Five common mistakes found in job applications

A lot of time and effort goes into preparing job applications.  Yet so often good candidates can be eliminated because their applications contain spelling and/or grammatical errors.  Here are some of the more common errors we see:


In primary school we all learnt that to show the possessive we needed to add an apostrophe "s" to a noun.  This is not the case with IT.

IT'S (with an apostrophe "s") is only ever a contraction for IT IS or IT HAS.  For example:

  • It's been a great day = It has been a great day
  • It's very sunny today = It is very sunny today.


ITS, on the other hand, is the possessive form of IT.  For example:

  • The dog ate its bone. 

You don't need to add an apostrophe to show the dog owns the bone.  This is because ITS is a pronoun not a noun.  It needs to be treated in the same way as other possessive pronouns.  For example, his pen, her chair.  You don't add an apostrophe "s" to his or her, so please don't add one to "its". 


Use the wrong form of these words and the spell checker is unlikely to pick it up.  However there are some simple rules:

If you wish to show possession use THEIR.  For example "I went with my friends in their car."

If you would otherwise say "They are" then use the contraction THEY'RE.  For example "They're my friends."

Most other THERE / THEIR / THEY'RE situations require the use of THERE.  For example "My friends are over there."

A good test to see if you've used the correct word:

  • If you can substitute HERE, you should use THERE. For example: I'll be THERE / THEIR / THEY'RE with my friends - I'll be HERE with my friends. 
  • If you can substitute OUR, you should use THEIR. For example: I went with my friends in THERE / THEIR / THEY'RE car -  I went with my friends in OUR car.  
  • If you can substitute THEY ARE, use THEY"RE.  For example: THERE / THEIR / THEY'RE my friends - THEY ARE my friends.  


YOU'RE is the contraction for "You are".  
In contrast, YOUR is a pronoun and the possessive form of "you".  Use it to show ownership.  For example:

  • You're most welcome = You are most welcome.
  • Your experience is impressive.  (You own the experience).

A good test to see if you've used the correct word is to ask yourself if you can substitute YOU'RE / YOUR with "You are".  If the answer is "no" you should use YOUR.


THAN indicates comparison, whereas THEN is used to show sequence.  For example:

  • Our prices were more competitive THAN/THEN theirs.  You're comparing the prices so use THAN.
  • Dial the number THAN / THEN speak to the operator.  You're showing a sequence of actions so use THEN.


ALTOGETHER means "wholly" or "completely" whereas ALL TOGETHER means "in a group" or "collectively".  
For example:

  • An ALTOGETHER / ALL TOGETHER new approach was required.  "Completely" can be substituted in here so use ALTOGETHER.
  • The team worked ALTOGETHER / ALL TOGETHER to finish the project.  The implication here is that the team worked as a group so use ALL TOGETHER.


It's important to remember a recruiter / employer may receive many applications for the one role.  They need to eliminate unsuitable candidates.  Don't allow them to eliminate your application because you haven't used the English language correctly.