What to Do When You Email a Wrong Resume?

By Edward Mercer

Applying to jobs online is quick and easy, but allows for some careless mistakes.
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In a highly competitive job market, tailoring your resume to highlight the most relevant experiences and skills for each position is a great job-searching strategy. Having numerous resumes saved on your computer can make it very easy to send the wrong version to a prospective employer, especially when applying to many positions. Realizing what you've done after clicking the "Send" button can be stressful and embarrassing, but it's unlikely to cost you the job, especially if you react well and immediately to correct the error.

Recalling Options

Most major Web-based email clients -- like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo -- do not allow you to recall emails. Once it's sent, it's out of your hands. A few email applications, however, do offer recall options for emails sent in error. Microsoft Outlook 2010, for example, allows you to recall an email as long as the recipient is also using Outlook (see link in Resources). It's a long shot, but, if you're using a program with a recall feature, it's worth a try to get that resume back and avoid the problem altogether.

Apologize and Explain

If you know you can't recall the email, the best course of action is to acknowledge the mistake and explain the problem. Don't go into excessive personal detail -- a prospective employer is unlikely to care that you were distracted by your dog barking or a chicken in the oven -- but simply explain that you sent an email intended for another position. If the resume you wanted to send is not substantially different from the one you sent, you can even take the opportunity to explain the differences and highlight the specific skills that make you a good fit for the job.

Send a New Resume

If the resume you sent and the skills it stresses are completely inapplicable to the position you are applying to, you should send a new resume immediately. Apologize for the mistake, ask the recipient to please disregard you previous email and explain that you are applying to numerous positions in your job search. Employers know that responsible job-seekers explore multiple positions. If your message is well-phrased, it can even make you seem diligent and well-rounded. After all, your other resume might highlight a different set of skills but probably doesn't make you seem like a bad worker.

General Advice

The most important thing to do is to act quickly. The recipient is probably receiving a number of responses to the job advertisement and could be confused if you send a second email hours after sending the first. Everyone -- including employers -- makes mistakes. Think of this as an opportunity to demonstrate how quickly you can address a problem and effectively control damages. Take responsibility and propose a solution, showing off the poise and professionalism the recipient is probably looking for in an employee.