Resume errors: Nail in the coffin for an applicant?

by Stephanie Zillman05 Sep 2013

In this era of auto correct, it’s common for otherwise great candidates to slip up and become a victim of technological know-it-all-ness. But as HR continues to use the resume as an indicator of the credentials, organisational skills and attention to detail of an individual, what kind of mistakes, and how many of them, can be forgiven?

Some HR professionals say that one or two small errors in a resume would not be grounds to toss an application out. Steve Gershick from SiriusDecisions said inviting a candidate who had a couple of mistakes on their resume for an interview is a good opportunity to learn how a potential hire responds to constructive criticism. “If you point it out to him/her and they thank you, tell you what they will do to fix it, and then offer to provide you another writing sample with flawless spelling, you could have a great future employee on your hands,” Gershik said. He added that if the person turns sullen or defensive, you've just reinforced your instinct to run away from the candidate.  

For others in HR, the dilemma comes down to the job at hand, and the nature of the errors. Gail Wallace from Bellwind Consultants said one way to gauge the seriousness of an error is to consider whether the misspelling was an innocent spell-check oversight, or lack of attention to detail.

The main factor to consider according to Wallace is whether the job will involve a lot of writing, or is technical in nature. “In any position which requires a lot of writing, then I would disqualify them automatically. However, if it is for a technical position particularly involving advanced mathematics or science then one needs to consider that separately,” Wallace said.

Discounting a CV for a simple blunder may mean passing up a great candidate. Executive search specialist John Mills said many top-tier executives commit basic blunders when submitting their resumes for job applications. “Many executives who have worked at a level such as a chief executive officer, chief financial officer or chief operating officer are guilty of committing some of the most basic errors when submitting a resume,” Mills added.


  • by DanS 2/07/2012 2:41:57 PM

    Having witnessed some atrocious examples of spelling and grammar lapses once asking a candidate to submit a piece of handwritten work, I am really in favour of a hand-written cover letter now.
    As a recruitment consultant, I am always critiquing and fixing applicants CV's, and as you say, most of them are oblivious to the errors because Microsoft has made it too easy for them!

  • by Louise 5/09/2013 4:21:44 PM

    There is another side to this - as a candidate, is it verboten to provide "feedback" regarding errors in recruitment ads, particularly if you are being asked to demonstrate attention to detail. I've seen some shockers!

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