‘Our survey says…’ The Importance of Correct Spelling and Grammar on CVs (World Literacy Day 2013)

Today is World Literacy Day (occasionally referred to as ‘World Spelling Day’), an annual event launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) charity. This event aims to highlight the importance of literacy for students aged 4-18 years, through a challenging World Education Games contest to find the very best young spellers from around the globe. While the contest is designed for students specifically, competent literacy skills are important for individuals of all ages.

In anticipation of this event, we distributed a survey to several businesses who actively recruit staff through job sites powered by Adecco Group UK and Ireland, including myfuturerole.com. The survey comprised questions related to spelling ability demonstrated on the CVs of candidates, and how this may affect the employability an applicant.

More than 300 people took the time to respond to our survey (thank you!) and the results are really quite interesting.

Our survey results

More than half (57.9%) of recruiters who responded said spelling proficiency was ‘vital’ for candidates employed within the industry they represent, while only 1.6% said it was not an important factor at all. The remaining 40.5% selected the intermediate option of ‘fairly important’ for this first question. In a later question, a significant 69.9% of respondents said CVs should “not contain a single spelling mistake”.

How many spelling mistakes are acceptable in a CV?

This suggests that while occasional in-role spelling mistakes are acceptable in the eyes of employers, they expect candidates to take extra care with their CVs – not surprising since this document provides employers with the first impression of each candidate.

Consequently, 72.2% said they had discarded CVs as a result of seeing one or more spelling mistakes included. Additionally, 71.3% said they would think twice about employing an applicant if their CV contained incorrectly spelt words, even if the candidate fulfilled all other desired credentials.

Other significant findings from our survey include:

  • 12.3% of respondents agreed with the statement “Poor spelling is a reflection of low intelligence”

· 72.9% asserted autocorrect and spell check features do not cancel out the need for employees to be adequate self-proofers

· 68.1% of recruiters rated their own spelling ability as ‘better than average’, while 13.6% claimed their spelling was impeccable. Just 0.9% admitted to having a ‘poor’ spelling ability.

How would you rate your own spelling ability?

Our final survey question asked the recruiters to list any words they frequently saw misspelt on CVs. Many comments in this section discussed the issue of incorrect grammar, with many saying this was often a greater issue than incorrect spelling. These were the misspellings and syntax issues cited most:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • The name of the company offering the vacancy
  • ‘Roll’ used instead of ‘role’
  • Incorrect use of ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’
  • Incorrect use of ‘to’, ‘too’ and ‘two’
  • Failure to capitalise self-referential ‘I’
  • Apostrophe misuse

Here are just two comments received regarding the importance of proper grammar use on CVs, in addition to correct spelling:

I should add it's the overall grammar that concerns me [on CVs], not just poor spelling!

Text speak is very common [on the CVs I see] and extremely irritating. I consider people who include it in an application to be careless and lazy.

Employers CV expectations

It is not surprising that recruiters expect candidates to check their CVs diligently for spelling and grammatical errors, before submitting them as part of their application. It is perhaps surprising however, for such a high percentage (72.2%) of recruiters to admit to discarding CVs as a result of such errors. It is wise to have a friend, (or even better, two friends), look over your CV before forwarding it to employers: it can be very difficult to spot your own mistakes.

You might be an expert in your industry but you should not simply assume your experience alone will secure you a job. You need to prove you can communicate well with others, and spelling is a significant part of this.

Spelling ‘curriculum vitae’ and your potential employer’s name incorrectly will almost certainly ruin your chances of securing the job. These mistakes suggest you have not researched the employer in depth, signifying you are not particularly serious about the vacancy. Alternatively, you might simply be considered lazy as a result of these simple and easily corrected mistakes.

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