CV horrors: How are employers coping with error-strewn job applications?

Accurate spelling, the correct use of grammar and scrupulous checking used to be the hallmark of the quintessential English letter, but it now seems this formal approach is dying out even when it comes to applying for a job.

A CV used to be considered one of the most important documents you would ever write, but it seems that candidates are becoming far more slapdash, with today’s applications now riddled with basic errors, spelling mistakes and ‘typos’.

A poll of about 260 recruiters has shown that almost half of all CVs contain grammatical mistakes and more than one-quarter include some sort of error or typo.

Common mistakes

Ironically, misspelling ‘curriculum vitae’ is one of the most common mistakes and these types of errors are still happening even with the widespread availability of electronic spellcheckers.

Men are more likely than women to submit poorly-checked applications, while the 21- to 25-year old age group are the worst offenders, despite a perceived view that younger people are happier to use technology to communicate.

Tom Hadley, external relations director at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, says many employers won’t even consider candidates that make these basic mistakes on CVs.

“Feedback from our members indicates that this is a growing problem and it includes people with university degrees.

“I think there’s a chronic lack of written skills and younger people, particularly, seem to struggle to deal with more formal situations like writing a job application,” he says.

Ironically, Hadley blames an over-reliance on things such as automated spellcheckers for the drop in standards among young people, who now simply trust computers to get everything right for them.

He says that communication and written skills are vital in the workplace and standards are now slipping so low that some employers are sending new staff on special training courses.

Basic skills

In fact, a recent study by the CBI suggests that one in three companies now send staff for remedial training in English or Maths.

“There are lots of jobs that require good written skills and attention to detail but there’s also the symbolism around putting forward an unchecked CV,” he adds.

Alison Hodgson, head of resourcing at the Royal Mail and chair of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, thinks the rise of ‘text speak’ and internet messaging is no excuse for tardiness in the workplace.

“I would expect candidates to check applications properly and take time and care to prepare them. Employers need to know that they can trust staff to communicate and check their work properly.

“What sort of message does it send about how much care they would take over their work, if they don’t take the time to check their application,” she says.

Effective communication

Nicola Monson, a research associate at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says the ability to communicate effectively is now more important than ever.

“The CV should promote the individual and if it’s full of mistakes then candidates will probably be overlooked. It would demonstrate a sloppy attitude to work and a general lack of care.

“The education system should be turning out people with the skills to deal with formal workplace communication,” she says.

Despite a rise in the prevalence of bad grammar and text culture, the experts seem to agree that HR professionals should be weeding out candidates that turn in sloppy CVs, or risk a similarly careless attitude in the workplace.

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