Recovering from a Resume Typo

I was nervous. Two interviews with my would-be boss had gone well, and the last hurdle between me and a great copywriting job was an interview with the vice president. I was feeling good about my chances, but I was nervous.  And that feeling was about to get much, much worse. 

She was on the phone, but she waved me in and pointed to the chair across from her. As I sat down, I glanced at the one document on her desk – my resume, with two glaring red-marker circles. As she talked, I looked at the two words that had been circled:


    Copy Writer

I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. Any typo on a resume is bad, but never more so than when you're applying for a writing job. It technically wasn't a typo (both spellings are common) but it was a clear inconsistency, and I was sure I was doomed. She hung up the phone, introduced herself, and immediately said, "So first, tell me the difference between a copywriter and a copy (she paused) writer."

I was much too panicked to create a plausible story to cover my error, so instead, I replied the only way I could think to reply: I told the truth.

"Well," I said, pointing to the two-word version, "a copy (I paused) writer is someone who thoughtfully prepares his resume and carefully proofreads it like a professional." I then pointed to the one-word version. "A copywriter is a person who is so excited about an unexpected job opportunity that he updates his resume in a hurry and doesn't cross-reference nearly as much as he should."  She smiled, and it was enough to close the topic. The rest of interview went well, and I got the job.

I'm convinced I wouldn't have gotten the job if I had tried to pretend it was intentional. I was staring at two red-circled errors, and as the adage says, if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.  My explanation wasn't brilliant, but it was genuine, and I think that's why she let it drop. If I had tried to cover my tracks, I would have only given her more things to question.

So here's my resume advice: 

  1.     Don't make mistakes. Proofread, proofread again, and ask a smart friend to proofread it for you. Even if you're a writer and you're sure you don't make those kinds of mistakes.
  2.     If you do make a mistake, admit it. Own it. If you're staring down at a glaring error, things are already going badly, but there's always room for it to get worse. Confess to being human and hope for the best.

 It worked out for me once. Hopefully it will for you, too.