Should Typos Cost You a Job?

by Cathy Miller on July 1, 2010

TypoThere is an interesting discussion going on regarding typos in resumes at a group in LinkedIn®.

A question to human resource (HR) professionals asked if they automatically rejected resumes with typos in the resume, cover letter or email.

Typo Tally

Here are the unofficial results – so far:

  • Yes – 17
  • No – 22
  • Maybe – 20

Death is in the Details

What is even more interesting is the discussion around the votes.

Do the Ayes Have it?

Some of those who responded with an emphatic, “Yes,” expressed no tolerance for typos or grammatical errors.

Others joining the discussion pointed out a funny side note. Some of those same “Yes” responders had typos or grammatical errors in their messages. Some typos in responses were intentional, while others appeared to be an embarrassing “oops.

Some “Ayes” apologized for their hard stance, but felt there was no excuse for errors. Others offered no apology or leniency.

The naysayers had a different view.

Is There Room for Naysayers?

Those professionals responding, “No,” had some very different perspectives. Some reminded their fellow HR professionals that everyone makes misteaks – uh, mistakes, sometimes.

Other naysayers shamed colleagues with stories of successful business people with dyslexia or other challenges. Some naysayers merely expressed more tolerance for the occasional error, while others used it as a test to the applicant by returning it for correction.

Maybe Yes – Maybe No

A large contingency felt automatic rejection of a resume with typos “depends” on the circumstances. They provided examples, such as:

  • A position requiring someone who is detail-oriented
  • An editing or communications position
  • An executive position
  • A high number of errors
  • The type of error (less tolerant of grammatical vs. typo)

In the above cases, most of the “depends” crowd stated a rejection was appropriate. Others indicated they did not reject the candidates, but relegated them to a lower status in the candidate pool.

The Blame Game

Many of the group’s responders identified reasons for what they saw as a rise in typographical and grammatical errors, including:

  • Reliance on word-editing software
  • The increased level of text messaging
  • The increased use of character-limited communication, like Tweets

So, what do you think? Should typos cost a person a job opportunity or should there be more tolerance for the tainted typo?

P.S. Of course, I am very paranoid about the missed typos in this post. if you find them, be kind.

iStock credit peepo’s Portfolio

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley July 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I’ll admit I’ve been extremely intolerant when it comes to mistakes in a cover letter. My boss was sharing a cover letter for an applicant in our public relations office. It’s a communications job, for crying out loud! And if the applicant doesn’t have time to read very carefully over the cover letter of their job application, how careless will they be in their job?

Yes, I agree that everyone makes mistakes. We’re human and it’s going to happen. When you’re writing a quick blog post or editing an enormous document, it’s almost unavoidable. But you should take time to look over a one-page cover letter, and if you don’t bother to do that.. well.. I don’t have a lot of faith that you’re going to be more careful with the other details of your job.

What side of the discussion do you fall?

Reply

Cathy July 1, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Hi Ashley:
Thanks for sharing your view. I certainly can understand why proofreading would be critical for a communications job.

As far as my view goes, it’s a funny thing I have found out about myself as I age. The things I freaked about in the past, don’t bother me as much. I was noted for my memory and writing when I was younger. Aging shot holes through my memory and I seem to catch typos as soon as I hit “send,” but not the 400 times I review it. :-)

I’d have to say I fall in the “it depends” crowd. If a letter or resume is full of typos or grammatical errors, yes, that bothers me – no matter what the position. But, if it’s one small typo (particularly if it’s onscreen-where I simply cannot proofread), then I wouldn’t automatically dismiss the person as unqualified. I might ask to see other samples to see if this was a repeated pattern.

So, as milquetoast as it sounds, I’ll stick with “it depends.”

Thanks for stopping by. I do appreciate it.

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Catherine July 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

But here’s a thought for Ashley and those who think the same way.

You don’t know what that applicant is up against when they are job hunting. Your perfect typo-free applicant may have had a spouse or friend do the work for them and is in a fine financial state, whereas your typo applicant might have done their cover letter on living on one meal a day while trying to keep the lights on.

One is showing you their life under extreme pressure where they are really up against the wall and the other isn’t showing you anything except that you are assuming they did the work.

If the person has the qualifications, bring them in. The best employee I ever hired was late to her interview. Later I found out that he husband didn’t want her to have the job so he refused to give her gas money. She put on her tennis shoes and walked to the interview. She left her shoes outside the building and prayed no one would take them while she was inside.

The job gave he the money to leave her husband and she was amazing.

You just never know what someone is going through when they are trying to get a resume to you.

Compassion, people… compassion.

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Catherine July 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

lol and I had a type…lol..see!!
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Cathy July 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Catherine: Thanks for the walk in their shoes analysis. Bravo – even with the typo. :-D

Did you know that it’s a guaranteed result that when writing about typos at least one will creep into your writing? Really – scientifically proven. :-)

Thanks again for a kinder, gentler view. I appreciate that more than you know. I’m going to stop typing now. I’m pressing my luck on the typos.

Reply

Ashley August 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Hi Catherine,

I agree about your compassionate view and I do generally give people the benefit of the doubt because you never know what someone is going through. I’ve been on the other side of that coin, so I try to assume that someone has had a bad day or whatever and treat them gently.

I guess I should have given more detail about the scenario I described. We were deciding between two equally qualified applicants, one with a cover letter typo and the other without. After interviews, my vote was for the typo-free applicant. But I was overruled (as it wasn’t my decision to make). Now for the rest of the story —- when my boss was running the background check on that applicant, she DISAPPEARED. Like, fell off the face of the earth. Apparently her graduation status didn’t check out. And of course, you can’t know that from a typo on a cover letter. My point was just that someone who doesn’t pay attention to something as critical as a first impression is very likely to do a poor job in general. I think the example you gave was the exact opposite — the woman was willing to go to extreme lengths to do a good job. Maybe you just have good instincts about people :) I’m glad you made the choice to hire her!
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Cathy August 6, 2012 at 5:38 am

Hi Ashley: Yours is a good example (for me) why we need to go beyond the surface. I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who want to restrict communication to the written word (usually online) and never speak to the person.

Thanks for sharing your story, Ashley.

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