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Headhunters Are Judging Your Grammar and Usage


At first glance, it seems unfair: no one would expect an editor to build a website in order to prove that she has the chops to catch stray commas, but woe betide the software developer who submits a resume with a typo in it. In this era of instantaneous results and 24/7 availability, is it really reasonable for hiring managers to expect perfection in terms of punctuation, spelling, and so on?


(Photo Credit: footage/Flickr)

Human resource managers do judge applicants based on things like typos. In fact, argues Ask the Headhunter‘s Nick Corcodilos, there’s a good reason for that.

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“Poor spelling, incorrect grammar, lousy writing and poor oral presentation are all signs of illiteracy,” he writes, at PBS News Hour. “I don’t care what field you work in, how much you earn, or whether you’re a production worker or a vice president. The way you use language reveals who you are, how you think, and how you work. And that will affect your career profoundly. You can pretend otherwise, but you can also walk around buck-naked believing you’re invisible because you’ve got your eyes closed.”

Corcodilos concedes that everyone makes mistakes. Especially in daily writing, like emails to close colleagues or friends, it’s next to impossible to get it right 100 percent of the time. The point is that resumes, cover letters, and even LinkedIn emails to possible connections are not everyday writing. You need to do better, if you want to get the right kind of attention from the hiring manager.

If you’re typo-prone, or it’s been a long time since you diagrammed a sentence, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting it right:

1. Check your facts.

The worst typos you can make are the ones that HR will catch the first: namely, the name and style of the company and your contacts there.

What do we mean by style? If your prospective employer brands itself as RanDom MidWord CapiTal, Inc., you better do the same. If your interviewer goes by Joseph, do not refer to him as Joe.

This is another reason not to rely on spell-checking software: it won’t catch these kinds of errors.

2. Ask friends to help out.

For important writing, like cover letters and resumes, don’t just rely on one pal to give your materials a cursory glance. Pick at least two of your nitpickiest friends, and have then cast their eyes over your application before you hit “send.”

3. Steal this copyediting trick.

Want to catch every duplicated or left-out word in a sentence? Read your writing backwards. After you go through your piece from start to finish, begin at the end and scan from the period to the first word of each sentence. It’ll be easier to see those incidences of “and and,” because your brain will be less inclined to fill in what your fingers neglected to include or delete.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the worst business writing mistake you’ve ever seen? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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