Miranda joined AlphaSights in February 2015 and sits on the European Recruitment Team. She taught English in Argentina and France and shares her top tips on how to avoid making grammatical mistakes when writing a CV, résumé or cover letter.
Although the goal is to get an interview, what you choose to put on your CV - and how you choose to put it - says a lot about you. You may not have studied grammar since school, but make sure you're not falling down at the first hurdle by forgetting to proofread your CV or written statements before submitting them to a Recruiter.
1) Apostrophes: This sentence’s apostrophes are needed to show possession or when there's (there is) an abbreviation. Don't just pepper apostrophes whenever an “s” is the last letter of a word: your “Math's degree” won’t look any better than your English if you do. As highlighted by the Bristol Apostrophiser recently, you should know the differences between they’re/there/their, you’re/your, it’s/its, we’re/were etc. so take care and avoid embarrassing oversights.
2) Commas: Know when to use them. Compare let’s eat, Grandma! and let’s eat Grandma!. Commas save lives. Literally.
3) Save emojis for your phone: A winky or smiley face is not professional nor appropriate in an email, CV or written statement, so direct these to your friends rather than a potential employer. ;)
4) Typos and misspellings: You don’t want your hard-earned “Batchelor of History” to turn against you! Typos can occur and change the context of a sentence entirely, so reread your work and consult spell check if in doubt. Also make sure that your contract — oops, we mean contact — details are typed correctly or you may never be contacted (or contracted).
5) Tense: Don’t create confusion by using past, present and future tenses in the wrong place, unless you have the ability to time travel!
6) False friends: If you’re not a native English speaker and are using idioms, check that the phrase exists when translated. This can often lead to confusion and some miscommunication. Some of our favourites include “missions” for tasks, “relations” for relationships and “I am extremely interesting” instead of “interested”.
7) Capital letters: THIS CAN SOMETIMES LOOK LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING! Make sure that you give proper nouns such as names, job titles, countries, cities and companies a capital letter. When writing about yourself, “I” should always be a capital letter.
8) Keep a consistent narrative voice: General advice is to write in the third person singular on your CV but first person singular in written responses when reflecting on your past experiences. Whatever you decide, do not liberally change when you feel like it. Recruiters will notice.
9) Pick a side of the pond: Behavior/behaviour, organisation/organization, fall/autumn etc. Either go for American English or British English and stick with it.
10) Make the right points: Whether you're listing grades, jobs or interests, know how to set out lists and use the right punctuation, numbers or bullet points. Be consistent and think about the visual layout of your CV.