Typos in resumes

Subject: Typos in resumes
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 13:35:02 -0600

I confess to being rather irritated at the presumption that
you can legitimately exclude someone from consideration
because of one or two typos in their resume. A few telling
reasons:

- Did you look the words up in a good dictionary to be sure
they actually were typos? Speaking with my editor's hat
firmly in place, I have little faith in the ability of most
technical writers to reliably spot typos. That's why God
created editors. (This isn't a flame, though I expect it to
attract flames... it's a simple observation.)

- Did you ask yourself where the writer hails from? I'm in
Canada, and as a result, use an idiosyncratic mixture of
English and American spellings because of our style guide.
Sometimes one of the "wrong" spellings slips through, and
them's the breaks. (For example, I once worked for the
Great Lakes Forestry Research Cent_re_, which poses an
unsolvable problem: someone at the Cent_er_s for Disease
Control will assume I can't spell if I spell GLFRC's name
properly, and will assume I don't check my work if I change
the proper name of GLFRC to get past the spell checker.)

- Have you considered the full context for writing samples?
I'm alway a bit concerned about submitting writing samples
because FERIC's reports use Webster's as our spelling
source, and Webster's uses American spelling. So Canadians
who see our reports probably think that FERIC's editor
can't spell. Them's the breaks.

- How important are typos in the grand scheme of things? I
have to wonder about the wisdom of a hiring manager who
considers a typo more significant than proper content,
design and layout, not to mention whether the person is a
good match for the job. The decision is particularly
puzzling if the company employs editors to edit their
technical writers: let me get this straight--your own staff
doesn't have to know how to write a comprehensible
sentence, but newcomers damn well better be letter perfect?
This sounds like the Microsoft strategy to me: make it look
nice, and let's not worry too much about whether it's right
and helpful.

I'll certainly agree that if you have two otherwise
identical candidates, spelling skill is a useful final way
to discriminate between them; I'd also agree that frequent,
misleading, or even dangerous typos are a good criterion
for discarding resumes. But as a first-pass criterion,
spelling strikes me as a pretty sh*tty way to pick future
employees.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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