should I point out job applicants’ mistakes to them?

A reader writes:

I supervise a summertime internship program at my job, which attracts mainly college-age applicants. A huge component of the internship is attention to detail. This week I received five applications for the internship. Three of those have included detail errors, some minor and some major. For example:

1. The first applicant stated in his email that he had attempted to send his application to the listed email address but it did not work. Upon closer look, I discovered he had included an extra period in the domain name, and he apparently had not thought to check the accuracy of the address.

2. The second applicant’s cover letter made reference to the internship at our company (for example, Washington Tribune – not our real name) but on subsequent references, referred to our company with the incorrect name (Washington Gazette).

3. For the third applicant, I sent back a stock response thanking her for her interest and stating that I would be reviewing applications after the closing period. She replied by thanking me for my consideration, but then had (accidentally) included an email thread between her and her father, in which he was directing her on what to include in her cover letter and offering to write the final paragraphs for her.

Attention to detail is crucial for this position and I feel all of these situations could have easily been avoided with enough time, care, and attention to detail. I have a handful of other applicants who sent in clean, strong cover letters and resumes.

Is it acceptable for me to point out these mistakes to the candidates? On one hand, I’d like to help them realize that time and detail are crucial when applying for jobs. On the other, I’m grateful to have seen these mistakes and avoided hiring them for a very popular internship.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 170 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Temperance

    I honestly wouldn’t bother. It’s not a good use of your time, and it’s not going to change anything for you. These clients are adults and have access to career services and parental help with their applications and cover letters.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      This is what it boils down to for me. I cannot imagine a circumstance where this is a good use of my employer’s time, or where it advances anything I’m being paid to do. I’m not a career counselor or a mentor or a coach. Either the error is minor and forgiveable, or it’s so significant that it makes clear they’re not a good candidate, but that’s as far as I ride that train.

      Reply
    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      Agree! You are on the employer’s clock and it’s simply not a good use of your time when you are being paid for your services.

      Reply
      1. Penny Lane

        I should mention that when I did do this, I was serving as an HR manager of sorts for my spouse’s business, unpaid. So my spouse didn’t really care if I corrected their mistakes or not. I agree it would be inappropriate if “on the clock.”

        Reply
    3. PrincessShrek

      I generally agree and don’t think OP needs to bother although it would be a kindness that would make me view them more positively, not doing it is not an unkindness and wouldn’t make me view them negatively.

      That said, I recently read ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by JD Vance, a book about growing up poor and in some ways ‘uncultured’ – at least, not acclimated to a culture which helps you get employment. He describes how his parental figures knew nothing about how to get a job, how he turned up to a job interview in his military uniform because he didn’t know that one wore suits to interview, etc etc etc.

      By *no* means is it OP’s responsibility to give guidance to rejected applicants, I merely mention this all as a sorely needed reminder that many adults do *not* “have access to career services and parental help with their applications”.

      Reply
  2. Falling Diphthong

    I am the greatest applicant of all.
    My gumption is beyond the reach of all.
    Accept my application and this ball,
    With which to play catch in the park Tuesday at three, I’ll be the one in the Snoop Dogg hat.

    Reply
    1. C

      Here I submit this application to this worthy place
      Your benefits are as numerous as they’re appealing
      My skillset’s vast and references are gleaming
      So offer me this lovely job with haste

      Reply
  3. Wannabe Disney Princess

    To answer your question, sure. It’s acceptable. They’re interns, many might be grateful for the feedback.

    Whether it is a good use of your time, however, is debatable. I wouldn’t bother with the truly sloppy ones. But if it’s someone who from their application and resume might appear as though they’d benefit, give it a shot.

    Reply
    1. SarahJ

      I find that by the time I’ve read all their materials, it would be truly 30 seconds to fire off the email. So I do :)

      Reply
  4. CM

    I think it also depends on the severity of the mistake. The extra period one is unlikely to be helpful feedback. Being careful about forwarding e-mail conversations by mistake however could be useful feedback since she probably doesn’t know she even did it. Getting the company name right could also potentially be useful. In none of these cases is there any obligation to give feedback however.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      I once sent an email to my boss that somehow scooped up some personal correspondence with my daughter. Luckily nothing humiliating although the whole thing was embarrassing. To this day I have no idea how that could happen. The thread with the boss and with my daughter were not tied in any way that I could figure out. It is like something happened in the computer to hook them up this one time. Just bizarre. I bet she has no idea this happened and it is hard to imagine how it did. Does anyone here know how that can happen? She is the only one I would give a heads up to.

      The name of the company LOL. I once tried to dissuade a search committee from inviting a candidate in with a high flying resume for a VP level job since he misspelled the name of the organization throughout the application materials. They flew him in; he was a laughably bad interview. I felt smug.

      Reply
      1. Umbra

        I don’t know which email you were using when the boss/daughter mix-up happened, but for a while, gmail was ‘helpfully’ grouping my emails into ‘conversation view’ using some kind of algorithm or something. This had the side effect of hiding a lot of my email from me, and auto-grouping stuff together that didn’t belong together at all, so I figured out a way to turn it off on my computer. (But I couldn’t turn it off on my phone app, so I stopped using gmail on my phone completely!) So, could it have been something like that?

        In this OP’s case, I suspect it’s a simpler answer: candidate daughter probably forwarded the company’s reply email to her dad to ask how to reply, he answered her forwarded email chain, and then she composed her reply, sent a first draft back to him for more advice, and eventually sent the final result – including all of the the email chain with her dad.

        Reply
        1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant

          The one thing I don’t like about Gmail is how forwarding is handled — I hate that if I get an email from Alice and forward it to Bob, Gmail puts them in the same conversation, and from my inbox it looks the same as if I’d replied to Alice. I’ve had many a panicked moment where I thought “Oh @&$%! I replied instead of forwarding!” before checking and seeing that I had, in fact, done what I’d meant to.

          Reply
      2. Important Moi

        So I’m not the only who has these Gmail problems. I’m displeased with Gmail for that reason. Also, I’ve had access to many email platforms through the years. I’m often bemused at those who judge others for not using Gmail.

        Reply
    2. MCMonkeyBean

      Yeah, the period one doesn’t seem like it should be included with the other examples in my opinion. It seems unreasonable to assume they did not even bother to check it–it’s hard to catch your own small typos because your brain knows what it expects to see and often sees that instead of what is actually there. That’s why even people who are very good at their jobs still generally have other people checking their work! No less than three pairs of eyes goes over all of our reports and we still usually end up finding mistakes like that later that slipped through.

      Reply
      1. MommyMD

        It’s common sense to check and check again an email address that won’t go through. It’s the most basic thing. It’s a very poor applicant who cannot catch that.

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        1. Anna

          I’m going to take giant issue with that blanket statement. I work with young adults who are “college age” and because of their very particular circumstances, it wouldn’t necessarily be second nature to them to do all the things even actual college students take for granted as professional. My job is to get them to an acceptable level, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make errors and frankly, if someone has the time to give that sort of feedback, it would be immensely helpful to a lot of my students.

          To be honest, a lot of what educated professionals take for granted is not as basic as you think. And is steeped in a lot of classism.

          Reply
          1. LG

            Thank you. Jesus. It’s nauseating to see people circle-jerking about how easy-peasy the specific, current version of “professionalism” is.
            After leaving my first full-time job, I aggressively job searched for 1.5 years (!) and received incredibly confusing and frustrating guidance, including that advice Alison mentions about always handing in your résumé in person. My university’s career advice people are well and fully useless. I’ve read tons of downright conflicting tips from hiring managers and recruiters across different industries.

            Finally, even if the basics are so consistent and easily available, it’s amazing to see the degree to which these skills and practices are lacking in the actual workplaces/teams that demand them!

            Reply
    3. hbc

      I might point out the email address thing, not in a “you should be more careful” way but in a “we have investigated your issue” way. I don’t want him out there talking about how our submission system is sloppy.

      It might also teach him the lesson of being more diligent before he complains, but that’s indirect.

      Reply
    4. Triple Anon

      I guess I’m just a jerk, but I would be helpful about the period thing but not the forwarded email. The person who missed the period just made an innocent mistake. But getting help from your dad – allowing him to write part of your cover letter for you – AND showing the hiring manager? Mistake or not, that person got what was coming to them.

      Reply
  5. Nan

    Are they all coming from students at the same university? Maybe the university has an issue with its career/guidance services. Or maybe not, if they are all different errors. If they were all the same or similar errors and from the same school, I would suggest figuring out a way to reach out to the school. Other than that, leave it alone.

    Reply
  6. PB

    I completely understand this impulse. When I get an application in which the candidate tell me that they “poses a great attention to detail,” my hand starts twitching toward my email program. But, as Alison and others have said, it may not be a great use of your time. I also think often of the “Job Rejections and Vitriol” posts on AAM. Although this isn’t quite the same thing (since you’d just be sending feedback at this stage), it’s a good reminder that people often react poorly to perceived criticism, even if constructive and delivered as nicely as possible.

    Reply
  7. CanadianEngineerLibrarian

    I did tell the candidate who had a phone number for “massages” that they should probably fix the typo.

    Reply
      1. Irene Adler

        Long before emails, I omitted my telephone number from my resume. They actually looked me up in the white pages, found my phone number and contacted me. Made me feel stupid and important at the same time.

        Reply
        1. Tad Cooper

          At one point, I had two phone numbers and put a combination of the two on my resume (the first three of one number and the last four of the other number). Once I noticed the error I started getting a lot more calls back!

          Reply
      2. Anonymousaurus Rex

        I had “Science” misspelled on my resume for literal YEARS. My brain just skimmed over the typo and I never saw it. It took one of my PhD advisors to point it out and I pretty much died inside, realizing that it must have been that way for many, many applications.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          on the other hand, it’s highly likely that other people’s eyes skated right over the mistake as well.

          Reply
        2. Artemesia

          The old saw about publishing a book is that when you get your first copy you will open proudly and randomly and the first thing you will see is a typo. I once caught a catastrophic error in a diagram in galleys. Somehow everyone had just skimmed over diagrams when proofing just as sometimes people fail to proof headings or titles and it had a really really stupid error that would have made us look like incompetent boobs. The publisher’s proofers would not necessarily catch it because it wasn’t a mistake like a typo but a conceptual one; I am so glad that I somehow looked carefully in that last galley review and caught it.

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          1. zora

            I just saw one in a book I read (and it was a fantastic book!) that said a city was “8,000 miles above sea level” which…. would be very high….

            Obviously many people looked at that sentence and it just didn’t register. I find it really funny though. This was not a sci-fi novel, they did not mean a city on the moon.

            Reply
          2. Jojobean

            Oh god, I almost sent a research publication to the printer with the WRONG AUTHOR’s name attached. Our designer used standard templates for each type of publication and for this one clearly had taken the file from the previous publication we’d produced of this type and replaced all the text — but forgotten to change the author’s name.

            A large part of my job was to do the final review of all documents prior to publication. Despite spending hours editing and going back and forth with the designer on design issues, neither I or my coworker noticed that the name was wrong until I was looking over it again *after* we finished and sent the file to be printed (500 copies!).

            Fortunately, I finally noticed and somehow, despite my absolute sheer horror, managed to tell my coworker what happened and she immediately called the printer to check the status. Thank our lucky stars they were just about to start printing it but hadn’t actually begun, so we were able to send them the edited file.

            Also I think it’s relevant to mention here that this particular author whose name would not have appeared on his own work was a VIP and former director of the organisation who was about to arrive in town for a large public event featuring his work on that project where those publications would have been on display to be handed out to attendees.

            Saved my job by the skin of my teeth there, I did.

            Tldr: mistakes happen, even to people who’s job is to catch those mistakes. (although the fact that I was the only pair of eyes checking at that stage was a structural challenges; there should have been at least one other person checking as well but when the researchers are consultants and not staff, we lost that extra oversight)

            Reply
        3. many bells down

          I was in an upper-division Renaissance History class once where we had to proofread each other’s papers. The one I got had “Renaissance” misspelled 4 different ways.

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    1. myswtghst

      Thanks to spellcheck, I misspelled my supervisor’s name on a resume years ago. The last name was a one-vowel-off spelling of a common word and spellcheck “corrected” it for me without my noticing. Extra embarrassing because I was applying for jobs internally, so everyone receiving my resume immediately knew it was incorrect.

      This is why I now spellcheck, then proofread my documents (often out loud or by printing out a copy).

      Reply
    2. many bells down

      Back around 1997 or so, my local paper put out a new weekly magazine supplement about local people who were doing interesting things. The first issue was about a local guy who had a new nature program airing in a few weeks. The magazine repeated several times that the first episode would be about … lepers.

      You know, those big cats that live in the jungles of South America. Lepers.

      Reply
      1. Mananana

        I just snorted out loud at this. And I re-read it with Marlin Perkin’s voice in my head. Welcome to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom….

        Reply
  8. nnn

    Specific to the extra period in the email address: you might want to also double-check on your end that it wasn’t typoed in the job posting or clickable link or some other source where either the field would be automatically populated by someone else’s HTML, or where the candidate would be copy-pasting. This just comes to mind because I’ve had several situations recently where I copy-pasted the email address provided by a client and it didn’t work because of a typo on their end.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      Yes, I had some school related thing where I was like “Oh link doesn’t work, we need to get to it another way” and my kid knew which letter was doubled and had to be taken out. Like this was a workaround everyone did, rather than fix the link.

      Reply
    2. MCMonkeyBean

      Yup we had some confusion recently in a group I am in because someone sent out and email in included a link to email him back that had his middle initial wrong!

      Reply
    3. kb

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. While it certainly could be the applicant’s error, it’s worth making sure the correct email address was provided. I encountered a situation recently where someone’s email address was incorrect in their signature. Most people just hit reply, so that worked fine, but when someone copied and pasted her email from the signature into a new email, obviously there were issues.

      Reply
      1. Decima Dewey

        I was trying to find a volunteer to do computer help at my branch. Our Volunteer Office sent over a few resumes. One resume listed jobs in almost correct chronological order. The most listing for the most current job was out of place. And the applicant misspelled her gmail address.

        Reply
  9. TootsNYC

    I have a soft spot for rookies, so I might if I thought I had time and energy.

    I hire copyeditors and proofreaders, and I won’t do it for them. I feel like I owe it to my colleagues at other organizations to not help these supposed professionals paper over their disqualifications.

    If they learn it on their own, fine. And sometimes I won’t hold it against them much, depending on what it is. But I don’t tell them about it, because I feel like I’m papering over a serious defect. And that’s not fair to the person who eventually buys the house.

    (I once got a resume from someone who must have pulled it out of the printer without really looking at it, bcs she had deleted the first letter of her name; I’m certain she bumped a key and didn’t look at the paper. I work with her now, and she’s good at her job.)

    Reply
  10. Pam

    I might, if Candidate 1, the email typo, was otherwise strong, reach out to them. Otherwise, not. (unless I really felt snarky and emailed the dad)

    Reply
    1. Washi

      Really? Because that’s exactly the kind of interaction that drives me crazy, where someone says something doesn’t work without bothering to check that they didn’t mess something up on their end!

      Reply
      1. Shiara

        I might reach out to ask where he’d looked up the email address, because I’ve definitely seen cases where the typo was on a website/promotional material, not on the part of the baffled person failing to submit.

        Reply
  11. LBG

    When I was hiring (attorneys) I was astounded at the number who could not follow instructions. We required a writing sample, no more than 5 pages, that were recent and relevant to the position. Your 30 page college paper (not even law school) that is 15 years old gets you application tossed in the reject pile. I can’t determine if you’ve actually done what I need you to be capable of doing from that sample, and you either didn’t follow directions or couldn’t provide something that was worthwhile. With 90+ candidates for one job, it was an easy first sort.

    Reply
    1. Lucille B.

      This is how I have to do hiring as well, also in the legal field. We have important and strict procedures (not our choice). If I can’t get you to send me a pdf instead of a Word document, or if you can’t be bothered to send a writing sample without three back and forth messages, I can’t trust you to follow procedure and not piss off our clients.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        I feel like this ties into yesterday’s “Should you judge people by their resumes (in which they talk about their unfinished novel draft)?” YES, people judge you by what you put in the resume and cover letter. Attention to detail, following instructions, understanding what the job entails.

        Reply
      2. Gollum

        Not just in the legal field! In my prior career, I hired contractors and IC’s regularly. Inability to follow directions was the first way I sorted my pile.

        Reply
      3. TheBeetsMotel

        We have “STRICTLY NO PHONE CALLS!” listed on our job ads. Anyone who calls, I listen, sweetly take their information, and then calmly toss their application out.

        Mean? Maybe. But my boss would rather we’re polite and get their info so he knows who they are and therefore who can’t follow basic instructions before wasting time on interviews.

        I mean. It’s RIGHT THERE, in capitals. At the end of the ad, so it’s the last thing you read and, in theory, the freshest in your mind. AND our phone number isn’t included in the posts (just an email and street address), so people are actively having to be all “This can’t possibly apply to me, because I’m an Awesome Candidate! Let me look their number up and gumption my way in!”

        Reply
      1. LBG

        5 pages works in our practice area (patent prosecution). Most people submitted either a portion of an issued patent or a portion of an office action response (to an issued patent). Issued patent demonstrated they’d done patent prosecution successfully, plus it was a public document, so no worries about client confidentiality.

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        1. RG

          Oof, for patent prosecution that is too easy. Even taking into account formatting, a well written argument for an independent classroom should suffice.

          Reply
    2. SheLooksFamiliar

      I helped with intern hiring last year, and was beyond amazed. We asked for a resume, a cover letter, and transcripts to prove qualifying GPA, all saved in one .pdf document. Less than a third of 700+ applicants followed directions. We told the school’s program manager about our need for one document before this all started, so we weren’t being coy.

      Several bold students demanded to know why they were not considered. I sent back a copy of our posting with instructions highlighted. A few wrote back to explain why our instructions were unreasonable and, therefore, irrelevant to their application. Those letters got forwarded to their school.

      You just can’t please everyone…

      Reply
  12. Trout 'Waver

    I just want to say that I feel sometimes the whole system could be kinder to job applicants. Job applicants apply to many jobs, but are expected to present perfectly polished materials every time. It’s a lot of work to do that, and many applicants have no or bad training on how to put together polished materials.

    As for these three examples:

    1) An extra period is going to cost this student consideration. I’m OK with this rejection, tbh. You should know how to respond to a bounced e-mail.
    2) I would be tougher on this one, but I did the same thing earlier this year when writing letters of recommendation for a former intern. I was using the same template and missed one instance of a graduate school name on one of the letters.
    3) My cell phone autothreads when replying and forwarding. I have tried to disable this “feature” but have no idea how. My bet would be that the candidate wrote the first e-mail on a desktop or laptop, but responded to your response from her phone. If there’s evidence that her father did indeed write the cover letter, that’d be another thing.

    Reply
    1. Washi

      To your first point, I think Alison does a good job of emphasizing that hiring managers should not use one typo, lack of thank you email, etc, to discard an otherwise stellar candidate.

      However, the reality is that in any field where there are more qualified applicants than jobs (which is most, I think!) hiring managers have to look at smaller and smaller details to distinguish candidates from each other. As long as the details they look at are relevant to the job, it’s tough, but I don’t see a way around it.

      Reply
    2. fposte

      On the first one, it’s also bothering me that the applicant decided it was worth reporting but wasn’t worth debugging. I wouldn’t hold it against somebody that they mistyped an email address; it’s when they notify me in a way that suggests it’s my problem that I raise an eyebrow.

      Reply
      1. Breda

        It ASTOUNDS me how often people are willing to display evidence of their own mistakes. Mistyped the email address/got the wrong one off the website? Sure, whatever, it happens to everyone! Just this week I got the wrong person because the company uses a firstinitiallastname@ formula and I didn’t realize the person I was trying to reach was the second one at the company. But when the other guy responded to tell me I had the wrong address, I didn’t forward his email to the right person to demonstrate the dumb thing I did. And yet I get emails like that all the time.

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      2. Fresh Faced

        I think it depends with the 1st one. The applicant may have been apologetic about the whole thing and mentioned the “mistake” in more of a “Hey I don’t want you to think I can’t read instructions and am trying to circumvent the application process you set out, but I need to get my CV to you somehow.” I can especially see this happening if the first email was a general company one and the email they ended up sending their stuff to was an employee’s individual work email.

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        1. fposte

          But before you do that you double check your own work. This is just bringing extra impact to the fact that they didn’t.

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    3. Just Employed Here

      The autothreading (which is indeed annoying — I tried to live with it but ended up disabling it) doesn’t actually mix up the different email messages though, it’s just a different way of presenting them to you.

      So she did mess up something, but would indeed have had a harder time figuring out that she did, if she was using a phone with autothreading.

      Reply
      1. Elsajeni

        The problem I’ve run into with threading on my phone is forwarding or replying to the wrong message from a thread — it seems to always want to pull the most recent message, whether that’s the one I THINK I’m responding to or not. (I’m sure there’s something I could do differently to get it to pull the right message, I just can’t figure out what the hell it is.) This sounds like it could have been that type of error — she forwarded the OP’s email to her dad, he replied, and when she went to reply to the OP her phone helpfully said “oh, you probably mean this more recent email in the same thread, right?”

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    4. Not Today Satan

      I agree with you. I don’t think that application materials should be held to the same standard as actual work. Most of the time employers put out some piece of crap unattractive job ad, and then they expect a completely personalized and perfect application? It’s ridiculous. Typos and stuff happen, even in actual work correspondence.

      Reply
  13. beanie beans

    I think in instances of attention to detail, they are most likely to realize their mistakes on their own at some point, so your pointing them out would just be embarrassing and open up the conversation to apologies and begging.

    I would be tempted also, but it might be more helpful for them to learn these mistakes on their own.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah I’m sure there’s applications I’ve submitted where I forgot to change the org name somewhere, despite me always doing my best. I submit a lot of applications these days and I’m updating an older document most of the time. I’m sure I’ve missed some and am mortified – but would be really not especially thankful to have someone write back and let me know. I don’t really see the point.

      Reply
  14. DaniCalifornia

    Oh I have so wanted to do this as well! Not even for minor mistakes but far greater ones. So far I have not responded yet. But after reviewing resumes for several different types of positions I am always paranoid about mine and submitting applications. It does amaze me the types of “resumes” I am seeing these days for professional office jobs. 6 pages of a word document with 72 point font in different types. Colorful 2 page resumes with pictures. (Why do people put pictures on resumes? Is there any field where this is done specifically other than modeling/acting? Don’t they worry that someone might discriminate against them due to said picture?)

    Reply
    1. StarHunter

      I am hiring for a managerial position at a nonprofit. I got a resume last week with CLIP ART on it. No. Just. No. Many of the resumes we received are from people just a few years out of college. Based on what I’ve seen, I think some of their college careers centers are failing them. I’m trying to keep an open mind however :-). But the one person that showed up at the office looking to talk to me, I wish I was here because I would have told her not to ever do that again unless the job posting said to drop off an app/resume in person. But I do have to fight the impulse to give out unsolicited advice.

      Reply
      1. Chaordic One

        When I worked in H.R. we occasionally would receive resumes that had clip art in the margins, or that had background images behind the print. Most of the time they were related to our industry and did not detract from the resume.

        Still, it’s a hard act to pull off and unless you’re applying for a “creative” job, such as a web or graphic designer, I’d recommend leaving it off.

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    2. Laura H

      I had enough problems getting my resume up to one page right after college- I can’t imagine having enough surplus for SIX pages. (At an acceptable font.) I’m just now at the point where I have a need to par down stuff if I go for another general gig. (Thankfully happy where I’m at and in no major need of a new job right now)

      Reply
    3. Turkletina

      Pictures on resumes is a thing in other countries. In Germany, for example, you’re expected to include a photo, your date and place of birth, and your marital status. (As an American, I find this weird and invasive.)

      Reply
      1. Jojobean

        Yup, I’ve done a bit of hiring for small local NGOs where most applicants are international so we would get CVs from across the globe, with a wide range of conventions. I don’t bat an eye anymore unless it’s something particularly egregious or strange – like the Turkish police officer (with no research, governance, or policy experience; only policing) applying for the position of director of a think tank focusing on policy recommendations in a few specific areas, none of which are law enforcement.

        Reply
  15. Penny Lane

    I’ve done it. Someone needs to. I managed applicants for a particular position (obtained through the career services counselor at a particular local college), and I did point out things such as the following:

    – It’s not helpful to title your resume “Resume.doc”; it should be “MarySmithresume.doc” or something of that nature. And I’ve explained to them that it gets saved to a system by someone who receives lots of resumes and you’re making them have to do extra work. I resisted the urge to say “THINK, people.”
    – It’s also not helpful to title your email “Application.” It should be “Application for Your XYZ Position” or “Mary Smith – Application for Your XYZ Position” or SOMETHING that will enable me to know what it is from a quick scan of my emails.
    – The top half of the resume is in Arial and the bottom half is in Times New Roman and your font sizes are all over the place. Who cares, but pick one and stick with it.
    – The time frame for one job was given as May 2010 – August 2013, and then for another job, the time frame was expressed as 9/2013 – 12/2015. Again, who cares, but pick one way and stick with it.

    I give them this feedback because the average person isn’t that bright, they need to be taught how to think through details, and their career services counselors aren’t doing the job for them. I also collate all this feedback and have given it to their career services people and told them that they would do well by coaching their students accordingly.

    I don’t care if they “like” me or not. I’m the one holding the cards, since I’m the one with the job openings.

    Reply
    1. KitKat

      I’ve done a good amount of hiring and I really don’t care how someone titles their resume or email. If there weren’t any specific instructions on that in the posting, it’s my job to keep track of their stuff, not their job to guess how to make it easier for me.

      I don’t fully understand the level of your frustration with applicants you see as “not that bright.” The number of people who don’t follow directions or format things correctly can be befuddling, but if I don’t like it…I don’t have to hire them. Or give them feedback.

      Reply
      1. Luna

        I agree KitKat, if it is that important there should be instructions provided. Otherwise, each person will do things their own way. That’s not unexpected.

        There are also plenty of ways to get free resume advice- most temp staffing agencies review each person’s resume with them when screening candidates, even if that person does not decide to continue on with that agency. So if they really want feedback they can search it out, I don’t think the OP needs to feel obligated.

        Reply
      2. Inky Stitch

        Do you really think there should be instructions to the level of ‘please put job title in the subject line’? (Not asking in a snarky way, btw!) I work in an office where email and Office/PDFs docs are still very much the norm. A candidate who doesn’t know how to format a subject header so it’s clear to the receiver, or similarly title a document file, is actually someone who is going to be a PITA to work with on a day-to-day. To me, those are business norms and I wouldn’t expect to have to tell someone that. Or that a document should all be in a single font!

        But this is very much a personal thing. My tolerance for teaching people how to function in the world is pretty low. Other people, as we’ve seen here, are much more patient/understanding.

        Reply
        1. McWhadden

          Nobody had issues with the font or subject line. Judging people on how they title their documents is absurdly petty. If the email has the information you have to label it the way you want when you Save As anyway. And if you have a application tracking system it’s all linked anyway.

          It’s just a petty way to judge people and make them feel stupid for not knowing your own preferences.

          Reply
          1. Penny Lane

            If I receive a bunch of emails, download them to my desktop and then have to file them someplace, and they are all labeled Resume.doc, what do you suppose is going to happen? I could easily overwrite. Even if my system is such that I have to retitle them all to a standard format of applicantfirstnamelastname.doc, it’s a heck of a lot easier to retitle them when it’s MarySmithresume.doc or ResumeofBobJohnson.doc versus having to open them up again.

            It has to do with ability to anticipate issues and problem-solving ability. If you give me a resume entitled Resume.doc, you have just demonstrated for me that it *didn’t even occur to you* to think two steps ahead that you are sending a resume to someone who is going to receive lots of resumes and have to file them somehow and that it would be helpful for you to indicate your name somehow in the title. You’re going to be the kind of person who doesn’t anticipate or solve problems in the workforce either. You’re going to be the kind of person who sends emails to clients that don’t have a clear, concise subject line, and who will attach documents that say Workbook1.xls as opposed to TeapotsReceivableStatusMar2018.xls.

            Reply
            1. DaniCalifornia

              Preach it! I have gone through this exact same thing over and over with candidates. No I’m not going to flat out reject someone because they labeled their resume ‘Resume.doc’ I’m sure on their own computers they only have one resume word document. But you are right, they don’t have the foresight to think that 100s of people could name it the same and if the hiring person gets frustrated that’s not good. Renaming 100s of resume file names is ridiculous.

              And putting instructions into the job ad does not work. I am amazed how often they get ignored. Our latest ad was the shortest job ad I’ve ever written. The last sentence said ‘Please forward your resume as a PDF’. 95% of the resumes we got were in word format.

              Reply
            2. medium of ballpoint

              I think titling documents is more about perspective than problem solving and I’m willing to give applicants a pass. If you don’t do hiring or other managerial work, you don’t really think about what it’s like to have a pile of resumes with the same file name. If an applicant hasn’t ever been part of a hiring committee, I don’t expect them to be able to take someone else’s perspective on a small detail like that. It’s nice if they make my life a little easier, but it’s certainly not required for me to have a positive impression of them.

              Reply
              1. Penny Lane

                Just because you don’t do hiring or other managerial work doesn’t give you a pass on thinking ahead and problem-solving. No matter how low-end or menial the job, you can demonstrate initiative, thinking ahead / anticipatory skills, and problem-solving skills, or you can be a bump on a log and do only what is handed to you and if a problem occurs, shrug your shoulders and turf it back to other people. I’m not interested in those people.

                Reply
                1. medium of ballpoint

                  You’ve spoken quite disrespectfully about applicants in this thread and your general comments lately have been quite harsh. I’m not going to engage with you any further.

              2. AsItIs

                It doesn’t take a genius to be able to imagine that there would be multiple applications for almost any job. And it doesn’t take a genius to think “I don’t want my resume to be lost in the hundreds of others so what can I do to ensure it isn’t?”. (Okay some resumes in response to the latter can produce some horrors.)

                Nothing to do with perspective. Plain old common sense, which alas is less common nowadays.

                Reply
            3. Madame X

              It sounds like this depends on how you are receiving resumes. Some managers receive resumes solely through an application tracking system, thus it does not matter how the resume file is titled because it is all linked with the applicant’s file. However, if you are primarily receiving resumes through email then I can see why a bunch of resumes titled “Resume.doc” would be a burden for you. If it is that important to you, maybe consider adding this instruction in the job posting.

              Reply
            4. Anna

              I’ve been applying for state jobs that state clearly to label files THIS WAY or your application will not be considered. If you’re not giving those sorts of instructions, then the labeling issue is on you.

              Reply
            5. SarahTheEntwife

              I usually just rename files when I download them. Even if people put their name in the resume file name, it’s useful to have them in the same format every time rather than a mix of last names, intials, full names, and whether or not it says “resume”.

              Reply
        2. Academic Addie

          I agree. I think Penny Lane was a little harsh in her wording, but when I was job searching, I always titled my documents as with my name, and gave them a uniform look (academic jobs generally have a CV, cover letter and 2-3 statements). That way, there’s no chance of losing any of my materials, or of one of my documents getting in with someone else’s or someone else’s getting in with mine.

          This just strikes me as basic CYA when you don’t necessarily know how the other person will receive your documents, and how they will share them with others involved in hiring. Even if you send the documents straight to them in e-mail, they may send those documents forward in a .zip file to the rest of the hiring committee, or attach them all to an e-mail without sorting them by candidate.

          Reply
          1. KitKat

            I totally agree that it’s a best practice for candidates! Document titles are just very low on my list of things that I’m judging, and I wouldn’t automatically assume someone can’t “think through details” if they send me a resume titled Resume.

            Reply
            1. Academic Addie

              It might matter for me. For some of the types of jobs I advertise, a requirement is strong technical and data skills, and one of the first rules of data management is that files must have informative names. Not just to you, but globally informative. So for the types of positions I hire for, doing this would indicate that they do not practice strong data management. In an otherwise excellent application packet, it might not be a big deal, in the same way most of the resume typos above might not be.

              Probably not so much for an intern who will be managing a science summer camp, or for someone who I am bringing on to do on-the-job learning of data management skills (like an research intern).

              I guess it’s like the typos thing – a typo in my resume is likely to be seen differently than a copyeditor’s resume.

              Reply
        3. Washi

          Actually, when I was applying for jobs, I think maybe 25% of the listings instructed me to put “Application for X Position” in the subject line!

          Personally, I appreciate it when candidates use ultra-clear subject lines and document titles, but I don’t count it against them if they don’t. I don’t love “Document3” or whatever, but tbh strong candidates don’t usually do that, so I haven’t every been in the position of comparing two strong candidates where one had weirdly titled resume and one didn’t.

          Reply
    2. McWhadden

      And this has the additional bonus of weeding out those of us who would never in a billion years work for someone who is willing to snap at them for not guessing how to label their documents (which most places relabel or track through a system.)

      Reply
    3. Snark

      “I’ve done it. Someone needs to.”

      But is that someone you? Do you have that relationship with them? Not really.

      Reply
      1. SarahJ

        I’m with Penny Lane. Good people do good things for other people without being forced. I’m always happy when someone points out the proverbial spinach in my teeth.

        Reply
      1. McWhadden

        Some places require that you do so. I think it’s a legacy from when pdfs weren’t so easily made searchable.

        Reply
      2. Amtelope

        … yes? We typically get a mix of PDFs and Word docs. If you have a strong preference for PDFs, say so in the application information.

        Reply
      3. foolofgrace

        Recruiters always, for me, insist on getting a resume in Word; they need to massage it to suit the client. I always bring copies of my resume to an interview for this reason — the copy they have is different from my version. One change I noticed is the recruiter removes the url to my website that houses my work samples (thanks Alison and everyone who told me I had to make a website!). Maybe I’m not “supposed” to, but I always share my version with interviewers, who often have no idea that the resume was changed for them. I don’t tell the recruiter, though.

        Reply
    4. Delphine

      If a person can’t offer candidates feedback without being condescending and patronizing, I would suggest avoiding it.

      Reply
      1. Penny Lane

        My tonality here isn’t how I’d talk to them. I’ve given the feedback very constructively and positively, wished them good luck, etc.

        Reply
  16. Irene Adler

    I don’t know, rejected for a job AND having one’s resume errors pointed out to them? Double ouch!

    Please be kind.

    Reply
  17. Anonymoosetracks

    The time that an interviewer pointed out a typo in my resume was probably the most embarrassing moment of my professional life. The interviewer was not particularly nice about it, either, though I deserved the somewhat mean-spirited ribbing. (It was, tragically, a typo in a paragraph about my editing experience. Ouch.) I did not get the job. I was nevertheless incredibly grateful, because it was a resume I had submitted to other employers who had probably just tossed it upon seeing the typo, without telling me why. I’d rather know, so I could fix it going forward. Which I did.

    Reply
    1. Inspector Spacetime

      Same. Embarrassing at the time, but it allowed me to fix the typo in time for the next job, which I did end up getting.

      Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      Yeah I suppose editing or a misspelling of “attention to detail” would be something I might point out just out of kindness because of the mortification factor of sending that out time after time.

      Reply
  18. Collarbone High

    I’m guessing from the fake business name that this is for a job as a reporter or editor, so I’d be pretty alarmed that a candidate had a discussion about submitting someone else’s writing as her cover letter, and concerned to the point of contacting her program if someone applying for a job writing published articles wasn’t able to write a four-paragraph letter.

    I’ve hired a lot of copy editors, and I can only think of a couple of times when pointing out disqualifying errors in someone’s application materials resulted in them saying “oh gosh, thanks for letting me know.” Mostly it led to arguments over why getting our publication’s name wrong “wasn’t really that big of a deal” and why was I being so unreasonable. Which did not make me suddenly realize that this person WOULD in fact be good at a collaborative job requiring attention to detail.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      In fairness to the student, it could be that she’s a perfectly capable writer and nervous Dad got the bit in his teeth with an offer she ignored.

      Reply
      1. Alton

        Yeah, the example doesn’t say anything about whether there was evidence of the applicant requesting or accepting said “help.” It could have been that she just wanted feedback or another set of eyes.

        Reply
      2. Oxford Coma

        Yeah, Dads can be that way.

        I consulted mine about a series of confidential e-mails I received in error (they were from a defense contractor, Dad is military, and I was afraid of both receiving stuff I shouldn’t and getting in trouble for it somehow.) I just wanted an opinion about how to handle it.

        Dad took it upon himself to research the company, phone a member of the C-suite, and read him the riot act about their security protocols, all while invoking my name. I then got an e-mail saying “You and your dad have been removed from our system.” I was MORTIFIED.

        Reply
  19. H.C.

    Oh… intern cover letters; my favorite is still the one who dropped the 1st ‘l’ in ‘public relations’ (and no, I couldn’t bring myself to reply with a correction.)

    Reply
    1. Luna

      Lol! I work in a field that also has the word “public” in it, and I’m always nervous that I’ll misspell it!

      Reply
      1. Willis

        One of my friends got a public policy degree and the school (a large state university) made this mistake on the graduation programs! I think they ended up putting stickers with the correct spelling over it…but you could still peel them off :)

        Reply
    2. Malory Archer

      We had an (experienced, seasoned) candidate make the same typo – in an example presentation during his in-person interview, in front of our department head. He also misspelled our company name on his first slide.

      Definitely not just interns!

      Reply
    3. Anonymousaurus Rex

      I know someone who worked for a public library and she said it was easier to just delete the word “pubic” from her dictionary in Word. I thought that was a pretty smart idea, as she rarely had recourse to use the word “pubic” in the course of her work.

      Reply
      1. Mae

        That’s a great idea! I work in an academic library, but I work in Public Access Services. I’m always terrified that I’ll leave out the “l.”

        Reply
        1. H.C.

          There should be a compilation of rarely used words to consider deleting from your autocomplete/autocorrect dictionaries!

          Reply
    4. EBStarr

      I worked with a guy who kept mistyping Python (the programming language) as “Pythong.” It made me laugh wondering how much he used the word “thong” in his personal life that his fingers couldn’t stop at “thon”. Of course, I eventually ended up doing the same thing myself and learned a little humility!

      Reply
    5. JessicaC

      I know an art historian who studied “public worship” and had that typo on a website describing her work for many years before someone pointed it out to her. :D

      Reply
    6. Bluebell

      Luckily I caught a similar “public policy” typo in a document my boss was about to send out to our board members. I just quietly corrected it – didn’t point it out.

      Reply
  20. Inspector Spacetime

    OMG, the email typo… On my first job application for an internship in sophomore year of college, I had a typo in the email address on my resume. I still find it so embarrassing that I cringed to read this letter.

    Reply
  21. Safely Retired

    Since the job required attention to detail, you should be grateful for the warning against hiring them that their inattention to detail displayed.

    But I wouldn’t tell them that.

    Reply
  22. The OG Anonsie

    The last one made me cringe because I’ve used several popular email clients that would lump both the original thread and the one where she forwarded it on to her dad as the exact same conversation, potentially including a separate thread in a reply. For extra fun, they often display them collapsed in such a way that you think that thread isn’t being included when it actually will be displayed for the recipient. Woo! I had to learn that one the hard way.

    Reply
  23. Snark

    I think it’s worth it to interrogate one’s motivations to do something like this. Are you doing it out of a genuine desire to be helpful, or is it your frustration with getting applications with errors leading to an urge to bop them on the metaphorical nose with a metaphorical newspaper? Frankly, the OP strikes me as landing in the latter camp, which is understandable if you’re someone who’s a bit A-type and detail-focused, but which is not really an impulse to be indulged. Either an applicant is too sloppy to be considered, or the error is pretty minor and forgiveable, and either way it’s not really your business to correct them; you don’t have a mentorship or guidance relationship with them.

    Reply
    1. LouiseM

      Interesting interpretation. I really did not get this vibe from the OP’s question at all (and it seems like based on the personal stories people are sharing of the times they themselves have done this, I’m not alone). It’s certainly not the OP’s *responsibility* to say anything, but since she is hiring for an internship position it makes complete sense to me that she wants to help out future employees in her field. If she wanted to give them feedback on their over-use of the passive voice in their cover letter, sure, that could be a bit finicky or Type A. But saying “Hey, attention to detail is really important in our field, and by repeatedly using the name of another newspaper you inadvertently communicate that yours is lacking” would be a kindness if she chooses to do it. I don’t think it is scold-y at all based on what the OP has said.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        You’re right, it wasn’t quite fair for me to impute that to OP; I do think it’s worth interrogating whether one’s urge to correct comes from a helpful place or a scolding one, but it’s not clear that she’s scoldy. I still generally think the responsibility and role of helping future employees is not on the hiring manager.

        Reply
    2. fposte

      I think that people who conduct internship programs with college-age applicants often have a willingness to coach the inexperienced. When I’m hiring students I’m a lot more tempted to include coaching information in responses for much the same reason–even if I’m not their boss, I’m generally tasked with growth and education for people in their category.

      Reply
  24. Hiring Mgr

    How did the guy in the first example get his application in if he had a typo in the email address? Or I guess somehow he figured out you’re the one to go to?

    Reply
  25. Alton

    It’s tough, because from the hiring manager’s perspective, you only see this one example of someone’s competence. Yes, it’s important to make the best impression you can, but almost anyone can miss a typo or something on a rare occasion. It can be hard to know if someone is truly careless or if you happened to catch them on the rare day that they slip up. In general, I think it’s nice to give people the benefit of the doubt that they can spot some of this stuff themselves. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to influence your view of their application, but it’s not always a matter of lack of knowledge on their part.

    Reply
    1. Willis

      This. I think it’s fine to reject an application because of issues like the OP mentioned. But unless I had enough info to tell it was a pattern, I wouldn’t bother to email each person who makes a mistake. Plus, it seems like an endless job to respond to everyone with errors on their application materials.

      Reply
  26. LouiseM

    My friend once had a would-be employer point out a very minor but HUGELY embarrassing typo on his resume (think: Pubic Health when he meant Public Health). He didn’t the job, but he never forgot the lesson. Just a few seconds from the interviewer made a huge difference in his approach to editing and proofreading (he now does find+replace for “Pubic” on every document he submits, anywhere).

    Reply
  27. Lurker

    I once got an interview simply for being the only applicant who pointed out a huge error on the job listing. When I spoke with the recruiter he said he had already had 6 applicants who not only didn’t notice the error but also failed to include a typing test certification. He said that he was “glad to have at least one applicant with attention to detail!”.

    Reply
  28. Ruth (UK)

    Speaking of attention to detail… I actually typo-ed within the sentence of talking about my high attention to detail on one of my most recent job applications!

    A friend had agreed to proof-read for me, but took such a long time to reply, the deadline came and I submitted. Shortly after I had sent the application, she got back to me with a few sentence-restructure suggestions, and that typo pointed out. I remember laughing at the irony of my one typo being literally within the sentence where I claim to have a good attention to detail! I also figured it would knock me out of the running.

    However, they obviously either didn’t notice or felt I was strong despite the error (I never found out which) as I was interviewed, and then hired (it’s my current job).

    Reply
  29. Noah

    “I understand the impulse. It’s a kind impulse!”

    I give OP and Alison the benefit of the doubt that it is a kind impulse for them. But it’s not a kind impulse for everyone. Some people just like to criticize.

    Reply
    1. JustaTech

      I very much wanted to give some applicants feedback when I was helping with hiring a student worker for my lab. One student sent in a resume that was yellow font on a white background, ie nearly unreadable. We weren’t going to hire the student anyway based on the content of their resume, but I really, really wanted to tell them that they should stick with black and white.
      Part of the impulse was that we were a lab in a university where the applicants were students, so this would just be another part of their education. The hiring manager decided that we would not provide direct feedback, but after I begged sent an email to the program coordinator who was sending us students to remind them to not try to be “fancy” with fonts and colors.

      Reply
  30. Small-time hires

    I feel you…I get a lot of applicants who are not native speakers of English, and while I discard those resumes that are wildly culturally innappropriate (including their religion or marital status on the resume, for example) more often they’re just…crappy, as in vague or poorly formatted with awkward English in the cover letter. I hire for very niche positions that get few applicants (about 10 per job), so I tend to read most of them as carefully as I can and I’ve hired people with poor resumes who went on to be terrific team members. I do realize that if I got hundreds of resumes I’d be looking for any excuse to whittle that stack down. I know that many hiring managers have to use small details to distinguish between similar candidates, but I suggest that we use humility when hiring that way: let’s be aware of the limitations, know that we are missing good people, and not congratulate ourselves on avoiding the bad apples who made these mistakes. You know that coworker you absolutely can’t stand? He/she probably had a very polished resume when they applied.

    Reply
    1. Penny Lane

      When someone is not a native speaker or from another country with different norms as to what goes on a resume, that’s a whole different ball of wax.

      Reply
    2. E.

      I wouldn’t immediately discard resumes that include religion or marital status unless there are other red flags. Listing those things on a resume is 100% the norm in many other countries.

      Reply
  31. Anonymous Educator

    I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this, but sometimes communicating with rejected applicants even in a well-intentioned way can backfire, and there are some candidates who will use that as an opportunity to try to engage further with you or try to prove they deserve whatever you denied them. You don’t want to be perceived to be inviting argument about whether they’re qualified or not. Just let it go. You’re trying to do them a favor, but it’s most likely going to not end well.

    Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        I’ve certainly seen it happen a lot in anything that resembles a program of any sort (which this internship would qualify for), as opposed to one-off positions.

        Reply
  32. Not Today Satan

    As a hiring manager at a run of the mill, unglamorous, not-Google company, I’m lucky if the cover letter is literally even REMOTELY tailored to the job. I don’t care about typos and small errors unless they’re rampant. I understand that the jobs I’m hiring for aren’t super attractive and that anyone who applies is likely applying to MANY other companies. Maybe it’s different for other hiring managers, but for me it’s almost always about finding the diamond in the rough.

    Reply
  33. phyllisb

    I agree the last two are hmm…if you want to give feedback, that would be kind. But the first one I would give a pass to. It’s very easy to add an extra period without realizing it, and that’s such a minute detail that even double-checking the email address it would be easy to overlook. If this candidate would have been considered without this mistake, I feel like you should give them another chance. If not, I still think when you respond in whatever manner you do rejections, I would mention the mistake. I have made that mistake before, and it took me three (wrong) attempts, saying it out loud to myself, and getting two people to look at what I was typing before the mistake was caught. Luckily, mine wasn’t for a job application. :-)

    Reply
  34. Kendra

    They might have already noticed on their own – I recently submitted an internship application for this summer where I accidentally mentioned that I was applying for summer 2019 ins tead of 2018, and this was for a position at a company I really, really cared about and had spent a long time working on the application. I was mortified, but I had no way to fix it at that point.

    Reply
  35. Colleen1321

    I tried doing this at one time in my career – had a couple who thanked me, more that a few who were angry that I would dare to criticize them – and some who never responded.

    Just a couple resume anecdotes:

    I read one resume where the candidate said they had extreme attention to detail – but spelled detail incorrectly!!

    I’ve also had several where the candidate stated: “love to work in a fast-paste environment.” I showed them to a co-worker who went on line, found a picture of Elmer’s paste, and photo-shopped “Fast Paste” onto the front of it!

    Reply
  36. Bookworm

    Was once in a position where I interviewed someone and rejected him because he didn’t stand out. He wasn’t stellar during the interview and as I scanned his resume I saw that it had a few errors (typos, lack of attention to detail in the formatting, etc.). Rejected him and HR took my word for it.

    Candidate came back and asked why he wasn’t hired. For some reason he asked if it was because he was gay (that never came up at all in the interview!) and initially I couldn’t remember why I rejected him since at least few weeks had passed. Someone else who had interviewed him for a different department was also lukewarm but had no feedback. I finally remembered and luckily HR had kept the guy’s resume. I showed the manager the issues I noticed and said that maybe part of the issue was that he was rather young and I suspected inexperienced in interviewing.

    She took it from there and gave him feedback and I heard no more. He didn’t end up working for us, I don’t think (he would have been hired for a temp retail job if he had) but I like to think that he got some useful feedback and that he recognized how to improve.

    Reply

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