How do I make sure that my resume and cover letter are well written?

Employment counsellors spend a great deal of time checking and editing resumes, cover letters and business proposals.

It is important for you to learn how to check your own work, as there will be times when you will not have an employment counsellor around, but you need to send out a job application.

The task is similar to being a detective.

First look for the obvious - spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Then, read the document a second time to ensure that the meaning and the content are correct. Finally, read everything over another again and look at your writing style and content. Even the best writers find mistakes in their own work.

There are some common mistakes and ways to correct them that can help.

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Do not trust your spell checker.

All word processing software on computers come with spell checking abilities. Although a spell checker can work well if you are making a minor spelling mistake the software cannot read context and will only correct a work that is obviously wrong. Examples of context mistakes include:

  • "I am a contentious (instead of conscientious) employee."
  • "I serve notorious (instead of nutritious) meals to my clients"

Become very good friends with your dictionary

This is very important. Carry your dictionary with you wherever you go and use it! Even if you have the most advanced software to check spelling and grammar never rely on it. Your dictionary will not only give you the meanings of words, it will give you the pronunciation and other ways to use the word. Another great thing to do is to promise yourself to learn a couple of new words - every day - and start using them in sentences.

Don't try so hard

One mistake a lot of people make is to try to make their resume look too impressive by using a lot of big words. It is a trap most of us fall into. However, if you speak to the experts they will tell you to use the KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) rule. Try to write to a regular high school level, using more plain language. You will get your point across more clearly and concisely.

Don't be afraid to borrow other people's ideas

How many times have people tried to write a cover letter or resume without even reading the number of resource books available on the subject. Most resource centres will have a variety of resource books on cover letters, resumes and business plans with examples for every profession you can imagine. Take advantage of them.

Have someone check and re-check your work

Even the greatest writers in the world cannot check their own work. Find someone whose language abilities you trust to read over your work, if you have the time. They might help find things that you did not see.

Your resume and cover letter are very important, as they often create the employer's first impression of you. Everything matters, including spelling and formatting. The cover letter should be interesting enough so that the employer wants to read your resume. Your resume should make the employer want to offer you an interview.

Contributed by Deborah Noel, a Toronto-based employment counsellor and facilitator with years of experience helping newcomers find work.

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Last updated: June 9, 2020 4001068