For those who read my BLArticles® you probably know that I have a passion for helping those in career transition.  I try to help them find work.  It can be one of the most lifechanging gifts you can offer another human being.  Being on the frontline of providing this kind of support, I’ve seen my share of resumes.  According to a study released this week by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend an average of six to seven seconds looking at a resume. When I’m handed a resume, I clock in even faster than that, and that’s because I can find out all I need to know without reading one word.

I’m sure I sound callous when I make that kind of a statement, but I want to clarify the point I’m trying to make: I didn’t say I wasn’t looking at the resume. I said I wasn’t reading the words.  I suppose I could take a minute or two looking for a typo, but I’m not all that interested in, nor do I put that much stock in, finding typos.  I know that others might look for the typos, but not me. That’s probably because I was taught quite a lesson by a typo once.  I feel a story coming on: cue the dream sequence music…

Once upon a time, I had a typo in a resume that I had looked over countless times. I had been working on it for weeks.  That typo wasn’t there because I was too lazy to find it, and it wasn’t there due to a lack of caring about it. My mind kept reading the word “form” as “from,” and that one word made all of the difference in the next interview I was going to.

It was a training specialist job for a major Fortune 500 company.  The interview consisted of a 60-minute panel interview, followed by a 20-minute live delivery.  I nailed the interview, and when it came to the live delivery, I nailed that too. When was the last time you saw someone come into your conference room carrying his own, folding, portable lectern?!  I had that room at, “I hope you don’t mind that I brought my own lectern.  You can never be too sure if there’s one waiting for you.”

When I finished, I knew I had that room in the palm of my hand… or at least I thought I did.  As each panelist shook my hand on his or her way out, each was smiling and complementing me on the job I had just done.  The hiring manager stayed behind.  When the room cleared, he gave me the bad news.  “You know there isn’t a person on that panel who isn’t ready to hire you right now, and no one has even come close to delivering the kind of presentation you just delivered.  That said, you have a typo in your resume and for that reason, and that reason alone, I will not hire you.”

I walked out with my tail between my legs, discouraged and disappointed with myself.  It turned out the word, “form” cost me a job I really wanted.  As I look back on that interview now, I happen to think the word, “form,” also cost that company a world-class professional speaker who was rising within his field… but I digress.

I refuse to judge the character of someone I’m looking to evaluate based on a typo.  To me, although a typo is no welcome guest on any document, it’s not a reflection of character.  When I look at someone’s resume, I’m not looking for typing errors; I’m looking for formatting errors. To be clear, formatting errors relate to appearance or layout, such as when columns don’t line up, or bullets are mismatched, or there is a lack of consistency in titles, and so on.

There’s a big difference between a typo and formatting errors.  I don’t know anyone who is aware of a typo and willingly ignores it.  I know how a typo can be almost impossible to find.  But formatting errors speak volumes to me because they are almost impossible to miss, and they seem to be symptomatic of laziness and a lack of interest in correcting them.  What’s more, I think it’s important to note that a formatting issue is not just limited to resumes.  There are many examples of formatting issues in how we conduct ourselves:

  • When I see someone communicating virtually with a cluttered and distracting background, I have to assume the individual knows what it looks like but thinks, “it’s clean enough.”I’m left wondering just how much pride and care this person places on the work he or she performs.
  • When I see a for-sale sign in a yard that’s crooked, I have to assume the realtor knows what it looks like but thinks, “it’s straight enough.” I’m left wondering just how much attention to detail I can expect from this realtor. After all, I am looking for someone to help me navigate one of the most important and complicated decisions I’ll ever make.
  • When I see someone show up two minutes late for either a live meeting or a virtual one, I have to assume the individual had a few others things he or she needed to do and feels, “I’m not that late.”I’m left wondering just how dependable I can expect this person to be moving forward.

Formatting to me can come in many shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day, it reflects a critical trait that is highly desired, and difficult to spot.  That trait is “hustle.”  When was the last time you worked with someone who showed an innate ability to hustle, and then he or she later disappointed you?  You know, I can’t think of one either.


Looking forward to putting out another podcast soon!  For now, if you haven’t been there yet, check out “Pocket Sized Pep Talks.”  My latest podcast, Handling Those Negative Voices, might be just what you need during these times of uncertainty.  Now’s not the time to let these negative voices have their way; we’ve got this!  Please listen – follow – rate – review!

You might want to also listen to some of the others there including a short piece I did on “Worry.”  If you’re struggling, have a listen, and I think you’ll learn a few tricks that will assist you, and you’ll feel a little better as well!





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