by E-WRITE's Leslie O'Flahavan

April 21, 2011

You've discovered a typo in your cover letter; now what do you do?

... after you stop hyperventilating, of course. Here's an e-mail I received today from Heather B:

Leslie,

Recently a friend shared her chagrin at discovering that the closure in an email she sent with her resume to a prospective employer contained an obvious typo. The closure!

What would you have advised her to do? Nothing? Apologize for the typing mistake in a second email? Or...?

Here's the answer I sent to Heather.

Hello, Heather -

Thanks for contacting me. My heart goes out to your friend; I have made similar errors, in my resume, no less! (Thankfully, I spelled my own name right, which isn't easy.)  Actually, it's a tiny bit less embarrassing, in my opinion, to make a typo ("htat" instead of "that") than an actual misspelling ("recieve"), though either error makes the reader mumble "Ever heard of spell check??"

I've found that people fall into two categories when it comes to others' typos or misspellings. One is the "This error is a blight and an indictment" category. These folks regard a single typo in another's writing as evidence of incompetence or a character flaw. If the prospective employer is in this category, an apology will not make the situation better. The second is the "Everyone makes an occasional mistake" category. These folks would probably be open to a quick, charming apology from your friend.

So, I guess I would advise her to jump in and offer an apology and a corrected cover letter. It would be best if she could call the prospective employer to let him know she's sending an updated version, even if she has to leave a voice mail. That way, she can put a smile into her apology and maybe even turn this error into an advantage. After all, a person who goes to these lengths to remedy a typo is likely to be a tenacious worker!

Have you ever discovered a typo in your cover letter or resume? If so, how did you handle it? (Just curious - did you get the job??) Do you agree with my advice to Heather's friend? Comment here or let me know what you would do.

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Comments

I hope small mistakes ignored unless you commit a big one.

Posted by: Cover letters | August 3, 2011 at 06:08:50am

Hi - thanks for your comment. I agree that small mistakes don't weigh as much as big ones, but I think mistakes in resumes and cover letters are rarely ignored unless the reader knows (and likes) the person who made the mistake!

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | August 4, 2011 at 11:59:15am

I'm pretty harsh when reviewing cover letters, applications and resumes. A typo in one of these documents translates to the person didn't care enough about the job to proof what they sent in. However, if I received a call and a revised cover letter, that would certainly give me a reason to give them a second chance.

Posted by: Mark Viviano | September 12, 2011 at 03:42:49pm

Thanks for your comment, Mark. I'm glad to read you'd give the applicant a second chance. I hope Heather's friend got that second chance!

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | September 12, 2011 at 08:06:20pm

I help French job-seekers with their English CVs and letters, so I am used to finding all sorts of errors, but I never accept an error which could have been spotted by a spell-checker. Whether you are native or non-native, there is simply no excuse nowadays for that type of error in such an important text. A more "acceptable" slip would be, for example, "form" in place of "from": indetectable by a machine and obviously a slip. But is "loose" for "lose" a slip or poor command of English? I might give the writer the benefit of the doubt unless they asked for my advise.:-) A correction makes it clear that it was a slip made by a competent writer.

Posted by: Sheila Wilson | September 13, 2011 at 02:42:27pm

Hi, Sheila - Good point. If the spell-checker can find the problem, the human who doesn't use the spell-checker owns the problem. That seems fair to me (as I avidly proofread this post...)

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | September 13, 2011 at 04:13:55pm

So what would a good apology letter be like? I made a mistake where instead of saying "clinical assistant" I said "clinician assistant". Please reply ASAP. I sent it recently (after spending 5 hours writing it!), and the job requires "high attention to detail".

Posted by: Ash | September 2, 2012 at 02:11:46am

Hello, Ash - Thanks for your question -- and so sorry to hear about your typo! Before you apologize for the typo, are you absolutely sure that it will be held against you? It's not a spelling mistake or grammar error. Of course, you did not use the word you wanted to use, so if the misused word is an (unforgivable) error, you do need to apologize. I would send a breezy apology e-mail and attach a corrected cover letter. Merely say that you mis-typed the word "clinical," and you are sending a correction. Best wishes - I hope you get an interview and, if you want it, the job.

Posted by: LESLIE O'FLAHAVAN | September 5, 2012 at 12:02:59pm

Hello, Thank you for this article. I actually came across it as I just realized that I misspelled the employer's name in an application I sent one week ago so I was looking for advice: I inadvertently took off the "Mc" that precedes his name, he having scottish origins. This is in the opening of the letter, so there's chances that my carefully prepared application gets discarded from the first line... I would like to send a letter of apologies, and renew my application with a corrected cover letter and, again, my resume. Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think one week time to do this is too much? My feeling is that, in any case, this would be regarded as a responsible, if clumsy, move, and maybe give me a second chance in case my application had been rejected. I must specify, I am not a native language speaker! I am applying for a position in another european country than mine. Thank you for your advice! Regards!

Posted by: Nelly M | February 14, 2013 at 01:09:36pm

Hello- I just noticed I left a word out of a cover letter for a position I'm very interested in. I wrote, " I am an educational because..." Instead of "I am an educational LEADER because..." Is this major? I had seen and worked with so many drafts of this letter with the word "leader" there, my eyes must have inserted the word without it actually being there. Please help!

Posted by: Lu | April 8, 2013 at 11:17:13pm

Ugh this just happened to me on Friday....Had the best interview of my life; sent the thank you and noticed (tonight...) that my thank you had a typo - and spell check didn't catch it ('can' but instead it was 'an') I am absolutely livid at my not noticing this; and stressed that the job I've waited 5 years for has just vanished; and wondering what the heck to do - if anything...hope they don't notice; do I call and make a fuss and fess up to it? or just hope that it doesn't ruin what was an otherwise stellar interview... Can't believe this actually happened...lets hope for the best. If they toss me to the 'rejected' pile I have no one to blame but myself...

Posted by: Mimi | April 13, 2013 at 11:48:34pm

By accident I wrote 'KINDA Regards' instead of 'KIND Regards' on my e-mail application. The cover letter and resume I attached had no mistakes but it was just that opening e-mail. I hope they don't notice it or wouldn't mind because I surely didn't see the mistake till later... if they read it really fast then it wouldn't be noticeable at all!

Posted by: nom | April 18, 2013 at 04:14:28am

Hi! I just realized that I sent through a number of cover letters that shows 2012 as the year as opposed to 2013.. these are teaching applications... what should i do?

Posted by: M | April 29, 2013 at 05:55:55pm

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Posted by: Slimquick | July 11, 2013 at 10:20:40am

I noticed I wrote "Dir Sir/Madame" instead of "Dear Sir/Madame." My spell check didn't pick up on it and I guess I got so used to it that I thought it was correct. Thankfully I only sent it out to three companies that way. I corrected it with only one though as the others were through a job website and not to an actual person. Hopefully the company I want to work for will accept my apology and corrected cover letter. This blog helped me quite a bit, thanks so much!

Posted by: ksaff | July 28, 2013 at 07:36:37pm

Hello, I applied for a two positions with the Council of Foreign Relations in DC. In my cover letter, I had the name of the organization an it's address correctly in the letter. However, in the body, instead of writing Council of Foreign Relations, I wrote Council of Foreign 'Affairs.' It was an innocent mistake. Is that a huge mark against me in the hiring process, although I am highly qualified for the position? Also, I in the body of my email, I wrote. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Donna Randolph | September 6, 2013 at 09:02:51am

I just experienced this trauma/drama. On review (and after having hit send), I found a single space before a hyphen in a hyphenated phrase. Ugh. Reality is, I need to wear my glasses. But further reality is, we live in a digital age where these things are taken for granted in our sloppy online social network correspondences. That is no excuse. What it boils down to is, who do you want to be? Do you want to be the prospective, possibly irresponsible employee who hopes you don't catch her/his mistakes? Or do you want to be the responsible employee, who, despite drawing attention to what may disqualify her/him from consideration, owns her/his mistakes, and thereby sends an apology for the typo that may or may not have been seen? I sent an immediate apology on the heels of my initial send, trusting the employer to respect my honesty and integrity, and further trusting him to recognize that, when mistakes happen, I own them, correct them, and would do so in his important organization in those rare, somewhat awkward moments when human frailties prevail.

Posted by: Steve | October 10, 2013 at 02:50:08pm

I sent out many cover letters where I wrote "my skills MATH instead of MATCH..what do I do?

Posted by: franklin | November 2, 2013 at 12:34:32pm

I have sent my CV into a senior manager in my company applying for a promotion. In my CV, everything is perfect except one thing: there is one RANDOM word that should not be there! I have no idea how the heck I missed it after i proof-read it countless times and of course my spell-check didn't pick up on it. I now feel a fool as I felt I was in a good position applying for this job now I don't know whether I will even get to the next stage. I want to send an apology and an updated version to my manager and hope he accepts? Help!

Posted by: Jay | November 3, 2013 at 06:54:42pm

I frantically typed, 'what to do if you just spotted a typo in your email cover letter' on google the moment I reviewed my sent email cover letter. So i found this article. quite helpful.However, I'm still unsure what I should put on the email subject line. My typo was an unintentional grammar error because I had spent hours perfecting not only the resume, but also the cover letter. I even sent it to a friend to proofread it. The phrase was, "to produce and maintained", when it was supposed to be "maintain". This is really embarrassing. What do I do? The email was sent 12 hours ago! I really want to send an apology. Do I just type my apology some lines above the updated cover letter or attached the edited version as an attachment?Please help...

Posted by: anna | November 6, 2013 at 02:29:52pm

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Posted by: Lipozene | November 28, 2013 at 02:45:16am

Recently a friend shared her chagrin at discovering that the closure in an email she sent with her resume to a prospective employer contained an obvious typo. The closure!

Posted by: click here | December 8, 2013 at 07:08:54am

I would not want to work for an employer that would judge someone based on a typo.

Posted by: drew | December 21, 2013 at 11:57:37pm

That might sound like an impossible contradiction, but this much is true: Wacky or unprofessional resumes get rejected immediately. So it's really important to know what not to do.

Posted by: other | January 24, 2014 at 08:42:36pm

This article was quite interesting. I am going to read more on your blog. I do agree with everything you are saying.

Posted by: Hydroxycut | February 15, 2014 at 01:13:11pm

So, I had a type in my cover... "I have a great appreciate..." instead of " I have a great appreciation..." I was so mad when I saw this, thought my chances were destroyed, but I actually got an interview! Now, my problem is what happens if they bring up my error in the interview?! or should I bring it up first?? How do I explain this, besides the truth, which is I have been unemployed and jaded about job applications and after about the thousandth cover letter your eyes get a little tired... Help!

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I just sent out my resume that had work experience as "February 2013 to August 2013" instead of "July 2013 to August 2013"! What do I do??

Posted by: leigh | February 18, 2014 at 10:43:55pm

i enjoy this topic i agree with. this just happened to me on Friday....Had the best interview of my life; sent the thank you and noticed (tonight...) that my thank you had a typo - and spell check didn't catch it ('can' but instead it was 'an') I am absolutely livid at my not noticing this

Posted by: Diva | March 12, 2014 at 06:02:21am

Can someone give some advice? I mistakenly spelled the word 'Preparation' and typed 'Preparaction' under my Seminars Attended section. Will this result in my resume getting thrown or shredded? Please help? I'm really getting nervous about this.

Posted by: Neigh | March 13, 2014 at 09:28:41pm

I just sent a cover letter recently to an employer. It has been proof read by the careers service, as well as others and no mistake was spotted. I re-read it today, and I found I typed 'you' instead of 'your'. What should I do? I'm really nervous about not getting this job.

Posted by: Marlene | April 3, 2014 at 04:16:04pm

I'm really disappointed. I just learned out that I misspelled the last name of the person I addressed it to... not a typo so much, but she spells her name differently than it's typically spelled. Following the advice that it's best to avoid "To whom it may concern" I called the company to get the appropriate person's name and they gave me incorrect information. Should I find a way to get a new version (the application was submitted online) or let it go? I was very interested in this position and now wish I had gone with the generic greeting. :(

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2014 at 04:07:10pm

Tips for cover letter are all very useful. Most of the students now do not pay much attention to cover letter when applying for a job. These things should be in mind.

Posted by: writingfun | July 1, 2014 at 07:45:22am

Making typos is far less severe than misspelling, especially when you are applying for a job. I know from experience that employers frown upon a poorly-written cover letter or CV. Thanks for the article Leslie

Posted by: Blogger | July 1, 2014 at 03:02:18pm

Typos (in a cover letter) a lesser evil in my opinion and you can get away with them. But using the word "effect" as a verb instead of "affect" is something that should be penalized, especially when you claim to be a writer. Leslie being part of journalism and running my own news blog, I have to keep reminding editors of keeping a close eye on such mistakes in their writing. Back in the days, students used to work hard on spelling, sentence structure and other grammar issues that are crucial. Today, these things are a rarity in our education system. Thanks Leslie for such a nice article. Peace

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