Series: What a linguist knows about the job search

Reading a Resume: The meaning of TYPOS

Inspired by my student John Spangler’s “what you know that you didn’t know that you knew” definition of linguistics, I would like to spend some time today reflecting on resumes, considering what it is that we know about these cultural texts that we didn’t know we knew about them, and more importantly, what we know about resumes that may help us be the one who lands the job.

We have all heard the advice that you need to proofread your resume, but what do we know about WHY this is so particularly important.  Putting ourselves into the minds of our readers, let’s think about facework, using Erving Goffman’s (1955) definition “the pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts by which [the speaker] expresses his view of the situation and…his evaluation of the participants, especially himself” (213). A single typo can be the excuse that gives this reviewer permission to not take you seriously.  With this typo you have demonstrated that you do not take the resume as job-search tool seriously.

Speaking for a moment as someone who has been in the position of reviewing applications, this very generous and kind and supportive person (positive facework anyone?), doesn’t want to dismiss anyone, but HAS to.  There are always too many applicants for every job, and a typo lets this reader preserve their positive face needs – don’t let them!   A typo is usually the result of rushing, and/or not having enough eyes on your resume.  Leave lots of time, get lots of feedback, and get that job!!

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