The #1 Resume Mistake, According To Google’s Former Head of HR. (It’s Also The Easiest One To Correct. Hint. Hint.)

by Alan Collins

Laszlo Bock, the former Senior VP of People Operations at Google, has personally reviewed over 20,000 resumes in his career.

When he was at Google, his HR group got more than 50,000 resumes a week.

In a recent LinkedIn article, he said:

“Some resumes are brilliant…but many are absolute disasters. 

For 15 years, I’ve continued to see the same mistakes made over and over again  by job candidates on their resumes, any one of which can eliminate them from consideration for a job.”

The number one mistake in his view?  It is…

Resumes containing typos.

This includes:

Yes, I know this is not earth-shattering news to you.  But don’t shake this off as insignificant.

  *   *   *

Why the heck does it matter?

According to Bock: “In a fiercely competitive labor market, hiring managers don’t compromise on quality. All it takes is one small mistake and a manager will reject an otherwise interesting candidate.”

Let me take it a step farther.

As an HR professional, submitting a resume with typos can be deadly because it conveys a lack of attention to detail on your part.

Grammar or spelling mistakes may also suggest gaps in your ability to spot subtle issues and follow-up — all of which are important components of HR roles at all levels.

Resume typos can reflect horribly on your recruiter or your sponsor as well.  Look at it from his or her perspective.

If you’re presented by them as a top candidate, and your resume doesn’t support this, their reputation is at risk.

And most will not hesitate to drop you in a New York minute before they take this risk.

All of this is strongly supported by the research on resumes:

All this says is that ONE single, stinking resume error can instantly get your resume trashed.

So take this seriously.

*   *   *

Why do typos happen?

Lots of reasons.  But it occurs most often when you go back again and again to tweak your resume — often to customize it for different positions you’re applying for.

And in doing so, a subject and verb suddenly don’t match up, or a period is left in the wrong place, or a set of dates gets knocked out of whack.

Unfortunately, Bock says he sees this in professional resumes — including those in HR — all the time.

*   *   *

Here’s how to fix all this.

1.  Don’t depend only on spell check.  

Certainly use it, but recognize that it isn’t perfect.   Once you’ve spell checked, follow it up with an eyeball review of your document from bottom to top.  Yes, bottom to top.  By reversing the normal order, it will help you focus on every single line in isolation.   

2.  Give yourself a break and then read it again.

Push yourself away from your resume and go grab lunch and dinner and then return and look at it.  A meal and fresh eyes will enable you to spot typos you didn’t see before.

3.  Get proofreading help.

Before you even start writing your resume, line up 1-2 trusted HR colleagues in advance to review it.  Pick some folks with your best interests at heart and good attention to detail. You want it flawless, so get an objective second opinion.

*   *   *

Typos are common.
But they are the easiest type
of resume mistake to address.

But it does require taking some time in advance to do a careful scrub to make the necessary corrections.

Clearly, this isn’t the most exciting work you’ll ever do in your career.

But please don’t discount the simplicity of this advice and the importance of doing this, because it’s absolutely worth it.

Making your resume pristine eliminates ONE reason for dumping your resume…which by definition, increases the chances just a little bit more of landing your HR dream job.

So get it done.


(Note: Try as I might, I’m sure they’re some typos in this article — so if you’ve spotted some, let me know.  Your feedback is welcomed! )

For additional thoughts about this piece, share them below by clicking HERE. 


For even more strategies for enhancing your own HR resume so that it opens doors, check out the FREE excerpts from: HR RESUME SECRETS:  How to Create An Irresistible Human Resources Resume That Will Open Doors, Wow Hiring Managers & Get You Interviews! by CLICKING HERE.

About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling HR books including HR RESUME SECRETS.  He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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15 Responses to “The #1 Resume Mistake, According To Google’s Former Head of HR. (It’s Also The Easiest One To Correct. Hint. Hint.)”

  1. Syed Adeel Khalid Says:

    I think its because of the lack of proper attention that these errors occur. One should always proof read after writing or before submitting. Thanks Alan !!

  2. Peppy Says:

    Thanks Alan. Insightful post. Little important things that we often overlook

  3. Bridget Hardy Says:

    Absolutely correct! The first thing a recruiter does is READ the resume and cover letter. If a candidate cannot ensure that these are perfect, it raises questions about his/her command of the language, attention to details, etc. As for the unprofessional email address, this turns me off even more than the typos! Especially from persons applying for non-entry level jobs. It shows lack of professionalism and knowledge regarding work place protocol. I have had to cousel many interns on this.

  4. Nelson Dcruz Says:

    A very interesting post that really requires the attention for all preparing their resume. Me a soft skill trainer for freshers am trying to train them to get an effective resume is a major challenge, as most of them don’t even know the importance of presenting their details in a systematic way, most of them cut copy past to just alter some of the information. Its so funny that the Male candidates often copy the resumes from their female counterparts, colleagues and friends and in the personal details section forget to change their sex – male and vice versa in some cases, and the worst was they even forget to change their fathers name for Address and communication details. Rest they think and want to make a fancy resume as in a broucher with too much of styling and fonts, the worst is the table and columns to fill in their Academic qualification etc., is so confusing. Last but the least the Colleges and Training professionals in Soft skills each one have their own standard of coaching and training to confuse the Candidate to have various format of Resume building.

  5. Michael Mentis Says:

    This has happened to me before. Here is an example of a brief cover letter I received:

    I’m interested in this position. Please find my resume attached herewith for your kind consideration and favorable disposal.

  6. Stuart Briant Says:

    Alan, the article is spot on. When you closed your message, you ended it with a note. Obviously a disclaimer; mistakes are hidden and are sometimes a challenge to notice. Your fourth typo error is, “Too much information”. While the resume would not include a disclaimer, too much information, whether useful or not, adds additional chance for error. So is your use of a disclaimer and the use of “they’re” instead of “there”, a method you devised to provide an active demonstration of how such errors will be viewed by handlers? Interesting. Reference: [(Note: Try as I might, I’m sure they’re some typos in this article — so if you’ve spotted some, let me know. Your feedback is welcomed! )]

  7. Karlene Says:

    A timely gentle reminder. Well written.

  8. Mesheal Fegor Says:

    Great article as usual.

    Proofreading from bottom up is something i’m certainly going to try.

  9. Big D Says:

    Good reminders but nothing new here. I know a few people that worked with and for Bock at GE. He was not a very nice person and had a reputation as a person who ” kissed up and beat down.” He was all about promoting himself and was known to be arrogant and thought himself as the smartest person in the room. he had an entitled mindset as he was hired from McKinsey

    Somehow he got the top job at Google and has done an astounding job promoting himself to the outside world as “HR’s Great Thought Leader.” He has never spent a day in the trenches practicing HR and has probably not looked at 50 resumes in the past 10 years. He has a cadre of “people” to perform such mundane tasks.Obviously, I am not a fan.

  10. Alan Says:

    Big D, thanks for taking time to share your perspective and experience with Bock. Clearly you’re not a fan. And that’s ok. Appreciate your candid insights.

  11. Bonnie Nguyen Says:

    Good advice and tips! Use them all in my teaching practice! Just mocked interviews some students and teaching some more students next week in the same subject.
    Cut and pasting definitely causes some people some problems! And I agree about the unprofessional email addresses. Yes despite all the training and books on the market people still make simple mistakes that can cause profound consequences!!!

  12. Jean P. Says:

    Thank you Alan for this insightful article. Why should someone miss out because of some typo errors and has the requirements of the post? We all recognize that what we need is skillful employees and we should be aware that everyone can make a mistake. So why do we have to focus more on this? I am not in support of having errors in our CVs, but it shouldn’t be our main criterion when analyzing CVs?

  13. Alan Says:

    Jean P, agree. Typos aren’t the main criterion. One misspelling probably doesn’t make a difference. But more than one may be a problem especially during the screening process…especially if your other credentials don’t clearly differentiate you from other candidates. Just some food for thought. –Alan

  14. LaTrice Huff, SPHR Says:

    Great article and spot on about resumes and recruiters. As a resume writer and former recruiter I can tell you that more than one error will get your resume dismissed.

  15. Stefan Says:

    Great reminder! Typo = next!