time or sequence/comparison), there/their (place/possessive), to/too (approach or arrival/also or excessive) and accept/except (receive/excluding). These words may be common, but seeing them used correctly isn’t.

Here are some other frequently misspelled words that you should commit to the memory bank: accommodate, achievement, address, believe, committed, definitely, focused, gauge, government, guarantee, immediate, independent, judgement, liaise, manageable, occasionally, personnel (referring to staff), professional, receive, recommend, referred, relevant, schedule, separate, and truly.

5. Don’t use run-on or half-sentences

Run-on sentences, like ‘I worked as an assistant however I also helped with marketing’, have no place in a formal resume. This sentence needs to be broken up or re-worded, to ‘I worked as an assistant and also helped with marketing’ or ‘I worked as an assistant; I also helped with marketing.’

Half-baked sentences are just as bad. ‘If you hire me’ is not a sentence. If you have a thought, make sure you finish it.

6. Get the correct spelling and title of the person you’re addressing

There is no surer way to get the person reading your resume off-side than to misspell their name – they will immediately write you off. Even – or especially – if they have an unusual, 20-letter name, be sure to get it right.

Look at the job ad or any emails they’ve sent you for their correct spelling and title. And don’t make that most fatal of mistakes and address your cover letter to the HR Manger! They won’t even bother reading the rest of the letter.


It’s generally a bad idea to use capitals to emphasise words in your resume, as it can look juvenile or just obnoxious. Rely on clear and effective wording to get a strong message across without having to resort to SHOUTING!

8. Don’t treat the recruiter like your m8

This is a resume, not a text or casual email, so always use a professional writing style. Even in the cover letter, don’t use an overly casual or colloquial tone, and never use the kind of spellings or lingo commonly used in texts or emails, like ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘&’ instead of ‘and’ in a sentence.

9. Proof, proof and proof again

It is imperative that you proofread your resume and cover letter carefully, multiple times, viewing your document at 125 or 150 per cent in Word using a clear font. For many, printing your resume and editing it on paper, as well as reading it out loud, can really help too.

If you make any last-minute formatting changes, make sure that you re-proof your resume for any inadvertent extra spaces or deletions that may have occurred.

Whatever you do, don't rely on your spell-checker! It will miss many grammatical errors. It’s important to get an extra set of eyes on your resume because it can be easy to miss your own mistakes. Have it proofread by a trusted friend who has an eagle eye for this sort of thing or use a professional writing service.

Check out our tips on how to write a killer cover letter (even if you hate writing).  

Josie Chun

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