Sweat the details

Did you know that today is National Grammar Day? The holiday was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us [Sic], to remind people to ‘speak well, write well, and help others do the same.”

In today’s saturated job market, it’s in your best interest to treat every day like grammar day. When your application is competing with hundreds of others, the smallest error can be used to eliminate you from the pile.

In this mobile age, we’ve grown accustomed to using short-hand for texts and tweets, and have become all too reliant on spell-check. These days, it’s very easy to overlook the little mistakes, such as using “higher” when you really meant to say “hire.”

It’s time to sweat the small stuff, folks! Use this checklist to make sure you make the right impression with prospective employers.

Job Applications

Be careful with capitalization, punctuation and grammar in both your cover letter, and your resume – errors in these not only look bad, but they can confuse the ATS software and scramble your application in the system. Embedded images, charts and other objects will have the same effect. The chances of an employer taking the time to manually fix your application in the system are slim to none.


Use an email address that incorporates the name you use professionally on your resume and cover letter.  Cutesy, offensive, flirtatious or sexual addresses send hiring managers the wrong message.

Follow Up

Read the job description carefully. If an application deadline is listed, then follow up one week after that date. If you can’t find a deadline, send your follow-up note one week after your initial application. Remember, if the job listing states “no calls,” do not call to follow up. The employer will assume you can’t follow directions.

Online Presence

Remember that spelling and proper grammar – even in the Twittersphere – count. In fact, Jobvite’s social recruiting survey found that employers were more turned off by misspellings and grammatical errors found on candidates’ social media profiles than by images of the candidates drinking an alcoholic beverage.  Your online presence has become an increasingly important part of an employer’s screening process – make sure yours passes the test.

Interview & Next Steps

If your interview requires you to bring samples of your work, choose your best and most applicable pieces and give them a good proofread. Also, carefully proofread your thank-you note. Then read it again. Then have your friend proofread it. Make sure everything is spelled properly (including the interviewer’s name and title), and correct all typos before hitting the “send” button or dropping the envelope into the mailbox.

As a job seeker, there’s no excuse for handing in work samples, job applications or any other communication related to the interview process with grammatical errors and typos. If you’re not a natural writer, or you’re struggling to craft the right resume, seek help from a professional. If you’re looking for some resources to improve your knowledge of punctuation and grammar, check out Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, and Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, by Patricia T. O’Conner.

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