Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Resumes?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Christelle Martin-Lacroux of the University of Grenoble and Alain Lacroux of the University of Toulon. They recently published an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Resumes?,”which is currently free to read through BCQ. From Martin-Lacroux and Lacroux:]

It is now well established that students’ spelling deficiencies are increasing and that this has become a growing concern for employers, whcorrecting-1870721_1280.jpgo now consider correct spelling and grammar as one of the most important skills needed by organizations. Despite the significant amount of time spent on writing at work and employers’ growing dissatisfaction with their employees’ spelling skills, little is known about recruiters’ attribution and decision making when they read application forms with spelling errors. Our paper in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly contributes to fill this gap by describing how spelling mistakes in application forms have a detrimental impact on applicants’ chance to be shortlisted. Our findings rely on an experiment on 536 professional recruiters who had to assess application forms varying in their form (presence or absence of spelling errors) and their content (high or low level of professional experience). We found that spelling errors and work experience have a strong impact on recruiters’ shortlisting decisions. All things being equal, the odds of rejecting an application form were 3.65 times higher when the form was error laden, whereas the odds of rejecting an application form were 2.7 times higher when the form indicated a low level of work experience. Not surprisingly, the recruiter’ spelling ability influence their decision to reject or not an application form from the selection process.  For example, the odds of rejecting an error-laden application form when assessed by a recruiter with weak spelling abilities were two times lower than the odds of rejecting this form when evaluated by a recruiter with strong spelling abilities. We made another interesting finding that applicants need to be aware of: the number of spelling errors did not influence the recruiters’ decision. Application forms can be rejected even with very few spelling errors.

In conclusion, applicants do need to be vigilant about the potential negative impression they make on recruiters with a faulty application form: few spelling errors can be as detrimental as a lack of professional experience!

Please find the full abstract to the article below:

Spelling deficiencies are becoming a growing concern among employers, but few studies have quantified this phenomenon and its impact on recruiters’ choice. This article aims to highlight the relative weight of the form (the spelling skills) in application forms, compared with the content (the level of work experience), in recruiters’ judgment during the selection process. The study asked 536 professional recruiters to evaluate different application forms. The results show that the presence of spelling errors has the same detrimental impact on the chances of being shortlisted as a lack of professional experience, and recruiters’ spelling skills also moderate their judgment.

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