They Expect Perfection – Do Not Settle for Typos

Recently I had a discussion around the topic of why some recruiters will submit resumes with typos and why I do not.  This is a topic that has come up several times during my career and I have never been convinced on why I should present a candidate to a hiring manager that has a typo (spelling or grammatical) on their resume.  Am I old school?  Am I being too harsh, hard or unforgiving of candidates (especially during “these times”)?  I do not think so.

The reasons given to me have all fallen under similar themes that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and one typo should not prevent someone from being considered.  A sound argument, however, we are not discussing a last minute request from a manager, a quick email or a short deadline on a report (or even a blog post).  This is the one document where there is not a deadline and the candidate has all the time to prepare, proof, and check for errors before submitting their resume to a prospective employer.  I know some people will argue that postings are not up for a long time and what about those candidates that need to update their resume?  Most candidates already have a resume and taking extra time to add new information and ensure it is error free is worth the effort.

Hiring managers expect recruiters to present the most qualified and best candidates available.  Presenting a candidate that has a typo or error in their resume shows that we are not meeting those standards of excellence. 

How many times have you submitted someone that was “detiled” or “detaled” oriented?  Never?  Then why would you submit someone who has a misspelled word deeper in the resume?  There are too many jobs that require attention to detail and if the candidate cannot properly proof their own personal document then how can we expect them to bring a higher level of performance to the company.  It is our job to identify the most qualified candidates and those with mistakes are not meeting the requirements of the position.

The resume is supposed to be the best example of work that a candidate can bring to an employer.  It’s a snapshot of their ability and not just a chronology of their work and education history.  Do not settle for less than perfection on the resume and if one does slip by, well no one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  😉

What are your thoughts? Do you present resumes with typos? I expect someone will point out a typo in this post.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “They Expect Perfection – Do Not Settle for Typos

  1. Pete Radloff

    Good points here Mark. You wouldn’t submit your own resume with all sorts of typos, so why would you submit it to your client? Especially when that’s how you are making $$?

    In the Twitterverse, blogosphere, whatever, by all means cut letters, misspell, etc. But on a document that has the potential to unlock doors for you, why use the wrong key?

  2. Mark,

    There’s one blaring reason why I would submit a resume with a typo: Unless you’re hiring an editor or copywriter, it has NOTHING to do with a person’s ability to do the job.

    In HR, we far too often use arbitrary sourcing and selection criteria that screen out very qualified candidates. If we really want to hire rockstars, we need to stop doing that.

    I think screening out people for a typo is a perfect example of this. 7 or 8? Sure, the person may not have an attention to detail. But 1? Come on!

    – Chris

    • Chris,

      What about software developers or quality assurance analysts where one period, comma, or misspelling could bog down an application? Or, all things being equal between two candidates who would you submit – both?

      One position that I have on my team is the Recruiting Coordinator role. Due to our system set-up there are many steps and details they need to get right in order for coding, offer letters, etc to load properly. The resume, to me is an indication if this person can handle a very detail oriented role and catch mistakes before allowing them to load into the system without creating delays in the hiring process. I think it is not just for writing positions but any role that requires an attention to detail.

      Thank you for the comments and for disagreeing. I want the discussions hence the title of my blog.

      • Mark, in the case of a coder… sure, attention to detail matters. I’m not really sure there’s TRULY a carry-over from resume editing to coding. It feels like there is, but is there really? Who knows.

        As Lance Haun says, “all things being equal” doesn’t exist (http://rehaul.com/all-things-being-equaldoesnt-happen/).

        Attention to detail in one area is not the same as attention to detail in another. I’ve met people who dress slopily but have a fantastic eye for grammatical errors. People who can’t write to save their life but have a great eye for aesthetic details.

        Not all “detail” is comparable or analogous. It’s “easy,” as an HR pro, to assume they are and make decisions on that. I don’t believe it’s fair to the candidates or in the best interest of the businesses we support, though.

      • Chris,

        Good points and I agree that someone’s editing ability or the attention to detail in one area does not translate to another. That is why I stated they need to take the extra time. There is plenty of advice out there on how to avoid typos on the resumes and Word makes it very easy to identify the typos. If a person is going to ignore or not review that red squiggly line then I can pass and move on to someone who did take the time to review and fix the error.

        Another thought. The majority, not all, but the majority of the job descriptions will state something along the lines of “strong” or “excellent” verbal and written communication skills. The resume is the first writing sample we see and if the written communication skills are not strong or excellent then we need to pass.

  3. Erika W

    I am not likely to submit it. I used to work for an EVP who would point out typos, missing periods, even extra spaces in presentations and emails. If the applicant has not taken the time to thoroughly review a document that may be the one representation I have of who they are, I assume they will be just as careless on the job.

  4. @Erika, you wrote, “I assume they will be just as careless on the job.” You know what they say about assumptions.

    Do you ever wonder if you turned away some really great candidates over something that really isn’t relevant to the job?

  5. Some times I’ll move ahead with someone if it’s just a typo. I work in IT and quite often those candidates don’t use spell check due to the variety of buzzwords and acronyms associated with the profession.

    I’m more concerned with grammar, context and structure – their ability to communicate in written form – rather than a slip up. But more than one? I start to get pretty critical.

  6. Mark,

    Not all typos/errors are captured by the squiggly red and green lines in Word. The ones that are, yes I agree.

    And honestly, most job posting suck. There’s no other way to describe them. They’re boring, uninspiring, and half the stuff on them isn’t truly necessary for someone to be successful in the role.

    I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

    Chris

    • Chris,

      Oh the job posting is a whole other post that I will have out here soon. Not to bring too much of that in this discussion – if a quality kick-off meeting was held and the recruiter went over the JD then they should know what is bogus and what is necessary.

      No problem agreeing to disagree – that’s how my previous conversations on this have ended.

      Great discussion – thank you.

  7. Melissa Wilkins

    I think it depends on the type of position, but overall, I don’t think a typo should disqualify a candidate. There are other steps in the screening process where we can identify a lack of attention to detail before the resume ever gets to the hiring manager. If the candidate can’t use a complete sentence during the phone screen, I’d say it’s time to cut ’em loose.

    I also think typos aren’t necessarily an indication of a lack of attention to detail. I think it’s the same reason that a third of all car accidents occur within a mile of home. People become complacent and desensitized in familiar surroundings. My guess is that today’s job seeker has read and re-read his resume a thousand times and by now is reading what he meant to write rather than what’s on the page.

    That’s my two cents…and no, I don’t need any change Mark. 😉

    -Melissa

    • “People become complacent and desensitized in familiar surroundings. My guess is that today’s job seeker has read and re-read his resume a thousand times and by now is reading what he meant to write rather than what’s on the page.”

      That’s the money quote!

      • Someone once told me “successful people do what unsuccessful people will not or do not do.” It is my job to identify the best and most qualified candidates not complacent candidates.

        Recently I was searching for a VP level role and came across a candidate that met our requirements and I was very excited until I found a small grammatical error. I passed without ever contacting the contact. However, they found me through their networks and inquired about their status. I told them the truth that I had reviewed their resume and passed due to a typo. They did not reply but I noticed a week later that they had reapplied. The typo fixed, I contacted and had an excellent phone interview and submitted them. In the ensuing emails this candidate has had several typos and has addressed the hiring manager by the wrong name. Ugh. A VP level candidate that cannot effectively communicate and I caught it with the minor grammatical error. This is one of many examples I have had in my career where the typo on the resume is a direct reflection on the level of candidate I submit.

        The candidates that take the extra time to ensure that they are submitting a perfect document are showing proof that they have the potential to effectively communicate and the ability to produce perfect work. No one is perfect and no one can always submit perfect work but given a slate of multiple candidates the managers will go with the ones that have no errors.

        I have had several discussions with managers at multiple employers after they have caught typos I missed. I have asked “do you want to pursue based on skills and experience?” and the response has consistently been a “no” because the other candidates submitted had no errors and are of comparable skill and experience levels.

  8. Eli

    You should see the number of typos I come across in job opportunity announcements.

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