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Resume Typos: The Kiss of Death?

April 9, 2018 By: Dave Rietsema
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Your applicant tracking system (ATS) software has sifted through a throng of candidates and has generated a short list of qualified individuals. You start to review the resumes to get a sense of the character and qualifications of your applicants, and on the very first one you notice a typo.

Is it the kiss of death for that candidate? Should you ignore the typo and focus on the qualifications?

It can be almost as tough for a hiring manager that notices a typo on a candidate’s resume as it is for the candidate sitting at home stewing over their missed error. While resume typos may have truly been the kiss of death for an applicant once upon a time, it’s not so straightforward anymore. If you’re faced with a resume typo, the following questions may help you gain perspective on your best course of action.

What Position Is the Applicant Seeking?

If the applicant is seeking a position as a copy editor or lead content writer, it may be prudent to reject a resume with a typo. If the applicant is seeking a position as a line cook or landscaper, however, a typo shouldn’t necessarily disqualify them from the position. Consider what impact spelling, grammar, and attention to detail may have on their ability to do the job when deciding whether a typo should count against a candidate.

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How Grievous Is the Typo?

Not all typos are created equal. Inadvertently leaving out a letter or typing a word twice are common errors that are often done in oversight, whereas issues with context or tense may indicate a fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to language arts and written communication.

How Qualified Is the Candidate?

A highly qualified candidate that’s a shoe-in for an interview generally shouldn’t be rejected because of a typo. When it comes to a mediocre candidate that’s just barely being considered, however, a typo may be the deciding factor. If you do choose to move forward and interview the candidate, however, pay close attention and gear questions to assess whether the typo was a simple slip-up or a warning flag that indicates larger issues.

Is Your Company or Industry Sensitive to Errors?

If you operate in an industry or at a company that takes pride in precision or in which perfection is critical, it’s perfectly reasonable to reject a candidate because of a typo. A typo may indicate a lack of attention to detail that could be harmful in the future. On the other hand, if your company operates according to more relaxed standards and there is room for error, a typo may not matter so much.

What Does the Candidate Pool Look Like?

If your shortlist of qualified candidates is really short, omitting a candidate on no other basis than a typo may not be in your best interest. If your candidate pool is substantial, however, rejecting a resume with a typo may help you to filter through applications. While this shouldn’t be the prime consideration, it may be useful to factor in when deciding whether or not to ignore a resume typo.

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