A photograph of a dictionary

Grammer and Spelling Doesn’t Matter on Resumes

In Management, Programming, Technology by Pete

There’s a lot that can go wrong when non-experts insert themselves as filters in the hiring pipeline. But it tends to boil down to one outcome: you hire the wrong people. One of more annoying and harmful filters that bad HR folks apply at the top of the hiring funnel is around the form of a person’s resume rather than its content.

Actually, Don’t Do This.

Premise: The goal of a hiring process is to find, recruit, and hire the candidate who will have the greatest net impact on your company, who you can afford, and for as little cash and effort as possible.

Each and every filter you apply should be directly tied to a critical job skill. This is especially true at the top of your hiring funnel. Early on, your process should err on the side of moving people to the next round because in the next round you’ll have more information with which to make a decision.

You should also avoid over-indexing on single failures and mistakes. We all make them and someone making them in your specific interview is not indicative of a character flaw or skill gap, it’s just random chance.

What does all this have to do with spelling and grammar on a resume?

Simply put: a grammatical or spelling error on a resume has literally nothing to do with whether or not someone will be a good software developer.

First and foremost, having perfect grammar and spelling is not a requirement to be a software engineer. This should go without saying. So maybe the mechanical error exists on their resume because they actually don’t know how to spell that word or where that comma goes. This raises an important question: who cares? It just isn’t important.

Let’s assume that you disagree. You think that having perfect spelling and grammar knowledge is strictly required to be a good software developer. Are you certain you know which dialect of English the person is using on their resume? What gets called “proper” English is really just the dialect that rich white folks speak; it’s a racist and classist gatekeeping tool. Are you trying to hire the best candidates, or the best white candidates?

Finally, let’s assume the person is trying to write their resume with “proper” English and they do know all of the rules and look up words they’re unsure of the spelling on and check each little red squiggle to be sure

Surely that person can be expected to demonstrate linguistic perfection on their resume. Otherwise it’s a sign that they lack the attention to detail required to be a software developer, right?


Because even the very best software developers you know occasionally make silly mistakes and don’t catch them until they’re in production. Good attention to detail doesn’t mean never making a mistake.

So my advice to all hiring managers, HR people, and other decision makers: stop using grammar and spelling on resumes as a data point in your hiring process. It is not valuable and it is very likely discriminatory.

Caveat for Job Seekers:

You should absolutely strive to eliminate these sorts of errors from your resume, because no matter how bad of an idea it is, there will always be people like the Twitter user above who think this is smart and good and clever. They cannot be reasoned with and they have enough power in the process to torpedo your chances at a company.

I know that this is a huge waste of time, generally, and it’s extremely stressful, but if you want to maximize your opportunities it’s probably worth having a friend help you proof read it.