Rejected for a Spelling Error

“We had 400 resumes in response to our job posting,” Jean complained, “but when I look at those that made the cut, I am disappointed.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I looked at the reject stack. Here was one that was rejected for a spelling error, but the candidate had completed a special certificate program at a school in upstate Vermont. I know about that program. I want to talk to that candidate.”

“Rejected for a spelling error?”

“And here was one, rejected because of a three month gap in employment. But the candidate spent six months with a special ed program in a village in Africa. I want to talk to that candidate.”

“And?” I prompted.

“This candidate graduated from an unremarkable college, fresh out of school, with no work experience in our field, but managed to hold down a full-time job, a part-time job and take a full-course load in college. I want to talk to that candidate.”

“So, what passed the stage-gate?” I wanted to know.

“Here’s one. Perfect spelling, no gaps in job history, a reputable academic history, ten years experience in a retail perfume department. Only one small problem. We don’t sell perfume. How did that resume make it to the IN stack?”

“What do you think the problem is?” I asked.

“I think we are going about this all wrong. We look at resumes and find some flaw to disqualify the candidate. We look at resumes and sort OUT. I think we need to reverse the process. We need to determine the critical role requirements and then sort IN for those qualities.”

2 thoughts on “Rejected for a Spelling Error

  1. mba student

    Excellent point. Many HR departments receive so many applications, they ARE looking for reasons (however inconsequential) to screen out candidates. Savvy job seekers know this; and that’s one of the reasons they try to circumvent HR and communicate directly with the hiring manager (or one level up). But there’s really no excuse for typos on a resume or cover letter.

  2. Dan Yinger

    …as Lewis Carroll, and maybe even Kenyon College’s Steve Carell, once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

    Thanks for the continuing entertainment and education Tom. I’d laugh if it didn’t seem so close to reality…


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