Do Mistakes on Résumés and Cover Letters Matter?


resumeDid you think I would say anything but "YES"? Of course mistakes on résumés and cover letters matter - isn't that what we've been telling you, and what you've heard for the past - forever?

If an employer is only looking over your résumé for about 30 seconds, you can bet that if what catches his eye in that time period is an error, your résumé is going in the trash. Same with your cover letter - why waste time reading something that you can barely understand?

To shed some light on this important topic, we have a guest blogger today. Nanci Lamborn is a 20-year veteran of human resources and recruiting, and a writer and blogger for BrightMove. BrightMove is a leading provider of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applicant tracking and talent management solutions for staffing, enterprise, mid-market and outsourcing areas of recruiting software. As a recruiter who has seen it all, her blogs are always insightful, informative and make me chuckle a time or two.

Here's what she says about the importance of résumé and cover letter accuracy:

Do Mistakes on Résumés and Cover Letters Really Matter?

By Nanci Lamborn, BrightMove Team Blogger/Writer

I am unashamed to admit it; I am a grammar freak. Maybe it can be blamed upon genetics (my mother used to diagram complex sentences for fun) or upon my authoritarian yet somehow endearing English professor, Mrs. Stolpe (may she rest in peace). I am also, rather proudly, always able to properly distinguish between there, they're, and their, and I will not be affected by the effect of an improper homonym selection. I can spot a typo a mile away.

My own quirkiness aside, it seems I am certainly not alone in my bid for the Grammar Police Deputy of the Year award. The fervently like-minded Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have taken their correction quest nationwide, reporting on the trend, with mixed feedback.

If my cringes were limited to the lovely hand-addressed letters from my sweet Aunt Mary who fails to remember I've remarried and have a new last name (for six years now), the muscles that control my high and mighty eye-rolls would not be so well developed. But how can I not find myself reacting with a vigorous eye-roll head-shake combo move when I receive the following opening line from a candidate? "I seen you're add on line heres my résumé."

You just rolled your eyes too.

Please allow me to share a few more noteworthy errors observed on real applicant résumés. Space does not permit me to even scratch the surface of the number of these grammar bombs that I see in one weeks' time. And since my italicized editorial garnered such feedback in last week's posting, my snide comments are provided herein.

  • Experrienced clerrical proffesional (Iss yourr keyyboarrd sstickkinngg?)
  • I am bright and maybe valuable to the workspace. (Maybe I am a desk lamp.)
  • Researches And resolves Customer needs For the Area (I Like random Capitals.)
  • Cashing handling (I'm thinking you're liking adding ing to wording.)
  • Assisting manager in creating promoting. (Are you copying from Cashing Handling guy?)

All humor aside, receiving administrative candidate correspondence such as this really does put me in a quandary. Do I overlook the seven separate typos and horrid cover letter grammar to get to the meat of the relevant work experience, giving the poor candidate and my own peeves a break? What if by doing so, I uncover the precise job history that I've been unable to find in any candidate so far? How important are spelling and grammar really? If they did not matter, this question may have appeared as "How impotent are spelling and grammar really?" Important / Impotent... both are grammatically correct, and ironically even the sentence with the mistake poses a valid question.

The worst offenders may chalk it up to nervous haste, or they may claim that grammar and spelling are not their strengths. Perhaps. But the fact that some candidates apparently have not learned how to use the "Spellchecker" function or taken the effort to have colleagues proofread their résumé sends me the message that these candidates are either grossly lacking in basic skills or they are simply lazy. I have even seen candidates misspell their own names. Can my company overlook the results of these traits?

It also makes it very difficult for me to provide honest feedback when one of these applicants inquires as to why they were not considered. I am unsure if it is more heartless to just ignore their inquiry altogether, to generalize about better qualified candidates, or to point out all of their mistakes. Heartless as it may seem to screen out administrative candidates who fail in the basics, if it means that the written communication produced out of my office to the public has a much better chance of being professional and correct, then I must believe I have made the right decision.

Next: Resume Buzzwords That Give You the Edge >>

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Nanci Lamborn is a 20-year veteran of human resources and recruiting. She currently recruits in the Atlanta area for the insurance industry and recently obtained her SPHR designation.

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I enjoyed your blog article on spelling and grammar errors. However, I do find it distressing and pathetic that a person applying for a position might be eliminated by a compter scanning his resume for "buzz-words" and that HR might even use a tally of buzz-words to rank candidates for further consideration.

HR folks and hiring managers might do well to remind themselves that there is an anxious and willing PERSON behind each of those faceless resumes. Those individuals deserve more consideration than being reduced to a tally of buzz-words.

November 19 2009 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Allie M

WOW and LOL. Right on, Nanci. There is absolutely no excuse for spelling errors in this day and age. If you can't put your best foot forward on a resume or cover letter, you may as well plan on flipping burgers for the rest of your life.

November 07 2009 at 12:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Susan Bindman

I completely agree that resumes and cover letters should have no errors in spelling and should be grammatically correct. However, what about the job posting that has spelling and grammatical errors? What kind of message does that send? I recently marked up a job posting where I found both spelling and grammatical errors. Example: "Research and resolves employee Payroll related issues". Or "Responds to inquires from employees". I seem to find errors in almost every posting I see. I am a very detailed administrative person so it bothers me to see this. Why should a job posting get away with being riddled with errors but a resume will be tossed out for the same infraction. It should go both ways.

November 07 2009 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Susan Bindman's comment
Nanci Lamborn

Absolutely correct! This kind of problem is just as bad (or perhaps worse). Your comment would make another great blog topic.
Nanci Lamborn, SPHR (author)

November 08 2009 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
M. C. Reichard

I couldn't agree more with #1. I recently spent over an hour trying to find the doctors office listing a position.

I finally stopped and went into another office and was told they hadn't been at that address for 3 months. They gave me the correct address and I drove there. I told them I was there to apply for the open position. They said I was suppose to drive the 40 miles to the main office to apply. When I said your ad said to apply in person to the (names) doctors they said "no it didn't". I pulled the paper out of my purse and showed the ad to them. The only wrong thing I did was drive the next day 40 miles and apply for the position. After reading your post I realize I should not have bothered and wouldn't be happy working for doctors who didn't know what was going on in their own practice. mcr

February 27 2010 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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