Mis-spelling a sign of genius? Maybe. Mis-spelling on your resume a sign of genius? I don’t think so.

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say "poor spelling is a sign of genius", I'd probably have a quarter. But if I had a nickel for every time I saw a mis-spelled word on a resume, well, I'd have more than a quarter, I can tell you that.

Geniuses may very well have a difficult time with spelling. I'm no genius and every so often a real simple word stumps me. For the sake of argument, let's assume that the correlation between geniuses and mis-spelling is true. Now prove to me that every person that has spelling errors on his/her resume is a genius. Not so easy, huh? My point here is this: don't have spelling errors on your resume. I've done a little segmentation exercise with the people who have spelling errors on their resumes and have determined that they fall into 2 groups:

1) geniuses that didn't take the time to spell-check and proof-read their resumes

2) non-geniuses that didn't take the time to spell-check and proof-read their resumes

Get my point here? Poor spelling (or grammar) on the resume doesn't as much impact how we feel about your intellect as it does your attention to detail. With something so basic as spell-checking (and grammar checking) your resume...and, frankly, so easy...you are inviting someone to say "no". You might have some other great stuff on your resume and the recruiter might say "yes" despite the spelling errors, but you are taking a chance you shouldn't (and potentially putting doubts in the mind of the people interviewing you).

It doesn't take a genius to know you need to proof-read your resume. I'm just saying.



Comments (32)

  1. Travis Owens says:

    I’ve even seen some shops take an extreme stance in mis-spelling and, unofficially, skip resumes with obvious spelling mistakes.

    But when you work in IT, attention to detail is important, can I trust somebody to admin a system to code if they don’t know how to use a spell checker, something you learn in middle school!

  2. tzagotta says:

    Heather, What consideration would you give for applicants for whom English is not their primary language? I don’t think it is reasonable to hold all applicants to such a high standard because we don’t know their background.

    I can agree with you that attention to detail is important to measure, but I think that judging this by spelling and grammar on the resume is not going to necessarily be a good predictor of this trait.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    tzagotta-that’s actualy a great question and I am glad you brought that up. I’m assuming that whatever language you write the resume in is the language that the hiring company does business in. So the hiring company, unless they specify otherwise, will want some proficiency with the language. I think that some mis-spelling in day-to-day communication for a non-native English speaker is absolutely understandable (bravo to folks who can conduct business in more than one language anyway!), though that spel checker should be able to catch many of them. I do think that there is an extral level of due diligence that goes into a resume that is not required in day to day communication (or blogging, thank goodness). So I would say that the person writing the resume in a language other than their native language (or language other than one they are very proficient in), should seek out someone to proof-read the resume that is either a native speaker of that language or has a very high level of proficiency. I think that non-native English speakers are more likely to get the benefit of the doubt in many cases, but still the attention to detail could be questioned. I hope that helps.

  4. Garry Trinder says:

    mis-spelling is one word misspelling

    "With something so basic as" must be "as basic as"

    I suppose you did this intentionaly ?

  5. skits says:

    I don’t understand why recruiters pay so much attention to spelling erros. I don’t think anyone can show any correlation between people having spelling errors on their resumes and their ability to do a good job. The main purpose of the resume is to present skills relevant to the job you’re applying for and not to pass a writing test. In fact if it’s not relevant to the job, one can consider it discrimination. Would you decline an interview to a person who doesn’t comb their hair because they don’t care how they look? I hope not. Then why would spelling errors on their resume be any different?

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    TAG-you mean "intentionally"? Really, this could go on forever. The spell-checker I used for my blog did not pick up "mis-spelling". Anyhoo, if I ever decide to submit my blog as a resume, I’ll be sure to check that stuff out.

    Stan-I can’t tell if someone combs their hair from their resume and if you look at my picture at the top of this blog, it should be obvious to you that there’s no way I can comb mine (crazy hair..what can I do?). Attention to detail and strong written communication skills are requirements of many jobs. And recruiters should and do make decisions about which candidate to interview based on the quality of the resume. It’s not discrimination, it’s part of the selection process. If someone’s resume proves to me a lack of attention to detail and that is a requirement of the position, then that is a problem. If I am comparing two similarly skilled candidates and one has spelling errors on her resume and the other doesn’t, which should I pick?

    I’m offering this info to you because it’s what I witness and it’s how I think about things, as do many, if not most, recruiters I know. Seriously, take it for what it’s worth. As with any advice, if you don’t think it’s good, don’t follow it.

  7. Garry Trinder says:


    Well – you have answered on your own question.

    Sometimes people do not care that much about their resume just like you don’t care about this posting.

    If you are going to review resumes only from people who spend 100 USD on resume writing books from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/field-keywords%3Dresume%20writing ).

    Contracted professional resume writer ( http://www.google.com/search?q=professional+resume+writer ) and used several different spell-checkers (some of them ignore words with dash) – then you will find person who see his resume as main reason why he should be hired by your company or doing very-very active job search.

    But if you will don’t care about typos – then you potentially can find somebody not noticed by others recruiters.

    One more – your daily job related to resume writing/reading and this is why you take it so seriously. For rest of the world – resume writing skill will be used at most once per year (or ever more rarely).

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’ll say this one more time, just for fun: a blog is not a resume. No, resume writing is not part of my job, but yes, I do take resumes very seriously, of course! You don’t need to pay people to spell-check your resume. I’m sure there are a multitude of resources that are free (spell checker add-ons, online dictionaries, friends who can proof-read). Frankly, if the word "mis-spelling" was part of my resume, I’d be inclined to look it up. But since it’s not, and it’s just part of my silly old blog, I am not going to worry about it.

  9. PatriotB says:

    I’ve always been a good speller, but there’s one word I often get wrong: I misspell genius as genious. 🙂

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    PatriotB…was it on your resume explaining that you are one? I wish I had that problem ; )

  11. Garry Trinder says:

    😉 OK. JFY, I agree with your advice – it’s good to spell check your resume.

    But I don’t like your approach to candidate selection.

    "If I am comparing two similarly skilled candidates and one has spelling errors on her resume and the other doesn’t, which should I pick?"

    You can pick BOTH! Is they are similarly skilled – then you have to contact both of them to collection additional decision making information.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your opinion on this matter with us.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    No worries TAG…just trying to give folks the inside scoop so they can present themselves as well as possible ; )

  13. nate says:

    I kind of agree that a resume should be spelled correctly, and should be well-written. If someone’s "fly is down", you should point it out to him. By this, I mean that if someone has a spelling or writing mistake on his resume, you might use discretion and let him know in a nice and kind way (if you have time).

    The international point is well-taken. Don’t the British have different ways of spelling the same word as people in the U.S.? Someone might spell words differently after reading The Economist (not sure).

    Forgiveness is important. Also, some people have fatter fingers than other people.

    And some people have different opinions on the formality of certain types of communication. For example, is it okay for me to rattle off a blog post to someone else’s blog and not take the time to edit the blog posting? I tend to think so, but others may disagree. I tend to spend more time on my blog polishing things before publishing them. Your input on blog etiquette would be appreciated.

    There are also "gray areas" in grammar. In an earlier blog posting, Heather wrote:

    "I am impacting their chances of getting the position significantly."


    Some might argue that "impacting" is jargon – not sure. It may be a pointless nitpick anyways.

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Nate-I agree with you. I wouldn’t consider "colour" (as opposed to "color") an error. Many of the mis-spellings I see, I believe, are actually typos (versus the person actually thinking that the word is spelled that way). It’s not a matter of forgiving at all…they haven’t wronged me in any way. And if they find the error and want to submit a new copy of the resume, I don’t mind (though I prefer to get it the first time).

    I just don’t equate posting on a blog to a resume. Resumes are important documents that you use to change employers…a major decision. Blogs are a social medium. Apples and oranges and blog spelling and grammar can be a topic for another post (I don’t want to get off-topic).

    On a resume, colloquial spelling is fine, English versus "American" English, no problem. Those things vary regionally and I’m not judgemental in that regard at all because there is no need to be…it’s not a mistake. But when people spell "finance" like "fiance", for example, it’s pretty clearly an error that should have been caught. There’s difference.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    An FYI-not worth it’s own blog post. I am going to moderate comments this weekend because today was so much fun ; )I don’t really have any plans other than to post all the comments when I come in Monday, but since things have been getting a little dicey today, I’d like to make that call before the comments go live. Feel free to disagree with me n any of the posts. I love the conversation, just not the name-calling. Hopefully we can keep it all respectful.

  16. mediaguy says:

    Any chance of an Apprentice recap or comments now that its over for the season? Also from a Microsoft standpoint, did you see a difference in traffic to the site and or sales in promoting net meeting on The Apprentice? Lastly, is there a department at Microsoft that handles these types of jobs? (product placement and strategic partnerships)

    PS-Sorry I posted this here. I didnt see another area to post it in.

    On the topic of spell check and resumes. I always have a friend proof mine before submitting it. I think we are all immune to our own writing sometimes and cant pick up mistakes after staring at it for a while. Also reading it out loud helps.

  17. eleanor says:

    Good idea: Proofread your resume.

    Better idea–as noted by others: Proofread your resume *and* have someone else proofread it as well.

    When we proofread our own work we have an amazing ability to read what we _intended_ to write rather than what we actually wrote.

    Notice how good we are at finding each other’s errors here in these comments?

    BTW: For others who assume ppl w/spelling errors don’t know how to use spell check —- of course there’s the old chestnut that you can’t totally trust it because of homonyms (are our, to too,…).

    [Incidentally, I am surprised that spell check doesn’t suggest people for ‘ppl.’ Suggestions like that will be needed in the future the way we all type!]

    Rather than discount someone because of an error it might be more interesting to talk to them and see if they can spot their error. I know I won’t be ignoring any misspelled job listing that fit my bill!

  18. Ian says:

    I was very surprised to read all the comments ‘defending’ spelling errors!

    I’ve always perceived spelling mistakes on important documents (like resumes) as a major sign of carelessness. If you’re careless with how your resume looks how does one know you’re not going to be careless when it comes to a given task?

    I was reminded of one of my blog trolls calling me <em>"imcompetent"</em> one day. I seriously doubt that person was a genius… 🙂

  19. Michael says:

    The problem I have with spelling errors on resumes is this: As a recruiter, I go receive so many resumes that they begin to look the same. Many times what separates people are the little things with spelling and grammatical errors tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Most people use MS Word, or some other product, which has a spellcheck built in. Really, how hard is it to hit the F7 key???

  20. HeatherLeigh says:

    Mediaguy-sure, I can do some Apprentice stuff now that the season is over…good idea. I’ll see if there’s any way to get some follow-up on the LiveMeeting stuff. Windering if someone over there would let me interview them…hmmm.

    Eleanor-good points. I wish I had time to talk to each person whose resume I get (I heard somewhere we get about 8K a day). GIven bandwidth, the folks without the spelling errors are more likely to get the call, but I get the point you were trying to make. Being able to identify and admit mistakes.

    Ian-I know! Crazy stuff, huh? Or should I say "Umbelievable"?


  21. eleanor says:

    Fair enough! That’s a lot of resumes.

    (…next time I’ll be sure to actually make my point rather than just trying.)


  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Eleanor…hopefully you know what I meant..the point you were making…what you were trying to say, what you were saying. Dang.

  23. Jessica says:

    LOL Well, I think I can prove that theory, that geniuses are bad spellers, wrong. If the applicant is such a genius, then why doesn’t she realize that she shouldn’t send a resume with spelling mistakes in to a recruiter? I may not be a genius, but even I figured that out when I was a teen, looking for a job. So, uh, yeah, don’t think that proves one’s genius. lol

  24. eleanor says:

    hee hee

    Sorry for getting so literal. ;p

  25. Tim says:

    Wow, talk about a lot of commentary!

    The thing I hear, Heather, is "Bad spelling makes you look dumb" and I think it more hits the mark. Though I don’t agree with the statement, it brings up an important point: all of us communicate with a written language and we, as everyday readers of papers, magazines, and books, expect correct spelling when we read something.

    When someone substitutes "there" for "they’re", it doesn’t make that person look too bright, even though it may have been a casual error.

    The simple fact is that you never want to be that person when you are sending important correspondence (i.e., your resume) to a potential employer. Every decent Copywriter knows that a Proofreader is going to have to go over his or her material before it goes out. It’s nearly impossible to proofread your own copy after you’ve seen it 10 or 12 times.

    You can hope all you want for a hiring manager or recruiter to be lenient when it comes to spelling errors on your resume, but do your really want to take that chance when a job is at stake?

  26. HeatherLeigh says:


    Eleanor…I like your literal take ; )

    Tim-I never said anything about anyone being "dumb", per se. I’d say that spelling mistakes would show a lack of attention to detail or not knowing better…ahh, I hate the word "dumb". Anyway, what you are saying is right. Yo unever want to take that chance and an objective eye to review your resume is so helpful!

  27. guy says:

    This is total bs. Errors on resumes insinuate a high level of creativity. Of course this can be a bad thing in marketing.

  28. HeatherLeigh says:

    Creative poeple don’t have spell-checkers? Gee, resume errors should now be listed as a requirement on the job description, I guess. Come on!

  29. Pete says:

    Being closed-minded in this event, I fail to see how someone could be classified as a genius when they can not even correctly spell in their own primary language. I personaly would skip over a resume if it had obvious spelling mistakes on it. Of course it is ever the human characteristic to make mistakes, in which place we have double checking our own work, and then a spell check.

  30. Typos on resumes. Recruiters hate them. Hiring Managers hate them. Heather really hates them . 🙂 And

  31. Lifegaurd says:

    I consider my self a genius i just sent in a resume by email stating “Aplication for Lifeguard” chances of me getting hired  about 15%

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