It’s All In The Details! Poor Grammar and Sloppy Presentation Can Undermine the Most Technically Proficient Candidate (part 1)

Regardless of where you are in your life or career, the ability to communicate effectively is one of the keys to success.  As job seekers, we primarily concern ourselves with the interview process and being prepared to answer tough interview questions.  Often overlooked is the importance of written communication – the ability to express our thoughts clearly and concisely using proper grammar, punctuation and spelling.  As critical as having a strong resume and being articulate in person, written communication skills are a reflection of a candidate’s professionalism, attention to detail and education.

As a recruiter, I always advise candidates to send a “thank you” letter following a job interview.  However, this recommendation comes with a caveat:  you must be meticulous in ensuring that your letter is well formulated and grammatically correct.  If done well, an impressive thank you letter can speak volumes about your motivation, initiative, professionalism and attention to detail.   On the other hand, a careless and sloppy effort may well cost you the job.  Following is one memorable example:

Working as a corporate recruiter, I once interviewed a candidate who made a strong impression with the hiring manager, department and HR.

It was decided that an offer would be extended.  Over the course of the next few days, while the details of hire were being finalized, the hiring manager and I each received thank you letters from the candidate.  Between the two letters, there were numerous typos and grammatical mistakes, which raised serious concerns about the candidate’s communication skills and attention to detail.  Since these were core competencies for the position, the hiring manager reconsidered the job offer.

Here are a few guidelines to help make the best possible impression during your job search:

  • Check all written communication for correct grammar and spelling. Do not rely exclusively on spell check.
  • Enlist the help of someone with strong writing skills to proofread.
  • List a current e-mail address that you check on a regular basis.
  • Avoid using an eccentric or unusual e-mail address.  Opt for one   that is clear and professional (e.g.: john_smith@gmail.com).
  • Update your voice-mail message so that it sounds businesslike.
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