They Can Read, But Can They Write?

If a candidate’s writing skills are an important part of the job qualifications, don’t count on the resume or covering letter as being any indication of his or her writing abilities.

Currently, many people are getting professional assistance in putting together their resumes. What you see is most likely the creative writings from one of these services and not that of the candidate.

If the candidate will be expected to write letters or respond to emails as part of his job responsibilities, have him write one for you as part of your hiring process. One way to make sure you don’t fall into this hiring trap is to give the candidate a scenario.

Here’s an example:

    A customer is expecting delivery of his order by the end of next week. You’ve just found out that delivery will be delayed by six weeks. Compose a letter or email to the customer explaining the situation.

You’ll be surprised how many people have no idea how to even set up a letter let alone handle the situation effectively. You may even find that they are atrocious spellers and have no ability to use spell checkers.

If there’s a problem, better that you find out before, not after, you hire the person.

Badly Written Resumes

On the other hand, don’t discard badly written resumes out of hand. While a poorly written resume  makes a lousy first impression, just because a candidate doesn’t express himself or herself well on paper shouldn’t be the sole reason for eliminating the person from the competition. Not every good salesperson has a great grasp of the written word or can spell well, but they may be able to sell up a storm.

A lot of well-written resumes are not the work of the candidate. They are often the result of a resume preparation service and don’t give you a true insight into the person’s ability to write. If writing letters isn’t a major criterion for the job, don’t worry that the resume isn’t a work of art.

One way to avoid this hiring trap is to take the time to at least interview the person over the telephone. If the candidate sounds good, carry on with the hiring process and see if he can make the grade against your other hiring criterion.

While it’s nice to have both, the ability to sell far outweighs the ability to properly express oneself in writing.