Pet Peeves of Hiring Departments

November 24, 2010

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

Question: What are the pet peeves of hiring departments when it comes to English? (Rosa Kathrina K. Lopez, Manila, via SMS)

The hiring department can be considered the ‘gatekeeper’ in a company’s personnel selection process. The department’s staff has a big say in the advertising, short listing, interviewing, and selection of job applicants. They play a vital role in finding the appropriate persons who will join the company’s list of competent employees.

You may pass the technical aspects of the job; however, most firms now include “good communication skills” among the required job qualifications. This is not surprising, because managers now realize that communication skills are crucial for both internal harmony and the company’s external image.

I know some hiring managers who literally throw resumes and cover letters in the garbage can after seeing a pet peeve. Some others would immediately bid the applicant goodbye after a 30-second interview. What is it really that annoys them?

Below is a list of the pet peeves of hiring departments when it comes to English.

During application:

Spelling errors. This is repulsive to all hiring officers (especially if you misspell the name of the company). It can easily be avoided by turning on the spell-check function of your computer. Always check and double-check when in doubt.

Grammatical errors. Always proofread your resume before even thinking of sending it to a hiring department. Ask a friend or a family member to read your application letters so they can point out any grammatical errors.

Colloquial expressions. Take care to use formal language; this is not the time to show off your knowledge of (or lack thereof) idiomatic expressions. Be aware too that expressions that are acceptable in conversation may not be suitable for written communication.

Inappropriate use of punctuation marks. This will make a terrible first impression. Always take care to use commas and periods appropriately.

Lengthy paragraphs. This is very difficult to read and may lead to your resume not being read. Create a new paragraph or consider using a bulleted list if there are items that must be grouped, so as not to bore your reader. (Add to this overly long qualification letters; no cover letter should ever be more than a page long.)

Lengthy sentences. Some tend to write overly long sentences. It is best to use short and simple sentences to be easily understood.

Writing in sentence fragments. While writing complex sentences is faulty, you may also commit the equally erroneous style of writing in sentence fragments. Sentence fragments lack elements to compose a proper sentence. This may be stylistically effective in the proper context, but not in a job application!

During the interview:

Jargons or scientific terms that only those in your field can understand. Bear in mind that the hiring officer may not be a specialist in your trade. Using technical jargon will only alienate such an interviewer. Always strive to be clear and specific.

Mispronunciation. Mispronouncing the company name or the name of the recruitment officer can really damage your credibility. This means you did not research, and that you came unprepared.

Misunderstanding words. Listen well so that you can answer correctly. It is quite embarrassing, especially when you are stating information that is not relevant to the question.

Inarticulateness. English communication is a core competency. Even if you are stressed and trembling, show your confidence, and be able to answer all the questions in a straight and relaxed manner.

Whether just submitting your resume, or presenting yourself for a job interview, make sure that your English skills do not eliminate you from the running. Always prepare yourself. Show that you are keen on being hired by the company. Last of all, smile; it helps buy you time while you are thinking of a smart answer!

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