Question Proposed on LinkedIn: Can spelling errors on resumes matter and can make or break your chances?
- There seems to be a perception that people from around 18 through to around 35 think that spelling, grammar, correct word usage and having a reasonably advance vocabulary are not very important. I wonder if that perception is reasonably accurate or if it’s something that people in the second half of their working lives made up because it annoys them that people in the first half of their working lives get away with what they believe to be shoddy spelling, grammar and phrasing. I think that loose grammar is not such a major problem because more relaxed and less formal wording and phrasing seem to be more acceptable than they were when I was a pup. The issue is whether the message intended is the message received. However, I am confused about why spelling errors should appear in a resume or cover letter or LinkedIn profile. For resumes, I am confused almost everyone uses a word processing program to compose their resume and other marketing documents and every word processing program has a built-in spell checking function. You can even customise that function to the language and the version of the language you are using! Words not spelled correctly (according to the dictionary incorporated into the program) are usually underlined or flagged in some way. This enables the author of the document to identify the incorrectly spelled words and words the word processing program does not recognise. This makes it fairly easy to correct those words, as necessary. Word processing programs even offer suggested ways to spell the word. Many internet browsers have built in spell checking function. Admittedly, it’s not always switched on by default in some browsers. This means that you have know how to activate this function in the browser you use. If you don’t already know how to activate this function in the internet browser you use, the browser provides an online tutorial or a help facility to enable users to activate the spell checking function. For example, when I ask Google “how to set spell check in chrome”, the first result in in the 340,000 results Google found, points to the following web page: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95604?hl=en. This web page provides all the information needed to enable Google Chrome users to activate the spell checking function. The downside of the process for activating spell checking in Chrome is that it’s a five step process which might test the stamina and/or attention span of some people. Don’t have time to follow a five step process? Simple, use Mozilla Firefox as your internet browser. Firefox is configured to automatically check spelling. You actually have to turn it off! Mozilla understands that time is precious. My understanding is that Microsoft’s inimitable Internet Explorer does not have a built in spell checker. (Maybe that’s changed recently, but I have not used IE for several years). However, for the small and shrinking group of people still using Internet Explorer, it’s fairly easy to download a ‘bolt-on’ spell checker for IE. You just Google the term ‘spell checker for internet explorer’ and you will find several websites that have free downloads. Doing this does require a modest level of motivation and probably about 10 minutes. My view on why there are spelling mistakes in resumes and LinkedIn profiles is that people are either (a) lazy or (b) don’t care or (c) both a and b. Of course, they could simply not know what a spell checking function is or that there is a spell checking function. However, you’d think it’s a question that someone who uses a word processing program and/or internet browser would at least ask. It could be a case of not knowing what you don’t know. There you go, that explains it.
- Poor grammar Tom is still a concern to many employers. In fact, I have shown my students and job seekers an article talking about major companies here in the US actually sending employees back to school for remedial English. And years ago, a foreign customer got so upset with a poorly written email, that he actually sent it back with corrections. And then promptly canceled an order. Despite the meaning being clear, he felt it reflected badly on our ability to do business. And if we put little effort into our writing, then maybe we will do the same with his contracts, deliveries, etc. Let me end with something about spellcheck. Yes, it catches many errors. But as I have demonstrated many times over the years with both students and business professionals, it is not perfect. You can still have misspellings that it skips over and allows.
- You state: “I think that loose grammar is not such a major problem because more relaxed and less formal wording and phrasing seem to be more acceptable than they were when I was a pup. The issue is whether the message intended is the message received.” I have to take exception. Good (effective) written communication is far more than correctly-spelled words, and grammar (good or bad) sends a message along with the words on the page. I’d like to use your above comment as an example. While all the words are spelled correctly, there are grammar errors: “reasonably advance vocabulary” SHOULD BE advanced / “I am confused almost everyone” SHOULD BE confused; almost OR confused. Almost / “you have know how to activate” SHOULD BE you have to know how to activate. You state: “My view on why there are spelling mistakes in resumes and LinkedIn profiles is that people are either (a) lazy or (b) don’t care or (c) both a and b.” And this also applies to grammar, vocabulary, phrasing, etc. Thus, using your view above, given the grammar mistakes in your comment, one could assume that you are either lazy, don’t care, or both. Now I know that that’s not true of you, based on your many helpful posts here on LinkedIn. But, in your own words, that’s the message that those mistakes are sending. Ron’s concern over spelling and grammar is well-placed. While it may be commonplace today to ignore these things, they are important and can make or break the efforts of a job seeker. To go one step further (or is it farther?), with social media becoming more and more a part of the job-search process, what and how we write there is becoming more important, not less so. I can only speak for myself, but when I read a post with incorrect spelling, poor grammar and inappropriate vocabulary, it is a huge turn-off for me. If I read a post from a job seeker, asking for help or a referral, and there are more than one or two grammatical errors, I really can’t get too excited about responding back, unless it’s to shoot them an email to suggest that they be more careful. I imagine most employers feel the same. If a person is sloppy on their resume, cover letter, social media pages and especially on LinkedIn, when they supposedly are trying to put their best foot forward, what would lead an employer to believe they will be any less sloppy on the job should the employer actually hire them? Finally, many who contribute on LinkedIn have important opinions and ideas, and we all want to be seen as competent and worth listening to. But when we present ourselves as unable to use a spell checker, or unable to use correct grammar, what message are we really sending to the reader?
- Grammar is becoming a less important factor than it was a generation or more ago. This is because many people who are now decision makers in hiring organisations and because many recruitment consultants progressed through an education system that did not value or emphasise grammar to the same extent that the system of two and more generations ago did. That is not to say that omitting words from sentences (as I did) or using the wrong form of a word (as I did) are acceptable - that has nothing to do with grammar and they were not typos, but careless omissions. However, looser forms of expression are more acceptable than they were a generation or more ago. There is less concern about whether a candidate’s phrasing and sentence structure conforms to a pedantic academic’s view of what is correct than was the case 30 or so years ago. Spelling mistakes in resumes are not more acceptable than they were 2 or 3 or more generations ago because there are no excuses for incorrect spelling. Word processing software will identify every incorrectly spelled word that’s included in the software’s dictionary. It will also identify words that it thinks are incorrectly spelled because they are not contained in its dictionary, such as the names of products, organisations, places and so on. Spelling mistakes in LinkedIn profiles are also not acceptable because internet browser software does or can have spell checking functionality.
- I was quite surprised, a year or so ago, when an IT supervisor (a twenty-something) told me his company really needed high-quality applicants. When I asked him to elaborate, he said the problem was that most of the applicants were submitting poor resumes, full of grammar and punctuation errors, so it DOES indeed matter. Good grammar and punctuation shows attention to detail, and demonstrates proficiency in a basic area of communication. Tom’s point, above, also touches on another problem, which is the reliance on spell checkers. They don’t differentiate between than and then, and that terrible trio: there, their and they’re , for example. The human eye still matters.
- You better spell information correctly on your resume. Your competition is. Why be that guy/girl that loses the job over a mundane item like spelling?