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This HR Guy Is Over Your Spelling Mistakes


It is one of the first thing people say about composing your resume: make sure you don’t have any spelling mistakes. Or certainly, a spelling mistake means certain doom even if the rest of your resume looks great. And really, not a day goes by when I don’t see a comment on twitter about how somebody spelled something wrong on a resume. I won’t throw the first stone, I’ve been in that boat before. But I will say this: unless your horrendous spelling really hurts my ability to understand your resume, I am over your spelling mistakes and other HR people should get over it too.

The Argument

First of all, let’s list off the common reasons why some HR and recruiting pros have zero tollerance for spelling mistakes on resumes (seriously, zero tollerance):

  • It is easier than ever to check spelling. Most word processing programs do that for you.
  • This is one of the most important documents that you have to send out. Why wouldn’t you get it right?
  • If you show a lack of detail orientation on your resume, what does that say about your ability to do a detailed job?

And probably a few others that will be pointed out to me in the comment section. I will agree with them in two (and only two) instances:

  • Writing or editing writing is your full time job. If you’re a copywriter, technical writer or a newspaper reporter, you’re really screwed if you have a spelling error. No way around that.
  • If writing is a big component of your job. I’m thinking many marketing or PR pros fall into this category. Even then, I would still be tollerant of a typo on a customized part of a resume or cover letter.

That’s it.

Soapbox Time

I try not to get on my soapbox too much but I feel I have to, even if I am only talking to myself here.

99% of the time, we are not hiring writers. 99% of the time, we are not hiring interviewees. We are hiring mechanics or sales people or biologists or veterinarians or police officers. It is our job, the HR or recruiting pro, to see past these surface difficiencies and figure out what these people are truly talented at. Even if that means suffering through a couple there/their/they’re or then/than or insure/ensure/assure. Poor us, right?

The Fear

If we’re honest with ourselves, the biggest thing driving this sort of knee jerk reaction is the fear that the one mistake in an interview or resume that you let slip by is a precursor to everything that is wrong with an employee. So we strip away all of these risks and go with someone that might be more talented at resume writing or interviewing than their actual job.

I won’t mention the fact that it takes much more courage to stand up for a candidate that misses the mark on spelling but may be brilliant at their job than a candidate that looks great on paper but is as vanilla as a sundae without the toppings.

In reality, we keep going back to this tired and ineffective way to absolutely screen out candidates because we have a hard time evaluating whether or not someone is a good fit, has the skill set and is the right person for the job. So we latch on to anything concrete we can find in the hiring process to differentiate candidates in a way that doesn’t require thinking about people in an abstract way.

Now I am starting to sound like one of these HR guys that thinks “everyone is special in their own special way.” Those people are the worst. So let’s get to the point here:

If you are disqualifying otherwise highly talented, non-writing professionals because you don’t have the guts to stand up against a process that disqualifies people for something not at all related to their primary duties, you are being put on notice. I will figure out that these people are talented, I will snatch those people up, I will sell them to our hiring managers and we will bury you. And when you figure out that the top sales person in our company is in your resume database three months before they started for me but you disqualified them at screening for something stupid like a spelling mistake, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

This HR Guy is over spelling mistakes.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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