Job Appli-can'ts

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Job Appli-can'ts

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Nov 10, 2006, 12:10pm

To pick up on a conversation from Book Talk:

We have four open positions at work, including two that have been posted for ages. I asked the director if he was receiving applications and he replied, "Stacks of them." The grammar and spelling has been so loathsome that he offered an interview to one woman based on writing well, despite her lack of experience, and he was considering an interview with a man who used capitalization. I have to say I felt overwhelming respect for my boss that day.

It's sad that grammar and spelling have become so lax that people do not think it will affect their employment prospects.

Nov 10, 2006, 12:26pm

I think I mentioned this already, but this was already a problem when I was hiring an editor and an editorial assistant 15 years ago -- and (for the editor position anyway), the applicants were already employed in the world of publishing! It astounded me and, needless to say, the first mistake sent the application into the X pile.

Editado: Nov 10, 2006, 1:34pm

It's not merely spelling and grammar, either. It's how they present themselves.

One of my personal favorites came from a woman who touted as one of her educational qualifications that she had an "A.B.D."

Our office was recently faxed a resumé, sans cover letter, on which the applicant had scrawled in marking pen: "To: H.R. Dept.", "Fax copies: Re: see Below", at the top of the page, and, on the bottom, "Apply for Para-Legal position". You can imagine how far that got.

Nov 10, 2006, 5:48pm

Speaking of how they present themselves, one of my favorite resumes came from a recent college grad who gave various typical college jobs and activities grandiose titles. I don't remember them exactly, but one was something like "real estate coordinator," for renting an apartment for his roommates and himself and another was something like "retail sales specialist" for selling ice cream from a cart at the beach. The sad thing was that it was an entry-level position and I didn't expect the applicants to have serious job experience, just a solid college education, aptitude, and interest.

Nov 11, 2006, 8:47am

On the other side of the coin, i worked in a personnel office (HR dept to you) in the late `80s and early `90s. Most of the posts involved weren`t white collar, so it`s not quite the same thing, but most of the people doing the interviewing in particular were such a bunch of mutants it was difficult to have much faith in their judgement.

Another organisation I worked for once commissioned a firm of consultants to advise them on equal opportunities. The first line of the resultant report was something like. "It is difficult to advise ...... (name of organisation) on equal opportunities when they don`t have the basics of professional recruitment in place." One example they cited was a manager/interviewer who didn`t understand the difference between subjective and objective judgements. On another occasion, a manager told me the name of a succesful job applicant and asked if I knew her. He`d spoken to the officer who chaired the relevant recruiitment panel "but all he told me is she`s a 21 year old blonde". i couldn`t help wondering what conversation they`d had !

Similar problems do exist over here to the ones you outline - the number of recent graduates I`ve seen fired or disciplined by organisations I`ve worked for tells me that - but also, if the wrong person gets the job, it may be time to look at the person who appointed them.

Editado: Nov 11, 2006, 10:12am

Re: Inflated Resumes

I don't know what it's like in other career areas but in computer science inflating a resume is more the norm than the exception. It's so bad that at many companies an applicant has to write a program or two in front of the interviewers. This is often the end of their hopes for that job.

Nov 11, 2006, 10:30am

If I were hiring an editor today (or anyone who needs to write/check others' writing), I would give applicants who seemed good a writing assignment to complete right there in the office. (This is also a good test of thinking and ability to organize ideas.) I used to give them a proofreading test in the office, and a take-home writing assignment if they passed the proofreading test, but now I'd do both in the office.

Editado: Nov 11, 2006, 12:00pm

At our company, to be hired in as a graphic designer, you have to have a well written resume and cover letter and then:

1. provide PhotoShop and Flash 7 examples

2. attend a first interview in front of two supervisors, where you will be tested in office on writing, PhotoShop, and Flash skills. They are also given a personality test to see if they match the company culture we strive so hard to keep kosher. (pure isn't a good word - we're too diverse for that. 12 of my 24 people are from different countries.)

3. the first interview applications will go in front of a board of superviors and sr. reps to weed out the ones that don't match company standards. The ones that do meet get called in for a second interview.

4. the second interview takes place in front of the same two supervisors and one manager. A tour of the building is given (complete with orange, purple, and green cubicles, large break rooms with hi-def plasma TVs, pool tables, air hockey tables, and PS2s) and the benefits packages are explained. Depending on how it goes, the candidate may meet several employees and be able to ask about company culture and work experience.

5. The leadership team meets and decides on a candidate or starts the process over. We don't bring anyone into the company that is not a perfect fit - we have nearly zero turnover and promote almost entirely from within, so we make sure that every person coming in is someone we want to stay in.

And to think, our parent company still calls us "those darn Internet Hoodlums." ;) We've posted close to 40% growth every year since being founded and went profitable in less than 5 years... *shakes head* I think I've been brainwashed! But that's okay - my 6 year anniversary is in 4 days.

Nov 11, 2006, 2:00pm

we strive so hard to keep kosher. (pure isn't a good word - we're too diverse for that. 12 of my 24 people are from different countries.)

Amazing that you have been able to find acceptable orthodox jews from so many countries!


Nov 13, 2006, 12:47pm

The name of a local company is Brains on Fire. One applicant sent in her resume addressed to Brains on Fier (hand written, so it wasn't even a typo).

Nov 13, 2006, 12:51pm

Amazing that you have been able to find acceptable orthodox jews from so many countries!

LOL! Yes, yes, I do tend to bastardize and prostitute certain words... that is probably the worst of them, but rarely do I get called out so beautifully. ;) :D

Dic 13, 2006, 9:35pm

Punctuation and such bother me, but I also care about resume formatting—particularly when hiring for computer jobs. If you can't handle Word, how could you ever handle X? So I look for stuff like treating headlines, job titles and dates same way all the way down the page.

I feel like I can reject half of all applicants without reading their resume. Just squint at the page and see if it looks like a moment's thought went into it.

But then I find some writers are as blind to these factors as designers are to grammar...

Editado: Dic 13, 2006, 9:38pm

>One applicant sent in her resume addressed to Brains on Fier

It would be worth it to hire that one, just to follow it up with the note: "Yr fierd!"

Dic 16, 2006, 10:10am

Your story reminds me of an aspiring investment banker who applied for a job (about 25 years ago) at Dean, Witter. He opened his resume cover letter with "Dear Witter Dean:" The rejection letter he received from the firm was "fiery" indeed!

Editado: Dic 18, 2006, 6:53pm

>13 timspalding: It would be worth it to hire that one, just to follow it up with the note: "Yr fierd!"
LOL - I love that!!!

There were stories last year that some of the big law firms here were applying weird psychology tests like asking candidates to identify which fruit they most resembled - apparently with the conviction that the right answer was 'grapes' because they come in a bunch (ie work well in a group) but are eaten individually (ie can work independently). So I guess stupidity (or stupidiosity, as Dilbert might say) can operate on both sides of the interviewing desk!
(edited to correct spelling)

Dic 18, 2006, 9:24pm

Ohmygod!! Don't lawyers know they're prohibited (a) to inquire about a person's sexual orientation, and (b) never to use derogative apple-ations for people who have non-standard life-styles?? "Fruits", indeed! Fer shame!

Dic 20, 2006, 4:44pm

Yes, it is a grape pity - enough to make a mango crazy. Or at least feel meloncholy. Orange you pleased there are laws against that sort of thing?

Dic 28, 2006, 4:13pm

I just got an email from headquarters about a spayed coil! I wonder if it was sprayed, too.

I'm thing of neutering my expansion valve, now.

Dic 28, 2006, 11:52pm

If I'm not mistaken, you are female and since an expansion value is a male component, I presume you have just announced the possibility of doing irrepairable damage to your boyfriend. Do you think it quite wise to tip your hand in this way?

Dic 29, 2006, 9:34am

Silly, artisan!

I'm talking about the expansion valve in my air conditioning unit. I've already got my BF's freon charge at an optimal level. :D

Dic 29, 2006, 12:47pm

Oh, of course. How silly of me -- it must have been that YA sex-education stuff I'd been reviewing all evening that led me down that path. ;-P

Dic 29, 2006, 11:37pm

Tim (#12) -- My resume is beautifully (and consistently) formatted but I don't know a thing about programming. May I send you my resume anyway? Just kidding but, if you're not, just ask.

Mar 8, 2007, 3:05pm

You may get a kick out of this news article about an advertising firm whose job applicants were so incredibly bad that they posted them on their website as a warning to others.

Mar 8, 2007, 3:50pm

23> That is sad and funny at the same time. It sounds like colleges are starting to to have the no student left behind crap.

Editado: Mar 8, 2007, 4:10pm

Este mensaje fue borrado por su autor.

Editado: Mar 8, 2007, 4:21pm


Have a look at The Underground Grammarian
and at Richard Mitchell's books on "educationism."

(Trying again to get the link right.)
Edited: But not succeeding. :(

Editado: Mar 8, 2007, 4:54pm

As bad as my writing has been online (typos, pronouns with no antecedents, plain bad grammar, etc.), I am always astounded by the number of people out there with Masters or Doctorate degrees that should never be let near a pencil let alone be allowed to enter words into a computer.

Some of my favorite books have had grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes that, while not detracting from the story, were very distracting. It's a problem of proofing and editing. One book I recommend to all you editors and proofers out there (and some of you authors as well) is Piers Anthony's But What of Earth?. the story itself isn't any way near some of his best, but what the proofers did, and what the editor allowed them to do, is an absolute shame.

There are also the many books by Richard Lederer, Get Thee to a Punnery among them. They are always fun to read for all the mistakes you know you've committed and are glad that it isn't you immortalized.

There were people in my college graduation class that couldn't write their way into a real job, so now they are Masters candidates. (Yeah, I got my degree late. Needed the work.)

The problem of poor writing skills isn't new. It will probably never be done away with either. The best we can hope for is that Scribes come back into vogue and no one that isn't a scribe be allowed to write anything...including their own name.

I have, indeed, fielded resumes in which the applicant had misspelled their own name. Only found out when I needed to confirm the spelling for some paperwork. The person was hired, but was fired a couple of weeks later after someone had to show the person how to use a box knife. Can you say, "Duh?"

Mar 8, 2007, 6:09pm

#23 Wow! Thanks for that. Some horrible stuff in there.

Mar 8, 2007, 6:51pm


Richard Mitchell is very funny, but his writings aren't just for laughs. They are a serious examination of the causes and consequences of the policies that have led to college graduates producing the cover letters linked to #23.

Btw, some argue that getting grammar, spelling and syntax right doesn't matter. I know a teacher of high school science courses who was called on the carpet, almost 30 years ago, for "red-penciling" wrong answers. This practice dented the ego of the students. Guess it doesn't matter if you blow up the chemistry lab either, as long as your self-esteem is in good shape.

Editado: Mar 8, 2007, 7:59pm

#23 Just read the linked stuff. "Wow," and, "Holy batsh!t, man," are phrases that come to mind. As well as, "Just 'cause ya learned it in high-school don't mean ya learned it good enough."

I also read the e-brochure (another pet peeve of mine is "e-"anything...arrrgh!) and it sounds as if this guy is my long lost twin in personal writing style. I know I haven't written that way on this site yet, but I'm sure that as soon as I get comfy....

I might just send a letter to them. It's not like I want the internship, but, hey, it's worth a shot while drunk in the dark.

Wait...I'm off-topic again ain't (yes it's a real word: am not -> amn't -> parochial pronunciation to lengthen the "a" along with the dropping of the bilabial consonant led to ain't - so there!) I?

Oh, yeah, bad crackers?