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My girlfriend submitted a job application to a big international organization based in the EU. After sending in the final application, she realized she made a shameful mistake in the name of the office she was applying to (something like "Steering Office" instead of "Strategy Office").

She thinks this kind of error is unacceptable. She has worked with them previously as a partner, so in her view, this mistake is even more embarrassing. She is convinced this puts her in a clearly disadvantageous position and she doesn't feel like handling the interview. She now wants to withdraw her application.

She cannot contact the organization before the interview because she is not allowed to, according to the procedure, and there are no contact details.

Should she withdraw the application or wait for the recruiter to raise the issue in the interview, or raise it herself?

  • 16
    The mistake doesn't sound "unacceptable" to me. – Masked Man May 26 '18 at 14:00
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    If she is not allowed to contact the organization how is she going to withdraw the application? – DJClayworth May 26 '18 at 16:09
  • @DJClayworth My guess is the application is submitted online, and she has the option to withdraw the application by logging in to the job site, but no option for any other types of communication. – Masked Man May 26 '18 at 17:55
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    What would get better if she withdraws the application? A chance to get a job even with a probably not-woth-mentioning mistake is better than not to get the job. – puck May 27 '18 at 8:51
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    Your girlfriend needs to relax. Department names do not matter. – Stephan Branczyk May 27 '18 at 11:17
30

Do not withdraw. Depending in the organization, free-form texts like Motivation are skimmed, if read at all. If challenged, have a cute quip about the vagaries of autocorrect, or about the arbitrary naming conventions, or whatever, ready - but let it shine through that you noticed right away and that it mortified you (that part should be easy, it seems). Do not let them use it to give you any lip whatsoever, mistakes happen, and the rest of the application speaks for itself. The Interviewer will be delighted to see a reaction, and if that reaction is professional shame coupled with professional guts, all the better.

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    Exactly this. Whether they show it or not, interviewers understand that candidates are human and that mistakes happen. (If they didn't, they'd never find an acceptable hire.) I'm sure they'll have seen a lot worse than this while slogging through other interviews. – Steve-O May 26 '18 at 18:09
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She should not withdraw her application just because she made a potentially embarrassing mistake. Making a mistake like this is certainly awkward if the employer notices it, but it's ultimately trivial and it would be a substantial over-reaction to withdraw a job application over it.

Imagine if she got the job and was doing an important piece of writing, say applying for a grant. If she made a mistake in the name of the organization she was applying for the grant from, would her boss want her to withdraw the grant application because it was "shameful"? No, the boss would expect her to do the best she could with the situation. (The boss would also expect her to think about how to avoid similar mistakes in the future, such as by having someone proofread important documents before she sends them.)

As others have noted in their answers, the mistake may not even have been noticed. If it is noticed and an interviewer brings it up, she can show her maturity by saying that she had noticed the mistake after she sent it, and it was a good reminder to her of the importance of checking your work; and then she can avoid mentioning it for the rest of the interview unless the interviewer brings it up again.

Summary: It's not the end of the world. She should learn the lesson it carries, and don't let it stop her.

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    +1 for "If it is noticed and an interviewer brings it up, she can show her maturity by saying that she had noticed the mistake after she sent it, and it was a good reminder to her of the importance of checking your work" – Mel Reams May 27 '18 at 1:52
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Some time back I read a great article: "Don't Self-Reject". It's written as advice to SF/F authors who are deciding whether to submit their work to a publisher, but the basic message is relevant to almost anybody looking for a job: you shouldn't be rejecting your own work before the editor (recruiter) even gets a chance to assess it.

Summarising the ideas in that article, and translating to the workplace:

  • Every job applicant has their own failings. Recruiters aren't looking for perfection; they're looking for the best applicant they can get.
  • Almost certainly you haven't seen the other applications. For all you know, they may have failings that are much more serious than yours. Self-rejecting an application doesn't help the editors (recruiters); it just reduces their options and might force them to take something worse.
  • Recruiters know what they want better than you do, and none of us are well equipped to judge our own merits. Something that seems like a massive negative to you might not be a huge issue to them. Let them decide.

In my opinion, the error you've described is very minor. But even if it weren't - let the recruiters make that call. It's not your girlfriend's job to look for reasons to disqualify herself.

Now, if the error had been something likely to mislead recruiters (like, say, overstating her role in a previous job) then she would have an ethical obligation to correct it. This could be done at the time of interview: "Hi, before we get started, I just wanted to correct an error on my application..."

But it doesn't sound like this error falls into that category. The recruiters presumably already know the name of the office they're recruiting for. They will notice the error, if it matters enough to notice.

3

They won't hire her for only the name of the office where she worked. They will hire her if her experience and capabilities cover the requirements for the position she is being interviewed.

Also the same function can have different names in different organization, so a wrong name is not big harm. When they will ask her about her previous experience, she can explain what her work was, and then maybe explain that the name in the resume was wrongly written.

  • 1
    I agree with the overall conclusion. However, the mistake was in the name of the office she was applying to, not the office where she worked before. – Masked Man May 27 '18 at 0:48

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