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The 7 Worst Job Application Mistakes

By Rachel Dotson

To err is human.

To err on your resume is job search suicide.

“Missing periods are easy to forgive, but frankly a resume should be error free. The writer has all the time in the world to make it perfect,” explains Lorne Epstein, author of You’re Hired. “Good recruiters know how to read between the lines and see the errors as someone who is not detail-oriented or careful with their work.”

Before you submit your next job application, check to make sure your resume and cover letter are free of these common mistakes.

1) Misspelling Your Own Name

“Yes, this is 100% true,” recalls Jeff Gordon, former corporate recruiter & Founder of Interactive99. “The name was correct on the cover letter and elsewhere but they dropped a few characters at the end. While this was funny it was just too careless to accept.”

2) Misspelling the Company’s Name

“One unforgivable job application mistake is if a candidate spells our company name incorrectly,” explains David Ciccarelli, Co-founder& CEO of “We are more forgiving with the odd spelling mistake, but incorrectly spelling our company’s name when applying to work for us doesn’t get someone very far.”

In addition to the spelling itself, be mindful of the capitalization and spacing of company names (we’re ZipRecruiter, not Ziprecruiter or Zip Recruiter!).

3) Generically or Incorrectly Addressing Your Cover Letter

What’s the number one mistake Bryan Fulton sees? “People not taking the time to personalize the cover letter or introductory email.” Before you send in another “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter, remember what the Bullet Point Branding CEO has to say: “If they do not take the time to at least do a little research I immediately delete the resume or trash it.”

What’s even worse? “An inquiry addressed to the wrong name,” says Fulton. “This tells me you are mass mailing and getting sloppy. This has happened more than once, believe it or not — extremely unprofessional.”

4) Using Improper Grammar

“Most of the hiring I do is for writing positions,” explains Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers. “One thing that will put the application straight into the trash file is grammatical errors. This tells me two things: either the candidate is not a very conscientious writer, or they’re not taking the position seriously enough to at least spell check their cover letter or resume.”

Epstein agrees. “The bigger the typo and the more writing has to do with the job, the quicker the resume gets deleted.”

5) Using Too Many Buzzwords

“In my experience, excessive use of buzzwords is a pretty solid indicator that the candidate has no idea what they’re talking about,” says Kevin Spence, President of Career Thoughts. “Use more than a couple, and I’ll probably just trash the resume.”

6) Not Completing the Entire Application

“If a candidate leaves any section of the application blank, or includes an evasive response, I’ll usually immediately cross them off the list,” says Schrage.

Are there bonus questions involved? If the hiring manager is anything like Wired’s Jim Hopkinson, you’ll want to answer those, too. Hopkinson recently eliminated 65% of intern applicants because they didn’t respond to his bonus question, “What is my favorite baseball team?”

7) Lying

“Sometimes, there’s a thin line between a mistake and a lie,” explains Spence. “When it comes to things like incorrect employment dates, false employment history, or fudged GPAs, it’s hard to be lenient. These are such important elements of a resume, that even if there is an honest mistake, it shows poor attention to detail and I can’t justify hiring the person.”

The good news? Not all job application mistakes will take you out of the running.

Nikki Trotter, President and Founder of Career & Cultures, is generally willing to forgive applicants who include too much information. “Some individuals…may not understand the dos and don’ts of writing a resume,” she explains. “Therefore, if they include unnecessary information like photos, social security numbers or any other personal information, I would be willing to overlook these mistakes as long as they have demonstrated their value.”

Schrage points to formatting errors as another forgivable mistake. “I know that these sometimes occur during the electronic transmission process, so these are things that I will not hold against a candidate.”

Rachel Dotson

Rachel Dotson is a former digital marketing manager and former blog contributor at ZipRecruiter. She is based in Venice, California.

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