back to article IT job seekers can't smell spell

Job applicants seeking technology jobs often make basic spelling and grammar mistakes while writing their CVs. Some even misspell the name of the technologies and products they're meant to be experts in, which might be why 23 per cent of people admit they get someone else to write their CV. Recruiters said there were five …


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  1. James Le Cuirot
    Thumb Down

    Casual dress

    Meh. I'm merely a lowly coder myself but I've had to give a few interviews. If they turn up in a suit, I have to question whether they're a real coder. Admittedly I work from home most of the time but I haven't worn a suit since my graduation.

    Lack of basic grammar, however, does bother me. If they're that sloppy in their writing, can I expect the same sloppiness in their code?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're off my interview list then

      If you cannot be arsed to put the effort in and turn up at an interview in decent clothes, appropriate for an interview (and I mean interview, NOT general working), then you probably cannot be arsed to turn up and put the effort in at your job. Notice I said probably, but it's an immediate warning sign to me.

      Your dress does NOT indicate how good a coder you are. I know very good coders who dress smart, and very good coders who dress down at work - but they all turned up at interview dressed appropriately.

      Bad grammar and spelling in CV's don't usually make it past the HR filter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        CV's, CVs and Grocer's' apostrophe's

        "Bad grammar and spelling in CV's don't usually make it past the HR filter."

        However, it's clear that your HR department isn't very good when it comes to grocers' apostrophes.

        Take some advice from Bob the Angry Flower:

      2. Anonymous Coward

        The other AC beat me to it!

        Bad spelling in CV's what? It's "CVs", *not* "CV's". How did your CV got though the HR nets (an utter waste of time and money IMHO) exactly? Must have been your sharp suit...

        1. SuperNintendoChalmers
          Thumb Up

          I never do this but I can't resist this time.

          Surely you mean "How did your CV *get* through"?

          1. fatchap


            Of course an apostophe can be used to indicate a contraction so using CV as a shortend version of Curriculum Vitae means that an apostrophe can be used pefectly adequately here.

            1. Anonymous Coward


              Sorry, but no, "CV" isn't a contraction. "CV" is a type of abbreviation called an 'initialism' or an 'acronym'; e.g. *C*urriculum *V*itae or *Ra*dio *D*etection *A*nd *R*anging. Since it's definitely not a contraction, "CV's" suggests ownership.

              (I've proofed this one this time!)

            2. Anonymous Coward

              Oh dear...

              Apostrophes aren't used to indicate plurals, "contraction" or otherwise. If I were to read a sentence that included "CV's", I'd think you'd suddenly started referring to someone with the initials "C" and "V" , or perhaps you meant "CV is", "CV was" or whatever (neither of which would make sense).

              Surely if you're using an apostrophe to indicate that "itae" is missing from "Vitae", you should also be using an apostrophe to show that "Curriculum" has been shortened to "C"? So, instead of your wretched "CV's", you should actually be writing "C'V's". And instead of "BBC", we should all start writing "B'B'C'".

            3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

              big endian or little?

              Surely one uses periods for abbreviations, apostrophes for contractions, and a fairly small and settled list of the latter. Else one may get the shortend of the stick.

          2. Anonymous Coward


            That'll teach me to be smug!

    2. Steve X

      casual dress

      I'd say it always pays to turn up *slightly* overdressed for an interview. If you know that jeans & T-shirt is normal day wear then arriving in a shirt & tie, perhaps no jacket, and with polished shoes (equivalent situation applies for female candidates, of course) at least shows that you:

      a) Can make an effort when you want to.

      b) Would probably be safe to send to talk to an important customer.

      which are two pretty important skills in any candidate I'd want to hire. As always, it's first impressions that count. If your interviewer likes polished shoes, then trainers get you off to a bad start. Few people *don't* like polished shoes, so no harm done to go upscale a little.

      No need to go the full three-piece suit with bowler, FT & brolly, of course, unless you're looking for a job with a bonus^H^H^H^Hank.

    3. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Always wear a suit to an interview!

      I once remember reading an article by record producer, Chris wotnot who did the Marillion albums on getting a job in the studio, "If you want to get into the studio as a techie, be prepared to be a tea-boy as your first job and always wear a suit to the interview. You may never wear one ever again in your life, you may have to beg, steal or borrow your Dad's suit, but if you make an effort to dress smart you tell the employer you really want the job and are prepared to do anything to get it."

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As the original poster of CV's

        The reason my CV got through, must be because, at no point, did I need to write CV's (or CVs) in my CV.

        Handy that.

        Thanks for the information on use or not of the apostrophe though. I'm still not convinced. Without the apostrophe, it just doesn't look right.

        Anyway, my main point was about the dress code at the interview. Bad grammar doesn't even get you that far.

        1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: As the original poster of CV's

          CV's is not the plural of CV. CVs may look wrong, but it isn't.

          There you are.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Ah, Sun

        Where Scott McNealy's riposte to a question on "is there a dress code" was: "Yes. You must."

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ever drop in on an IT interview... overdressed?

    I have. Just donning a natty suit might turn out to be actually dangerous for your prospects in IT.

    Whether I speel rite or not, well, I don't use a sleling chekcar except the mark I eyeball, though I daresay that I manage quite well, being able to find most errors at a glance including in native speakers' work, and I'm not even a native speaker of English. Not that it seems to matter just what I tell recruiters, I appear adept at turning them off. And that is after carefully vetting my CV and having it checked by, indeed, a native speaker with suitable CV writing experience.

    And of course plenty of job adverts contain silly gaffes, ranging from spelling via grammar via making no sense whatsoever to indeed asking^Wdemanding the impossible. Often enough the simplest way to get embarrased silence from a recruiter is calling them up and asking what sort of person the client is looking for.

    So I'm inclined to think that only the duds end up in recruiter land, regardless of on which side. That hypothesis appears to mesh well with the numbers, too.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Overdressed or spelling mistooks

      One place I worked, the course we had to go on *before* being allowed to interview candidates informed us that were were only to assess the technical content of CVs. We were not allowed to consider their appearance at interview, or their writing skills - as that could be considered discriminatory.

      Uhh, yes - we were trying to discriminate: the probables from the possibles.

      However the HR lady was adamant that this was THE LAW. As a consequence no-one ever got recruited and the place filled up with contractors. It cost three times as much, but at least we could ditch the crap ones. And yes, they did attend interviews in suits (and BMWs)

  3. Pinkerton


    Before selecting candidates for interview, I immediately throw away half of the CVs.

    This weeds out unlucky people.

    1. Robert Synnott


      Weeds out lucky people, surely? :) Nothing worse than wasting time interviewing with companies run by mad people.

      1. Hedley Phillips


        I think it may have been a joke...

        1. Anonymous Coward


          "I think it may have been a joke..."

          Indeed, it originally appeared in the Top Tips section of Viz, Circa 2005, thusly.

          "Employers, avoid employing unlucky people by simply throwing half of your applicant's CVs in the bin".

          Although oft' reported as "not as funny as it used to be", the Letters page and Top Tipssection of the publication are regularly stated to be the only reason anyone buys it anymore. Although, personally, I find The Drunken Bakers, 8 Ace and Roger's Profanisaurus to be a good read.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      You also need to spot those not good at pla

      nning ahead.

    3. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Seen this in action

      Saw it once when the manager of a small department was paper-sifting applications.

      About 2/3 went straight in the bin as they had photos attatched.

      "It was on the advert 'No Photo's' , if they can't fucking read the ad, which you'd have thought was important if they want the job, I don't want them working for me"

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        about the photos...

        I remember one applicant (for a marketing post) sending a CV, the first page of which was an A4 picture of a tasty lady proudly displaying her assets.

        She didn't get the job, I can't recall now whether that was because it wasn't her on the picture or because she wasn't qualified...

  4. Nic Gibson

    'Interesting' English

    In various jobs over the last twenty years, I've been involved in hiring programmers several times. We advertised for a graduate role at one point. We received six hundred CVs for one job. Obviously, at that point you have to find some sort of winnowing method. We chose "proofread the covering letter" as our approach. Basic errors got rid of about 250 CVs that way. We did specify that writing skills and the ability communicate with clients were a priority for us. Ho hum.

    I'm not sure about the casual dress issue. It does indicate to some extent how much importance the applicant places on the interview. On the other hand, I'm generally looking to employ someone based on their programming skills and their ability to interact with coworkers so it's not exactly an issue for me.

    I met a chemical engineer the other day who told me that communications and writing skills are now part of many chemical engineering degrees. Is that the case with CS these days?

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      that you would notice....... Increased emphasis by universities on training rather than education and a willingness to let undergraduates get away without too much non technical broadening has not improved intakes.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      @Nic Gibson

      > Is that the case with CS these days?

      I don't know really and neither do I care. What I do know, however, is my expectation that any graduate masters its written language (not more than one error per page). Whether other communication skills are required (e.g. client contact, work in team) depends on the job.

      That said, I hope writing and communication skills are part of the curriculum of ony proper degree.

      1. Liam Johnson

        Proper degree

        You mean like maths or physics?

  5. Craig (well, I was until The Reg changed it to Craig 16)


    I can understand the likes of project managers and others who have to talk to other departments/clients having to have very good communication skills but who cares if a techie with no business interaction requirements is a Quasimodo-like hermit with bad hygiene and even worse socialisation skills as long as he's good at his job?

    A good rule of thumb I work to is that the scruffiest techie in an IT department is usually the most valuable while the smartest dressed just wants to be a manager and screw the IT department. Not always true but works more often than not.

  6. Tony S

    It falls both ways

    I've had more than a few recruiters send me email / documents / pdfs where they have some real howlers. The obvious ones (your / you're, there / their) as well as some Freudian slips (my favourite - Microsoft Sexchange 2007)

    I also note that they are not careful about the info they put in the advert - I've recently seen an advert for a "Procjet Manager"

    I suppose that it is a symptom of the time - Jimmy Edwards would know what to do!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      a techie with no business interaction requirements who is a Quasimodo-like hermit with bad hygiene and even worse socialisation skills *can't* be good at his job, not in the modern development world (you do still get them kicking around from years ago though, because they have some arcane knowledge that can't be lost).

      The job of even the most die hard techie requires interaction with people outside of the techie circle, at least if they want to be anything other than an entry level code monkey! If you have a technical question, you don't want to have to filter it through a lot of different people, you want as direct a communication channel as possible. If you trust a project manager to handle all interactions with another department/client on your behalf, you're not off to a good start! Also, once you get beyond the basic code monkey stage, quite often you will have to walk through designs with a room full of people, or help analysts with their requirements gathering, attend change management boards, attend post project reviews, etc

      This sort of stereotype is exactly why techie jobs are being offshored, because if you have a code monkey with poor communication skills, it might as well be someone cheap and presentable, who just isn't a native language speaker.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Mark O

      Hidden hermits are OK but...

      The hermit types can be dangerous in my experience: We had a client who wanted to meet the engineer working on their project. All he had to do was put on a clean shirt and spend half an hour in a meeting room where he would face a few easy questions from the client team who also brought an engineer with them.

      He did fine, until the discussion turned to new features, and our smiling project manager put a hand on his shoulder and said something along the lines of "this is the guy - he'll take care of it." The engineer snapped back that he would get to it when he had the time since he had much more important projects to work on. The whole thing was shyly laughed off as the project was too far along for this to hurt the business, but it was a huge embarrassment for the rest of the team.

      Anyone with the most basic set of people skills, let alone business skills, would not have made such a comment in front of a client.

  7. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Attention to detail

    As this is a somehat important part of the job, it always pays to proofread. The guy who put "Martial Status: British" may have been attempting satire, but his CV was rejected at the first sifting anyway the last time that I got dragged into the hiring process.

  8. Chika

    Excuses, excuses...

    Yes, badly formed CVs can affect chances of a person getting a job but there are a few issues I have with the implication of "irrelevant" items on a CV. First of all, bear in mind that a CV may be used for many job applications and will not be tailored to each one seperately, so what may be irrelevant on one may not be on another.

    Second, I am well aware that any excuse is used to reject in many cases, especially with many people chasing a limited supply of jobs. Before this, ageism was often used as an excuse, and other excuses have been used.

    In so many situations, the question has to be raised as to whether the person or people advertising the job are really up to the task. I've seen so many adverts for jobs where the requirements or people specs have been so unreasonable that it is a wonder that anyone applies at all! It is quite obvious in some cases that the advertiser is trying to get away with doing as little as possible in the employment of a new worker, expecting that new employee to do everything from training to transport.

    In fact, as I've moved from job to job over the years, I notice that we ordinary farties have to jump through so many additional hoops as time goes on that I wonder that any of us works anymore. Formal attire is the least of the worries I've had to deal with...

  9. GrahamS

    "object-orientated programing"

    2 strikes, you're out! *throws CV in bin*


    1. Gerry Doyle

      Irony abounds this and practically every other posting of this nature.

      Quis custodiet...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: a CV may be used for many job applications

      So write a master copy that includes absolutely everything that could possibly be relevant, and then go through snipping the irrelevant bits for each application before printing it. Why would a recruiter pay much attention to someone who is obviously taking a scatter-gun approach to finding a job when he's looking for /just the right person/ to fill his post?

      1. Dan 10

        Martial Status: Karate

        That's all...

        1. Goat Jam

          That would have been funnier

          if you wrote it;

          Martial Status: Brown Belt

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Irony abounds

        Quite so. My glass house is somewhat draughty right now.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Not really

        this is an informal forum, so the odd spelling and/or grammar mistake isn't the end of the world, amusing as it may be for those of an anal nature.

        The point is, if a candidate can't be arsed to use a tool built into his word process to spell and grammar check his cv, then how much will he be bothered to actually do the job he's being paid to.

        Every time I have this argument (as that's where it always ends), almost *everybody* misses the point. I couldn't give a sh1t if the candidate can spell or not. It matters not a jot to me. I really could not be less interested if you paid me. My point is that allowing one of the most important documents in a person to go through with an elementary error on it speaks volumes about the subjects attitude to life.

        I've mentioned this before on El Reg, and got some downvotes, but I don't care ... I've interviewed over 50 people in my career, and every successful candidate has been a positive asset to the company.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I was just going to offer you a (very) high paying job being less interested.

        2. Gerry Doyle

          The point is...

          ...that in the normal run of things in an informal forum like this the odd spelling mistake certainly is not the end of the world, but in a thread decrying falling standards in literacy it does place a certain onus on posters to get it right themselves.

          As for not giving a shit about whether a candidate can spell or not as long as their CV looks right - how can they know it doesn't if they can't spell?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      more excuses

      "bear in mind that a CV may be used for many job applications and will not be tailored to each one seperately"

      WTF!?!? If you can't be arsed tailoring your CV to the vacancy, you can't be all that interested in getting the job.

      A vaguely clueful employer or HR droid can spot this from miles away.

      1. Goat Jam


        Often, your CV will be placed "on file" at various agencies. In such a scenario, it makes no sense to tailor it to a particular role.

      2. Liam Johnson


        Why should you need to tailor your CV? Your CV should list your skills and experience. Removing irrelevant bits suggests you spent more time on the relevant parts that you actually did. This is a lie. Similarly you could "buff up" the relevant parts to make them stand out. Also a lie.

        I am aware that some people do this, but a sensible employer should not really require it. Just another reminder that the world is not populated with very many sensible people I suppose.

        1. Matt K

          Don't quite agree, sorry

          A CV should list skills relevant to the job. If I want someone with, say, SAP R/3 experience, I couldn't care less how well they know Oracle HR. At best I'll treat it as vaguely useful background on their all-round skills or ignore those bits of their CV. At worst I'll assume they didn't read the spec, or they did but couldn't be bothered to spend a few minutes tweaking their CV. When there's forty CVs to review for a job, the ones who at least look like they want it have already got a headstart towards getting an interview.


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