Spell Everything Right. Everything.

My agency once managed a very large online events calendar for a major news website in Phoenix, where I live. It was a very important job, but it didn’t require a great deal of experience, so we placed an ad at Arizona State University, looking for an intern to handle the job of editing the calendar. We got dozens of responses, but my favorite one went something like this:

Dear Mr. Barsch:

I read with great interest about the job of calender editor with your company. I think I would be an excellent candidate for this job, because I currently work on the events calender for my church, and am very aware of community events and also good with computers. I am excited about the opportunity to become your calender editor and look forward to talking more with you about this opportunity.

Jane Doe

Maybe I’m biased because I’ve been a fairly decent speller since I was young, but come on – are you kidding me? The average fifth grader can spell the word “calendar,” I guarantee you. And if you can’t – hey, get up and walk to one of the walls in your dorm room or apartment. See that big thing with all the squares and numbers on it? Check the cover, and I guarantee you’ll see the word “CALENDAR” written somewhere on it. Copy that spelling. That’s all you have to do to get it right.

Against my better judgment, I couldn’t resist writing this girl back. I don’t consider myself to be a crusader for correct spelling, because that’s a losing battle if ever there was one. Usually these things just get deleted, but some people are begging for a little correction. And I told myself to feel good about it, because my “tough love” might actually help this girl someday. So I wrote her back, and my response went something like this:

Dear Jane,

Thanks for your inquiry about the calendar job. I wanted to be frank with you and tell you that you were eliminated from consideration for the job due to the fact that you misspelled “calender” three times in your email. To be honest, I couldn’t trust you to do error-free work as a calendar editor when you’re unable to spell the word “calendar.” I wish you the best of luck in the future.

Best regards,

Josh Barsch

I didn’t expect her to feel good when she received it, but sometimes you need to hear the unpleasant truth in order to improve, right? Well, not according to Jane. She actually wrote back.

Dear Mr. Barsch,

I don’t know why you had to write me back just to tell me about my spelling. I would have liked it better if you had not written me back at all. I am not a perfect speller, but I still think I could have done a very good job.

Jane Doe

So much for trying to be helpful.

Many people today tend to say that spelling on your resume matters less depending on the nature of the job you’re applying for. They say things like, “What do you expect? I’m in marketing!” or “I spray for termites. Don’t expect me to win the spelling bee.” But that’s not the point. No one expects you to be a perfect speller or grammarian in your day-to-day life; however, your resume is supposed to be your one-time, absolute best possible effort. It’s not just you — it’s you and the dictionary and whoever you can find to proofread it, taking as much time as you need to make this ONE document perfect. Yes, perfect – no errors whatsoever.

Whether you like it or not, if you misspell words on a resume, you are telling your employer that you’re lazy, and that’s the worst possible thing to tell a potential employer. We think, “Wow, if this person is putting his/her best foot forward on a resume and it still looks half-assed, then can you imagine how half-assed his/her work is going to be?”

So how do you get your resume into tip-top, error-free shape, even if you can’t spell worth a damn? For starters, of course, use the spell-check function on your computer program. That will catch most of the obvious errors. But once the document is spell-checked, give a copy of it to friends, teachers, spouse, children or whoever else you know that’s a better speller than you are. Ask them straight out, “Would you mind taking two minutes to check my resume for mistakes? I’m not a great speller.”

Don’t be embarrassed to say you’re not a good speller – trust me, you’re in good company. Once you’ve had a few people glance over it for errors, you should have an error-free document. It doesn’t take long, and it can make the difference between getting the job and getting your resume tossed in the garbage.

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