Tiny Typos Can Add Up To a Big X On Your Résumé

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dear sir or madman . . .

Oops. Make that "madam."

If I had made such a mistake on my cover letter, should that disqualify me for consideration for a job?

Should someone's résumé get tossed in the trash if he or she mistakenly wrote "Graphic designer seeking no-profit career"?

Well, it appears that in this tight job market, those tiny mistakes could keep you jobless, according to a survey by Accountemps, a staffing-services firm specializing in accounting and finance.

In interviews with 150 senior executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, 40 percent of the respondents said that just one typo on a résumé would kick a job candidate out of the queue for consideration. Thirty percent said it would take just two mistakes before the résumé was discarded.

"The way we see it, there's so much competition out there. There's no room for error," said Natasha Melgar, branch manager of the Washington office of the staffing firm Robert Half International. "The résumé is the first opportunity to present yourself."

With unemployment in some areas in the double digits and job postings drawing hundreds of applicants, I understand the need to quickly weed people out. But zero tolerance for one or two résumé typos is too harsh.

Certainly a résumé or cover letter riddled with errors points to sloppiness or incompetence, but a minor mistake shouldn't disqualify you from a job or at least an interview.

In fact, a perfect résumé doesn't guarantee that a company is getting a great job candidate. In a Robert Half survey, 72 percent of executives polled said it is common for candidates with promising résumés to not live up to expectations during an interview.

By the way, Accountemps is a division of Robert Half. In one survey, the staffing conglomerate found that, overwhelmingly, hiring managers were intolerant of a few errors. In another, it found managers admitting that candidates weren't living up to their stellar résumés.

So once you know that many managers are screening you based on perfection, how do you avoid getting your résumé pushed to the side? Accountemps offers the following tips for creating error-free résumés:

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