Why Spelling and Grammar Can Ruin Your Job Hunt

If you’re hunting for a job, you’ve likely been told hundreds of times about the importance of good spelling and grammar. But why are spelling and grammar such sticking points for employers? Surely even they make the odd spelling mistake from time to time? We’re all prone to human error, right?

Well yes. However, when you are applying for a job (like it or not) the recruiter is in the position of power! Your lack of written proficiency tells a recruiter more about you than you might imagine. Here are 5 reasons why a ‘their’ instead of a ‘there’ will fast-track your application to the shredder:

1) First impressions count:

There’s tons of advice out there about how to make a good first impression at an interview – the importance of a firm handshake, the correct clothes, and the mega-watt smile. However, don’t forget that the first contact you make with a potential employer is almost always written: your application form or your CV/cover letter are your real first impression. Poor spelling and grammar are the written equivalent of turning up to an interview late, or with a stain on your shirt.

The danger of a written first impression is that if you present yourself poorly, you can’t go back and fix things. Make a bad impression at the start of an interview you can spend the rest of the time trying to change the interviewer’s mind but fail to woo with your words and you don’t get the chance to redeem yourself and your bid for the job is stopped in its tracks!

2) Written communication is important for almost every job:

Effective communication is crucial in business and is listed amongst the essential requirements in most job descriptions. If your spelling and grammar are poor, your ability to communicate is hampered. Most of us will spend a decent chunk of our working day writing – whether that’s sending emails, preparing proposals, or writing reports. Since the job you’re applying for likely involves writing it’s understandable that an employer will favor a candidate with superior writing skills. After all, wouldn’t you?

On top of this, an employer has to consider the impression your writing skills will give of them. If (for example) you’re emailing clients and customers, your mistakes will in turn reflect badly on your employer and their brand.

3) You give off an ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude:

Employers want to give a job to someone who really wants to be at their company because that person is going to:

  1. stay with them for longer and
  2. work harder.

A slap-dash application littered with errors paints the picture of someone who doesn’t really want the job and has sent out dozens of applications that day. Ultimately if you care enough about the role you’re applying for you’ll triple check your work, you’ll look up any spelling/grammar queries you have on the internet and you’ll give your application to someone else to proofread.

4) You fall foul of ‘The Horn Effect’:

As well as portraying an ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude, poor spelling/ grammar suggests some other undesirable traits about you, e.g. a lack of attention to detail, laziness and a lack of pride in your work, none of which are going to be on an employer’s wish list! Beyond the traits that employers may reasonably associate with bad spelling/grammar, a lack of effort in the writing department will actually dampen other completely unrelated achievements, courtesy of the horn effect.

The horn effect is a powerful psychological curiosity in which if a person seems particularly lacking in one trait, then that person will often be assumed to be deficient in many others. For instance, people will consistently rate those who are less ‘attractive’ as less kind and funny than their more attractive counterparts, despite there being no evidence of this. Likewise, your poor spelling and grammar will mean employers will underestimate your other abilities too. While you may have outstanding achievements and incredible qualifications, spelling and grammar mistakes will cast a grey shadow over everything else. Unfair, yes, but true!

5) You turn yourself into a sitting duck!

Most vacancies nowadays receive dozens, if not hundreds of applications. As a time-saving measure recruiters will start by weeding out the definite ‘NOs’ before comparing the ‘maybes’ and the good applications. Since poor spelling and grammar are some of the easiest things to spot on a CV or application form, a rogue ‘your’ rather than a ‘you’re’ puts you in the firing line for the first cull! Refuse to play by the spelling and grammar rules and you immediately give your competition the upper hand; you’ve unwittingly turned yourself into a sitting duck.

Author: Jenna Allcock works for, the UK’s fastest-growing graduate careers site and recruitment agency.

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