I'm a bad speller and have been diagnosed with dyslexia by a psychiatrist. I had an interview where I wrote a program where one of the function names was misspelled (I wrote palinedrome instead of palindrome). I would normally use spell check or Google to check my spelling, but in the interview I wasn't allowed other resources. Is there anything that can be done? Do employers put much weight on the spelling in code samples? I'm guessing I shouldn't, but should I tell the interviewers I'm dyslexic?

  • 1
    Did you received feedback about the spelling error? Or are you overthinking this?
    – RvdK
    May 23 '17 at 7:06
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    @RvdK the only feed back I received was I scored 7/9 on the code.
    – smartname1
    May 23 '17 at 7:09
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    on the application they should as if you have a disability. At that point you should mention disability. And then they should not discriminate against you and understand the spelling,
    – John
    May 23 '17 at 7:34
  • So it could be anything, code style, elegance of how it is solved. 7/9 is a good score.
    – RvdK
    May 23 '17 at 7:35
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    Dyslexia is diagnosed by psychologists or doctors, not psychiatrists - it's not a mental illness :)
    – trashpanda
    May 23 '17 at 8:29

If I'm hiring someone for a developer role the small spelling mistakes in code on a technical test (which is presumably time constrained in some fashion) would barely be something I'd notice. If the job required substantial document writing or written contact with external parties (customers, suppliers etc) then I would assume that they would use a spellcheck as appropriate so I believe you are overthinking this. Presumably this is something you are very aware of given your diagnosis.

What feedback you have is the 7/9 score, which on the face of it looks pretty damn good so focus on the good feedback you actually have rather than worrying about the bad things they haven't even said.

You don't mention where you are located and obviously local legislation will vary but certainly in the UK dyslexia is a recognized disability and I would make a new employer aware of it, ideally before it had the chance to become an issue. Perhaps not at interview unless there was a natural opening - it can make a great example of overcoming challenges in your work life or they may ask you for any disabilities you have but some potential employers may (unfairly in my opinion) view it as some kind of "I'm disabled so if you don't employ me I'll sue!!" gambit. But I'd definitely let them know when on-boarding.

This helps both you and the employer as they can give you the appropriate support and ensure that anything you are writing for external consumption can be proof read if required.


Is there anything that can be done?

There's nothing to be done about it now. The exam is over, you got your score.

Do employers put much weight on the spelling in code samples?

As always, that depends.

If the code you wrote is primarily designed for the back end, it probably doesn't matter. If the code you wrote is primarily designed for the front end, with a lot of user-visible text, it might matter.

In either case, I know some employers who care about spelling, but many more who do not. And I know a few code reviewers who would want the spelling corrected, while many would not.

In the QA world where I worked for many years, we wrote a lot of bug reports about incorrectly spelled user-visible text. Some of the developers tried hard to get their spelling right. Others didn't seem to bother. The fact that so many typos/spelling bugs came through to QA says something about how much the company cared about developers' spelling.

I'm guessing I shouldn't, but should I tell the interviewers I'm dyslexic?

Again it depends.

(I'm not a doctor, but it's my understanding that there are varying degrees of dyslexia with varying symptoms. I do know that some dyslexics have a lot of difficulty reading. But you are mentioning only spelling, so assuming your only issue is spelling, it seems unlikely you need to ask for any special work accommodations. Other dyslexics might choose differently. For the purpose of this answer, I assume you are simply a poor speller with no special accommodation needs.)

If your spelling seems to be important for this particular job, you should tell the interviewer how you overcome your dyslexia by careful use of spell-checking tools and Google searches.

Otherwise, it might be best to leave the topic alone.

Note: You must make sure your resume and cover letters are fully checked and contain no spelling or grammar errors. Cases where you have the time and resources to get things right will likely be viewed poorly if they aren't perfect.

  • 2
    Good point in your "Note" paragraph, I think many people (myself included) would take a dim view of anyone claiming dyslexia as an excuse for errors in those circumstances.
    – motosubatsu
    May 23 '17 at 10:48
  • wise words as always. I would just add, as someone with disabilities, that, as you said, it's best to let things lie rather than draw attention to yourself. May 23 '17 at 12:56

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