Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just a couple of questions

Writing yesterday's entry got me wondering, so I thought I would pose a couple of questions here, and see what you all think. This isn't a scientific survey by any means, I'm just really interested. I suspect many of you are too, so leave a comment and let us know how you feel about any or all of these questions.

1) If you're a hiring authority or recruiter, how important are spelling and grammar on resumes and cover letters? Do you allow for an occasional typo, or do you expect a perfect product?

2) If you're a job seeker, have you ever seen a job ad that was so full of errors that, even though the job sounded interesting, you couldn't make yourself apply for it? If so, how bad does an ad have to be to make you walk away from it?

3) Hiring managers/recruiters, do you write your own ads, or does someone else write them for you? Have you ever found that an ad was so poorly written that you weren't getting the right applicants? HOW did you find out? 

4) Do you think it's appropriate for us as job seekers to apply the same standard of "if you can't look after the details, why should I think you'll look after me/my company" that hirers apply to applicants?

5) Finally, I suspect most applicants would welcome feedback from employers saying, "You didn't get the interview because your resume was poorly written." Is it ever appropriate to tell an employer, "Here's my resume. Here's my cover letter. By the way, your ad had misspellings here and here, and grammar errors here and here"? What if the ad is for a proofreader?

Just a few questions that have been running through my head. I'd really like to hear from you.


  1. All use of native language reflects the users' competence, as for example (learned in the second grade) attaching a "got" to "have."

  2. As a job seeker, yes, I draw conclusions about the organization based on their job ads. Companies pay a lot of money to establish an image (accurate or not) for the benefit of their customers, but don't take the same care in their relationship with their employees. The job ads and interviews offer a candid peek inside an organization so you can see whether their public image reflects internal organizational culture or just an ad campaign.

    I get concerned when I see the same position advertised for months, either continuously or sporadically. That gives me the impression that the employer can not keep its employees or is collecting applications for a job that isn't vacant so they can 'clean house' when a better applicant comes along.

  3. I have been in the positions of both a job seeker and a hiring manager, and in the publishing services industry to boot. It's very difficult to accept grammatical and spelling errors in an applicant's résumé, particularly if they will be dealing with editors. An exception may perhaps be made for graphic artists and programmers.

    I have, on a few occasions, not applied for a position when the position description contained multiple errors. On one occasion, I sent the poster of the position a note, but I have never BOTH applied for the position and informed the potential hiring manager about their mistakes.

    My question to others would be: What do you do if you see errors on the potential employer's web pages?

    Applicants appreciate any feedback. All too often no response at all is provided, or "another applicant was selected."

  4. I had an interesting comment on LinkedIn, which I'm reposting here with permission of the author, Mike. I'll repost my reply below:

    There is no excuse for a resume that is not perfect. A job-seeker can take all the time they need to make sure there are no errors, use spell-check and other automated tools, as well as have business associates look at the finished product. I'm frankly surprised this is even a question. A potential employer who sees a resume containing errors concludes this a candidate that may be apathetic, does not pay attention to detail, doesn't care about the quality of work they turn in, doesn't have good computer skills, doesn't know how to use language well or is simply so clueless that they don't even realize there are errors. Whether some or all of the foregoing apply to a particular candidate, there are so many candidates for any particular position that it makes sense to move on to the next resume.

    The fact a company runs an ad with errors doesn't let you off the hook in using your resume as a first opportunity to demonstrate how good your work is. Is that a double standard? Absolutely. If you can't live with that, start your own business.

    1. Mike,

      Thank you! This is exactly the response I was hoping for from an employer. It dovetails nicely with, and validates, my post from yesterday. The main thrust of that post, readers may remember, was that having a perfect resume is key to nailing an interview, and in that post I raised many of the same points you do.

      So, you ask, why was it even a question? Well, honestly, because as I stated at the end of my post, I'm a job seeker, not a job search coach. I'm passing on info I've learned, but I have very little credibility of my own when it comes to how employers make decisions. I can say it all I want, but when an actual employer says it, let alone a senior executive of a large corporation, it tends to stick.

      I'd like to ask you a further question, if I may. I absolutely believe, as you do, that a company's poor writing is no excuse for poor writing on behalf of an applicant. I would expect an applicant's resume to be spotless no matter whom they were sending it to. However, a poorly written ad may tend to cause otherwise qualified candidates to hesitate, meaning the majority of actual applicants are less than ideal. Would you, if in a hiring position, look favorably or unfavorably on an applicant who pointed out the flaws in the job ad? Would you say, "Here's someone with the attention to detail we need in this company?" or would you say, "This person's got some nerve, criticizing us on one hand and asking for work on the other!"

      I'd like to thank you for reading my blog, and for taking the time to make such a thoughtful, insightful, and, most of all, helpful comment.

  5. Can you raed tihs? Olny srmat poelpe can. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.

  6. I’d like to give you some ‘for what it’s worth’ kind of comments, touching on each of your questions.
    1-“…If you're a hiring authority or recruiter…” You will never know if that recruiter or hiring authority is willing to overlook some typos or not. It’s best not to tempt fate while you are job hunting. The important thing here is not whether they allow for an occasional typo, it’s making sure your product, resume and cover letter, are as grammatical and typo free as you can make it. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of a single typo.
    2- “…seen a job ad that was so full of errors…” You may have to make a judgment call on this one. Much would depend on the type of job and if it’s a position you would or might like working in. There may be any number of reasons why the ad was riddled with errors, but it would not be enough to walk away just yet. What’s important is letting your resume and cover letters do their job and secure an interview for you. Depending on the position you’re applying for, it may look like they really need your skills and talents. Once you secure an interview, that’s the time to determine if you really want to work there.
    3-“… do you write your own ads…” Can’t help here.
    4-“…job seekers to apply the same standard…” If there’s a chance you think you’d like to work there, continue to pursue an interview. You might be able to get a more accurate feel for that company and its corporate atmosphere during an interview and that would start the moment you arrive at your interview. Be sure to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early. Be a fly on the wall. Do the employees appear happy, are they smiling, being cordial? How were you greeted? The receptionist is usually their first line of defense. He or she may have more of an input in getting you hired than you think. It says a lot about a company if you feel comfortable in its atmosphere when you walk in.
    5-“…applicants would welcome feedback from employers…” You’re right, most applicants would welcome feedback from a prospective employer, but the reality is that most will not respond except to send a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter. Most companies simply don’t have the time to respond to all applications. They sometimes receive hundreds of resumes for very few positions. It is appropriate to make some discrete inquiries. Wait a few days to ensure your resume and cover letter have arrived and then it’s Ok to call them and state that you want to simply confirm that your package had arrived and they have a record of receiving it. This may also be a good time to ask about the position. They may not know or may not be at liberty to say, but your inquiry might get passed on up the chain and it would show a little more than a passing interest in the job. The only time it’s appropriate to talk about employer errors is at an interview or rather at the end of an interview. If the employer doesn’t bring it up, wait until the interviewers have finished with their questions. At almost every interview, the interviewers will usually say that you’ve answered all their questions and ask if you have any for them. This is your chance to interview them because interviews are a two-way street. They’re trying to determine if you have the skills necessary for the position, but also can you fit in, will you become a seamless part of their team? From your side of the table, you need to find out if you really want to work there. This is when you can discretely bring up their errors. You could say that since this position is that of a proofreader, you noticed there were a few errors in their ad about the position. You might ask them if this was intentional on their part. If they don’t own up to it, you could stress how they could benefit from your qualifications. It ‘s also a good time to bring up some of your strengths and skills that you may not have thought of during the interview itself. Always be the professional you are because the interview starts from the second you walk in to the second you walk out.

  7. Hi David, great blog.

    1. As a person who has reviewed resumes and voted on candidates, an occasional typo does not bother me as long as it doesn't disrupt my reading. I am more concerned with knowing if the candidate speaks the language of the role. My field has quite a bit of specific lingo. This is something that a recruiter/HR generalist, unless assigned to a few specific job types, would probably not know. Larger companies to seem to have HR specialists that understand departmental language.

    2. I'd say that maybe one in ten job descriptions that I've seen give me any sense about the job. Zero in ten give me any idea about what the employer expects. The one job description that I saw that actually "did" spell out what was expected literally forced me to send an email to the owner of the company, whereby I offered to take him out to lunch to see just what inspired him to write such a diatribe, and just what was heck stuck up his behind. I actually got a response from his assistant demanding to know who I was and what I wanted!! I decided right then and there that 'reaching out" directly has some serious value. You will get noticed.

    3. As a hiring manager I have written many of the job relevant parts of job ads.

    4. Yes. If the prospective employer doesn't know what they want, and can't communicate or treat the situation professionally or succinctly, that's a red flag. I see red flags all day. It's probably the most discouraging aspect of job searching for me.

    5. I have to think about that one.

  8. Oh, and by the way. The job description I refer to in #2 was completely rewritten, and looks considerably more inviting. However, I now know the mindset of the leadership and will avoid this company like the plague.