Minor Errors on Your Resume or Cover Letter = Major Trouble

Want to know an almost sure fire way to shoot yourself in the foot during your job search? For the past two weeks I’ve been following a discussion “Is there anyone else here who simply discards any applicant with grammar or typing errors in their resume or cover letter? Is there really any excuse for this?”

I found out quickly that decision makers have strong feelings about this topic, and many vociferously agree if they received a resume with errors they would immediately disregard the candidate, even if the resume indicated this person perfectly fit the profile they were looking for.

So if you are not yet privy to this discussion here are some of the 85 comments for your consideration.

Michael B., the President of a sales/marketing consulting company was brief and to the point. “At best, spelling and grammar errors are signs of carelessness. At worst, they indicate inattention during education and/or a “who cares?” attitude. Any of those can and perhaps should disqualify.”

A VP at a software sales company, Scott T had this to say. “For native English speakers, I would overlook one typo – it happens to anyone – but multiple typos and/or major grammatical errors would most likely cause me to pass. I’m fanatical about the quality of the communications that touch our clients and have to have confidence the candidate is capable of giving a consistently professional impression with their written communications. Frankly, this goes beyond just spelling and grammar. I want people who understand that, even in e-mail, business communications begin with “Dear Dr. Smith,” or “Hi Jim,” and end with “Best Regards,” or some other such closing, followed by a professional-looking signature block.”

Theresa N, a Marketing VP for a technology company posted “A resume isn’t a long document. From an interviewer’s perspective, poor grammar and spelling on a resume shows lack of attention to detail or genuine interest in the position. Additionally, in a sales position where emailing is a critical form of communication but lacks the room for conveying emotions and intent, little yet important things like grammar and spelling matter.”

Jean, a recruitment partner in the UK had this to say from across the pond. Totally agree attention to detail should first start with you – your written word is part of your personal brand. With spelling mistakes people start to remember you for the wrong reasons! Just screening CV’s for a creative agency director… 5 out of 12 candidates with spelling mistakes.”

Patrick N, a Director in a supply chain and logistics firm in Australia feels “If someone can’t be bothered checking the smaller details (e.g. spelling), then what gives an employer any comfort knowing a potential employee could be entrusted with major projects where serious dollars are involved.”

Ian W a VP of Global Sales offered these thoughts. “I also find errors in written communication annoying and my judgment of the person and their abilities will be tainted by this. I wonder if this is a ‘generational’ issue. Grammar and spelling were viewed as important when I was at school… My observation is that younger generations have not been taught in this way and tend not to place as much importance on the correctness of spelling and grammar. Technology can be helpful, but if you haven’t learned the difference between, e.g. “there”, “their” and “they’re” a spellchecker may not be the panacea.”

In my opinion, Shonagh W, the owner of a marketing solutions company offered the best comment. “Definitely agree that spelling and grammar are key when submitting a CV and a cover letter. As has already been stated above, it shows a lack of attention to detail if there are mistakes – and then that reflects (rightly or wrongly) on their ability to then do the job they are applying for. Of course, some people are simply not very good at spelling – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but if you know that you are not a good speller or not hot on grammar, then get someone to proof read your CV/Letter in advance.

To be honest many others who joined in on this discussion were more open minded to these errors as long as they did not appear as tell-tale signs of sub par communication skills. However my advice to you is when sending a resume or CV and a cover letter, assume it is being sent to a stickler for perfection who’ll summarily disqualify you if these errors appear in writing.

The bottom line is if your spelling, grammar and/or keyboarding skills are weak have someone proof read your work before you submit it; and even if they are strong you should have a fresh pair of eyes check it for inadvertent errors. I do it all the time!

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