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 thatI 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.

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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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