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I received a message from a recruiter on LinkedIn that had a miscapitalization in the title and a misspelling in the body. I responded that I was interested and the response again contained misspelling. I am worried this indicates a lack of professionalism / attention to detail at best, and a scam at worst (as scammers have been known to intentionally put misspellings / grammatical errors in their messages https://www.quora.com/Why-are-email-scams-written-in-broken-English).

Should I cease communication with this recruiter?

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    "...response again contained misspelling." <-- What does this say about you? What does the answer to that question say about the recruiter? – jpmc26 Oct 17 '16 at 7:34
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    It's a red flag for me. It's the first point of contact and any mistakes, spelling or otherwise, are glaringly obvious. It makes me wonder about their attention to detail. – camden_kid Oct 17 '16 at 8:29
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    Is there the possibility of a regional-specific spelling or phrase? A word like colour/color or fibre/fiber should be acceptable. – Criggie Oct 17 '16 at 9:17
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    Being sloppy on something so simple as leaving typos in a document is akin to airline staff leaving coffee stains on the flip-down trays, a sign of sloppiness everywhere. In the case of those flip-down trays, those stains are signs that the airline is sloppy in maintaining their engines. In the case of typos in a recruitment letter, they are a sign that the recruiter is going to do a sloppy job handling your career. – David Hammen Oct 17 '16 at 18:13
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    @DavidHammen I don't know about that airline analogy, considering the personal and management responsible for flight attendants and the mechanics are going to be different. Not to mention that you wouldn't make the reverse statement and say that since they cleaned up coffee stains they must maintain the engines with the same level of care. – Joe W Oct 17 '16 at 19:25
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Are misspellings in a recruiter's message a red flag?

There is no hard and fast rule about how many and what kind of spelling and grammatical errors in any message constitutes a red flag.

Each error included in a message works against the credibility of the sender. It's up to you to determine when that line has been crossed for you.

Should I cease communication with this recruiter?

I would not cease communication simply based on a message or two. If the recruiter otherwise acts and sounds professional and effective, there's nothing wrong with continuing the relationship.

Many recruiters are busy in their attempts to find the right person, on the correct schedule, and in their haste can make errors just like anyone else.

I would not worry about one or two typos in a particular communication. What's more important is that the message is targeted to you specifically, and your particular interest and skill. That is difficult to fake successfully.

Clearly more than a couple of errors can speak to a recruiter's attention to detail and overall competence, as it can for anyone in any position.

Consider also that correctness in spelling and grammar does not come as naturally to some as it does to others.

What matters also is context -- I would expect a communication through LinkedIn to be less formal, and I would probably be more tolerant of stray typos.

Errors in more formal documents, such as job descriptions, would be more worrying to me.

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    Also, English may not be their first language so they may not understand certain intricacies when it comes to writing it correctly. – Draken Oct 17 '16 at 6:12
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    I agree with your core point that spelling and grammar aren't necessarily pertinent to their ability to deliver but I do think putting it down to business is being very generous. – Ant P Oct 17 '16 at 7:56
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    "Errors in more formal documents, such as job descriptions, would be more worrying to me" -> In Brazil, is actually a very, very hard thing to find a programming job description that spells "C# .NET" correctly. From "Ce Charp" to "DOTINETY", almost everything goes. It's almost sad. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '16 at 10:19
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    I am sorry. This answer smacks of excuse making to me. In a professional environment, I would expect attention to detail. Of course we all make mistakes from time to time, however, saying that communications through LinkedIn is more casual, is inexcusable when you consider this is a network of professionals. Recruiters have a horrible reputation for a reason. With exception, the core of the business is highly commission focused, does not care about you, and hacks it's way through the process. To me, it can absolutely be a red flag depending. But please do not make excuses for recruiters. – closetnoc Oct 17 '16 at 16:10
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    I had a friend that decided to stay in the U.S. and get married after a long tenure at BT. He started looking for a job. A recruiter called him and asked him to make a small change to his resume. He did. However, he did use a U.K. vs. U.S. spelling for one word. The recruiter ripped him up one side and down the other and would not speak to him any further. My friend was very upset until I showed him the job posting written by the same recruiter. All one paragraph, no capitalization, no punctuation, misspellings every 4-5 words, and not at all clear. Sheesh! – closetnoc Oct 17 '16 at 17:59
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I always take misspellings as a red flag. It shows a lack of pride in a person's work and is indicative of a possible bad work ethic and laziness. It doesn't stop me dealing with them though. It's just another analysis to add to everything else I know about them.

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I am answering from personal experience and your mileage may vary but...

In the recent past I've had reason to have contact with a lot of recruitment consultants and have learnt that their written communication is variable in quality but that does not necessarily reflect upon their skill and professionalism. I find that it is more important to look at their attitude when on the 'phone and in person as well as their willingness to help you rather than be a mouthpiece for their client.

Some of the best consultants I have had have been very informal when emailing, messaging via linked in, etc. but have always been helpful, professional, and accommodating over the phone and in person. This is in contrast to the more formal and well written messages which tend to be copied and pasted to a large number of potential applicants with little regard for my suitability to the role or personalisation. I find that the more personalised the service the more likely that the consultant will work for, and try to do the best for, you rather than you being just another in a thousand applicants that they deal with.

That said don't expect all of the best consultants to take you out for coffee, lunch or drinks just don't expect them to be formal with you to the point of always writing with full grammatical accuracy. Remember that if you are getting a personalised service you are getting it from a fallible human who may make mistakes; my job title was wrong on the contract for my current job when I first received it but that was swiftly changed because I had a good relationship with the recruitment consultant. Her dyslexia is as real as her professionalism.

The problem with viewing every message with a few little errors as being potentially fraudulent is that you miss out on the most human interactions. The scammers prey on this but they also make offers that are too good to be true and that is what you need to look out for.

To err is human, to forgive divine.

  • I thought that I was adding something new with this but if I wasn't I'll happily delete it. I feel like it's on the edge currently. – MD-Tech Oct 17 '16 at 8:57
  • I think this is a good answer, it could just be condensed a bit, to read more like an answer and less like an anecdote. – sleske Oct 17 '16 at 9:43
  • @sleske: I disagree; I think it's fine as-is. I think we want to encourage answers that speak from experience (and are recognizable as such). – ruakh Oct 18 '16 at 1:01
  • To err is human, to forgive divine. Recruiters are not human. – A. I. Breveleri Oct 18 '16 at 3:39
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To understand anyone, figure out their motivations. Recruiters make money when they place you in a job with a client of theirs. Their conversion rate is generally pretty low because maybe you're looking other places (other recruiters, online, networking), just window shopping, you might not do well at interview, you might not like the position, you might take another offer...etc.

To make up for that, the are casting lots and lots of flimsy nets. They'll be on you like white on rice so long as you have expressed any interest in a new job, but once you make it clear you're not, they'll drop you like 3rd period French because you're a waste of their time (money). If you're annoyed by them due to their standards not meeting yours, tell them to leave you alone. Unless they're real jerks (and bad at their job), they will in order to avoid burning bridges for the next time.

The only thing an unsolicited recruiter should be asking you for is your resume/CV, a time to set up an interview, or maybe if you know anyone else interested in a job matching some description.

To bring it back to motivations, you're reading too deeply into things. It's very difficult to confuse a scammer and recruiter if you look at what they want of you, rather than what they say. One will be asking you about your skills and offering interviews. the other will want your money and your financial info.

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I've decided that lots of people are poor at spelling and grammar (me too!). So I try to give people a break and not hold it against them too much.

But if I find out the recruiter is otherwise fishy or incompetent, then I drop them.

  • I agree somewhat, and my spelling isn't the best either, but whenever I receive a letter or email with bad spelling or grammar in an official capacity (not from a friend, etc.) it makes me wonder about that person (hypocritically, I know). – camden_kid Oct 17 '16 at 13:16
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    The issue isn't that lots of people are poor spelling and grammar. It's that some don't care enough to double check their work before making it someone else's problem. – candied_orange Oct 17 '16 at 14:37
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    @CandiedOrange - you are correct that some people don't check their work and thus " lots of people are poor spelling and grammar". – WorkerDrone Oct 17 '16 at 16:13
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The unfortunate reality is that there is a double-standard in business with regards to job seekers compared to how those involved in hiring are evaluated.

From the hiring perspective, there are usually tremendous numbers of prospective candidates. Their initial task is to shrink that pool of candidates to something more manageable. Strategies for accomplishing this include hiring a recruiter to handle much of the workload, and working off of a list of "automatic disqualifications". What those automatic disqualifications may be vary from hiring personnel to hiring personnel, but spelling and grammatical errors are frequently on that list because it is simply easy to spot.

The recruiter, therefore, has less incentive (i.e. none whatsoever) to take extra care with their spelling and grammar when communicating to prospective recruits.

If they made similar errors when communicating with the hiring managers, that might be a bit more concerning, but you, as a prospective recruit, will be unlikely to see those correspondences until much later in the process, if at all.

Remember: you are probably not the recruiter's customer.

In many cases, recruiters represent a specific company looking to fill a position, which is their customer. Other recruiters work differently, and try to establish relationships with talent so that they can keep them on hand for a variety of prospective jobs. These latter types of recruiters are generally much better to work with (imho), but I still wouldn't consider spelling or grammar errors to be a red flag.

Even if the hiring manager makes spelling and/or grammar errors, I wouldn't be too concerned. The pressure to be formal and precise simply does not exist for them the way that it does for potential hires.

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