does sloppy writing indicate lack of attention to detail, resigning when I won’t go back to the office, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Does sloppy writing indicate a lack of attention to detail?

I’m working in recruiting currently, and I’m getting a lot of applicants for jobs like welders, electricians, etc. These resumes tend to have more mistakes (think grammar and spelling errors). I’m having a hard time figuring out if their attention to detail on the resume is actually a reflection of their ability to do a good job in these jobs. I’m interested in hearing your opinions because for other positions (like admin or office) I would strongly consider the attention to detail.

As a general rule, if a job won’t involve written communication I wouldn’t penalize people at all for weaknesses in their writing. Assess them on the skills they’ll actually use on the job! I get that you’re concerned it could signal a lack attention to detail, but I don’t think it correlates — people can be bad/sloppy writers or spellers and be absolutely fantastic at something unrelated.

2. Resigning when I’m not willing to return to the office

My employer has a return-to-the-office date of January 2022. It is possible this could get moved, but if not, I have no intention of returning to the office. I am financially secure and could semi-retire for a while if I wanted to (I don’t have enough for the rest of my life, but I do have enough for several decades). I generally take most of my vacation time around the holidays, so I don’t particularly want to offer my two-week notice in December for fear they would just let me go and I wouldn’t get my vacation time for the year. Should I offer my two-week notice when I come back in January and just offer to work from home for that period? Or just resign effective immediately? What if they refuse to have me work from home for my notice period?

When you resign in January, explain that you’re resigning in part because you’re not comfortable returning to the office. It’s very unlikely that they’ll say you have to come in for your final two weeks when you haven’t been there in over a year. But if they do, you can explain that’s not an option for you and ask if they still want you to work out your notice period or not; if they don’t, they’ll let you know, but it’s unlikely that will happen (particularly if they’re relying on you for any transition work). It’ll be far less disruptive to them to have you for two more weeks (wrapping up projects and transitioning things), even from home, than to have you abruptly gone that day — but you can let them decide which they prefer.

3. My boss is pressuring me to meet a goal that no one on my team is meeting

I work in a creative field and my job revolves around creating products (let’s say teapots) on short timelines. I work on a team of five people who all produce teapots. When I joined about a year ago, my manager, Bob, told me that my goal should be to produce two teapots per week — he knew that this was very ambitious and I wouldn’t be at that pace immediately, but that I should be working towards it. I am new to this field and, while that seemed like quite a fast pace, I trusted that Bob (who has been in the field quite a while and is respected) knew what he was talking about.

A year later, I still am not quite averaging two teapots per week, but it’s close — often 1.5 to 1.75. Bob has begun calculating these paces and bringing them up in our past few performance reviews, always saying things like, “You averaged X teapots per week this quarter, which is great, but remember, the goal is two teapots per week, so keep working for that.” (He is otherwise very complimentary about my work, this is usually his only negative feedback.) I have begun rushing my teapots, reworking my schedule, and taking other things off my plate so that I can meet this pace, as it seems like something he really wants from me.

However, I am noticing that I have (by far) the highest teapot output on our team. I have been looking at the spreadsheet where we track teapot output, and most of my team (who have the same title and salary as I do) is averaging less than one teapot per week. I find this confusing and a bit frustrating. Am I wrong to wonder whether I’m the only one that Bob is pushing to bust my butt and achieve this fast pace, and whether that’s fair if so? Or, would it be fair to take these results as evidence that the goal he’s asking for is unrealistic, and would that be a reasonable thing to bring up with him?

It’s possible there’s an explanation you’re not aware of — like that your coworkers have other projects that you don’t have and so their teapot production goals are lower … or it’s possible that Bob is pushing you (and maybe your whole team) to meet an unreasonable goal because he thinks it will motivate you. (I once worked with someone who was convinced this was how you could get the best out of people — but what he saw as “pushing people to achieve their best” was really “stressing and demoralizing people by giving them unattainable targets and making them think their work will never be good enough.”)

In any case, it’s a reasonable thing to ask about! I’d say it this way: “I have a question about the two teapots a week goal. I’ve been trying really hard to meet it and have been stressed out that I’ve been falling short — but I noticed on our tracking spreadsheet that my production is the highest on the team and most people average less than one a week. Is two a week the goal for everyone, or does my role have different targets?”

You also might also ask your teammates what goals they’ve been given.

4. Should I ask my boss if we’re going to be laid off?

I have a suspicion my job may be terminated by year’s end, not because of performance but rather a restructuring of business operations.

A few red flags: I recently received a request to sign a confidentiality agreement … HR sent a notice (to all employees) about a month ago that they would no longer be paying out unused PTO pay upon termination or resignation … A new technology system relevant to my position is currently being tested without any of my team’s involvement.

I really want to ask my boss but don’t know how to go about it. And even if there are plans to eliminate my department, how could I even know if they would be honest about it?

If they’re planning to do layoffs, it’s very, very unlikely that they’ll tell you just because you asked. It’s very common for layoffs not to be announced until they’re happening (and instead to offer severance in lieu of notice) — in part because sometimes plans can still change and in part because a lot of employers believe that announcing layoffs but keeping people on for a while can make the environment more difficult for everyone, including people who aren’t being laid off. (More on that here.) And even when employers are willing to tell you ahead of time, that’s generally a big decision with lots of thought put into the timing — not something you’ll get a straight answer to just because you happened to ask one day.

That said, occasionally a manager will be straight with you, so you can ask if you want to. But if they tell you your job is safe, you can’t really count on that — so if you’re worried, the safest thing is to proceed as if layoffs are likely so you’re not blindsided (or starting from scratch with a job search) if they do happen.

5. Saying no to recruiters

I’ve recently had several recruiters reach out to me about positions related to my field. It’s happened periodically in the past, but companies are scrambling for talent right now and I’ve gotten way more inquiries than I think someone like me would expect. I’m younger (26) and just starting to get marketable skills and experience (implementation/project management).

I’m not really looking to change jobs right now. I work for a Fortune 500 company with decent pay, a great office culture, and a kick-ass boss who always has my back. But big companies can change quickly. While I am happy in my role with my current boss, if things changed and I got put on another team, I don’t know if I’d feel the same way. Is there a good way to tell recruiters I’m not interested right now while still leaving the door open for opportunities in the future?

It’s super normal! Saying no to a recruiter doesn’t burn a bridge in any way; it’s a normal part of their work. You can just say, “I’m not looking to make a move right now, but I’d like to get back in touch with you if that changes in the future.”

{ 450 comments… read them below }

    1. The OTHER other*

      …and update your resume. You are seeing telltale signs, and even if you are wrong, what have you lost? You’ll be rested and have an updated resume.

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        And start looking for a new job. If you get an offer, you don’t need to take it, but who knows, you might find something better and more stable.

        Also, check into your state laws regarding what happens to PTO with a layoff. Some states have laws that require it to be paid out, regardless of company policies.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yes! That’s true in Massachusetts, any accrued time off has to be paid out on termination.

          Also, the change in policy might be an indication of looming layoffs, and one that indicates the company is going to be stingy to employees when the time comes. Which would mean LW should update their resume and start a job search.

          But taken alone, it could also mean the company is doing some combination of reviewing their financial practices, looking at a tight revenue year and/or preparing for a sale, merge so they are cleaning up their financial statements. Accrued PTO which will be paid out at some point shows up as an expense in the P&L and an accrued expense on the balance sheet, which the company may not want. The new NDAs may be another indication of something similar, company realizing a gap, opportunity to improve their practices, and is addressing it.

          But the new system/tool being developed or tested without input, involvement of SME’s is … concerning. If no one on LW’s team is in the loop on that, it doesn’t bode well.

      2. Anon just here*

        Agreed – start doing a soft job search now. It sounds like there are a lot of instability warning signs floating about. Even if there are no layoffs, maybe you find something better.

        Oh, and definitely start using up your PTO now.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Yes, and in some sense the “trust” between OP and the company won’t be there any more, in that even if this particular time it’s not layoffs, anything that happens in the company in the future will be through the lens of “does this mean layoffs now? How about now?” I think just like in relationships, when trust is gone it’s gone. OP will probably benefit from a new job anyway.

    2. Caroline Bowman*

      this 100000%. Take it. Take all of it. Use some for job interviews if that works. Get life admin organised, lie on your couch, your mouth hanging slightly open, staring vacantly at a wall if that’s literally all there is to do, but take the leave.

      I would wager you are very likely to be correct about the lay-off omens. It might not actually apply to you personally of course, but please do start really examining suitable vacancies and doing what you need to do.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This!! And do check that it’s legal in your state for them not to pay out PTO. It’s not legal where I am

    3. Mockingjay*

      If you use company health insurance, get physicals, refill prescriptions, etc., while you still have coverage. Do you need COBRA coverage to cover an employment gap? Budget for that cost.

      Also look into your state’s process to file for unemployment benefits. You don’t need to do anything yet, but find the website links, required proofs, and such. It will speed the application if you unfortunately have to file.

      Download copies of paystubs, evals, etc.

      Seems like a lot, but knowing/planning ahead for these things allows you to focus on the job search.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yes! That was the first thing that sprang to mind for me.

      In France it’s illegal to not pay for accrued leave when someone stops working somewhere, so I’m shocked that a company would just decide to do that.
      Although I suppose it’s illegal BECAUSE companies did it and it was deemed not fair.

      1. irene adler*

        Yeah, it’s worth checking the laws that pertain to accrued vacation time where the LW works.

        Even if there’s a lack of funds, a company cannot just decide not to pay out accrued vacation time if the law says otherwise.

      2. R O U S*

        In the United States it’s a state-by-state legal thing. Where I work companies have to pay it out, but labor laws vary wildly here.

        1. BigTenProfessor*

          In some states, they have to pay out vacation, but not sick time, and I’m not sure if labeling it all “PTO” gets around that.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            California is very strict (accrued vacation is considered wages earned and Labor Commission is pretty serious about that). There are, apparently, ways to without portions of a combined PTO pool but the law there is complicated and not especially employer favorable.

          2. Jennifer*

            In my state, they have to pay it out, according to their written policy. So if the policy is “we don’t”, then they don’t have to.

          3. Never Boring*

            In Illinois, accrued “PTO” that can be used for vacation does need to be paid out. Time that is set aside as sick days does not.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah I was looking at a list recently and was surprised at how many states the law is basically “they have to pay it out unless their policy is not to” and I’m like what is even the point of that law?

          But I saw at least one state where the law said that if they don’t pay it out, that policy has to be told to you *at hire* which sounds like while they could change the policy going forward for new hires, it couldn’t be changed for you retroactively… so definitely google your own state laws just to make sure you aren’t missing out on anything you should get.

          1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

            I guess that’s so employees can get it in writing that it will be paid out.
            Changing the policy = changing the contract = you can refuse the change, and insist they fire you and pay out your balance?

            1. Hannah Lee*

              It may have to do with trying to change it to retroactively apply it to time you’ve already accrued for time you’ve already worked under the old policy.

              IIRC, when my company was revisiting our paid leave policies a few years back, due to some wonkiness in the original plan design an the addition of LTD and changes to state laws regarding sick pay, one of the things we looked at was moving to a “use it or lose it” policy, instead of allowing a week to carry over year to year.

              If we made that change, we would have had to address the vacation/PTO people already had accrued under the old policies, and I believe would have had to pay that out at the end of the year and start fresh with the new policy in the new year.

    5. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Absolutely ask your boss. Alison is right that he/she won’t tell you, but most people aren’t capable of lying well. If your boss is visibly nervous, can’t look you in the eye, etc while assuring you that no layoffs are planned, you’ll have your answer.

      1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        It’s worth asking. But boss may not know any more than the rumors/indications LW has seen. Especially if their entire team is getting laid off, including themselves.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Good point that the boss may be too low on the totem pole to be in on the layoff plan. Even if this is the case, it’s likely that if you’ve seen worrying signs, they’ve been in a position to see even more. A boss may have gotten sudden requests for detailed job descriptions of their team or inventories of all assets/equipment in the building, or told to make sure no one on their team is working from home on a specific day.

          1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

            And the boss may be more willing to share whatever info they do have. Either because they are concerned for their own job too, so an “we’re all in the same boat” feeling. Or because the information isn’t as privileged (noticing things vs. being explicitly told e.g. in a managers-only meeting).

      2. Chris*

        I think I disagree about asking. As a manager, when someone asks me if there are going to be layoffs, I feel like it shows a lack of understanding of how layoffs and the business work. It seems immature to me. I’m not going to say “Yes” because I would not be able to give more details and I don’t want to start rumors. I’m not going to say “No” because I can never guarantee that we won’t have layoffs. My company does not have layoffs often, but we are constantly evaluating our finances and how the staff is meeting the business needs. I always advise my employees that it is a good practice to keep the resume fresh and don’t assume that your job is secure forever.

        Essentially, my thought on #4 is “if you have to ask, then get prepared.”

    6. MH HR Gal*

      also, check your local state/local laws about this, there are many places where it is legally required for employers to pay out vacation and/or PTO (but not sick time) upon leaving.

      1. Typing All The Time*

        Yes, calculate every day you have left. Make doctor’s appointments while you still have coverage.

  1. Anononon*

    #1 – anyone else also read that as meaning sloppy handwriting at first and get offended on the applicants’ behalf? Lol.

    #3 – I work tangentially with a team who’s old manager would send out work stats each day and would set goals for each month do complete more tasks compared to that month last year. The team got really demoralized because it’s just impossible to increase output like that, especially when the total available number of tasks to complete is outside of their control.

    1. The OTHER other*

      There’s not enough info to be sure, but I suspect #3 has a bad manager. Setting goals for a new hire that are more than double that of the experienced staff seems unrealistic. I’d recommend talking to coworkers and find out what their goals are. There’s a chance that the manager has tried this before with the more experienced and they now ignore him because it’s not possible, or because their reward for succeeding is having the goalpost moved to THREE teapots a week. And I would try to flip the discussion in your review meetings from “why are you falling short” to “I am the highest producer here, how do you intend to compensate me?”

      1. Colette*

        Maybe – but I’ve had jobs where my goals in one area were lower than other team mates, because I did the harder tasks that necessarily took longer. Think IT – others did 10 tickets a day and I did 2, because mine were the more complex tickets that took more time. A new hire coming in might think they were out-producing me, and they would be based on numbers, but you can’t compare how many cherries you pick with the number of apples someone else picks; they’re just not the same.

        1. The OTHER other*

          This is quite possible, there’s not enough info in the letter, though I imagine if LW were simply spray painting her teapots while the other employees were hand painting theirs she would have mentioned it. She does say she is is putting aside other work to focus on teapot production.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        The other possibility is 2 used to be standard, they made a bunch of bad hires who haven’t been up to it, and now they want to hold new hire to the old standard as a means of showing the existing people they’ve been lagging. Or 2 used to be standard because they had the Fastest Person Ever and didn’t realize that was the case, so now they’re comparing everyone to that even though for most humans it wouldn’t be doable. I’ve been in both situations before.

      3. four-cats*

        Not that I think it’s happening in #3’s case, but I worked for a boss (one of those startup-turned-small-business fiefdoms) who set unreasonable production requirements but then only selectively enforced them when he was mad at you for something unrelated. It was great fun to get chewed out and put on an improvement plan for missing a metric that I had rarely seen any of my coworkers hit; I didn’t know how to defend myself without it looking like I was trying to throw others under the bus. I later found out that the actual reason I was put into the crosshairs was that I had declined to do some work “assigned” to me by a coworker who wasn’t my boss (I was busy with my own work), and this coworker, who was one of the boss’s favorites, had complained to the boss about my attitude.

        I also found out that the boss had at one point told everyone else on my team that they did not *actually* need to use their PTO if they were just stepping out for an hour or two, after I had burned through like half of mine on various appointments. (The boss had specifically showed me how to put fractional days into the PTO system.) I was also the only woman on the team and I of course cannot know if that is related to any of this.

        I now realize what a red flag it is when a company has a culture of ignoring “on-paper” requirements.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, it’s not a great management practice unless is clear to the team why publicly reported goals are so different among team members. In addition to the demoralizing effects of unattainable and unbalanced goals, have the newby striving to do more can introduce bad group dynamics, where the established team members view the new hire as a rate-buster, especially if managers adjusts everyone’s goals up. (My mother tells the story of that happening at her first job, a part-time factory job she did for a few hours a day after work. Her co-workers pulled her aside and told her to go slower “sure you can make 50 widgets an hour for 2 hours a day, any one of us can do that. But if you do it every day, management is going to want us to make 50 an hour, 8 hours a day, every day … which is not sustainable. So slow.down!”

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      I wasn’t offended. Maybe more confused is the best way to put it. Just because we maybe dont write as well, especially when compared to admin workers, doesnt mean we lack attention to detail. I see it like this: Office and admin workers are more likely to have better writing and grammer skills because that is a big part of their job. They use those skills daily to write e-mails and take notes and all the things office workers do that I dont know about. OTOH, folks like welders have a different skillset that their detail goes into. What type of rod for different alloys, how much heat to use, what shielding gas and at what PSI…All of which are details that can make a weld either very strong, clean and well done or weak, brittle and looking like a turkey backed up and just $h!t all over it.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think this is exactly it. For office workers whose primary tools tend to be words and communication, attention to detail looks like catching typos and grammatical errors before submitting a document. For a welder or machinist, attention to detail is far less likely to be about words. Whether they spelled a word wrong or used the wrong verb tense doesn’t say anything at all about their attention to detail as in pertains to machine safety or product quality, and I agree with Alison, I wouldn’t make any assumptions about them based on that.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve worked with people who are in engineering and math both, and many of them don’t have the same attention to writing and grammar skills that admin staff or people in other areas do — but they have the requisite attention to the relevant details of their own jobs (which details I, personally, would never be able to absorb or pay attention to). I think there are different strengths and skill sets involved, and weakness in one doesn’t indicate weakness in another.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Yeah. I work with equipment operators and other tradespeople ranging from college graduates to functionally illiterate high school dropouts. Some of them are not fluent in English, others are native speakers. Some have a background in office jobs, others have worked in the trades since they were teens and are totally unfamiliar with professional writing.

          There is NO correlation between how good someone is at writing and how good they are as an operator, welder, plumber, mechanic, etc. The types of attention and skill involved are totally different. I know guys who can’t spell to save their life but can pick up a lightbulb with an excavator without breaking it. Another colleague is hands down the most organized, tidy, detail-oriented person I’ve ever met, super reliable, does stunning work, and has made a ton of improvements to our shop workflow. His grammar is atrocious… but who cares? He’s not here to write essays!

          1. Free now (and forever)*

            My father is dyslexic and went to a one room schoolhouse long before the term “learning disabled” was conceived of. He can’t spell to save his life. Luckily, he’s never needed to write a resumé, but at 91-years-old, with the longest held electrical license in our state, he’s forgotten more about his craft than most electricians will ever know.

            1. DesertRose*

              Subtract about twenty years and shift the school slightly larger and you’ve almost got my stepfather.

              I’m fairly sure he has some form of dyslexia; he cannot spell to save his life, and his grasp of grammar is not great. He’s retired now, but when he was still working, if he had to submit any formal writing, he’d have my mother or me edit for him. (Weirdly, though, his handwriting is incredibly neat; the block-capital printing makes sense because drafting classes, but even his cursive is very tidy.)

              That said, if you want attention to detail in a technical/spatial-relations area, he is your guy. His earliest career was as a maintenance machinist (civilian) for the US Navy; when you are repairing things on ships (including submarines), you cannot be off by even a tiny fraction, and he wasn’t.

              Also, re English spelling and grammar, English isn’t a real grown-up language; it’s three kids in a trench coat trying to pretend it’s an adult. (And I say that as someone who has a BA in English.) ;D

          2. As Close As Breakfast*

            Totally agree! I work in a manufacturing facility and one of our welders has a difficult time with reading and writing, I’d go so far as to say he’s at about a 4th-5th grade level. And he is a FANTASTIC welder! He is so, so, sooooooooo good at his job. He can read our engineering drawings enough to get by, and always asks if he’s not sure, and that’s really the only place his reading/writing skills come into play.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Exactly! Reading and writing are important at my employer… but only to a certain level. Basically just enough to fill out stuff like inspection checklists or incident report forms. As long as you can read/write well enough to fill out a job application you meet the bar. We don’t care about it being correct, just that it’s understandable.

    3. Mockingjay*

      #1, I did too! I just got a couple of cursive practice books because my penmanship has deteriorated after 30+ years of keyboard use. (I plan to practice in the evenings while streaming a nice show like Downton Abbey.)

      But on point for #1, agree with Alison: unless it’s part of the job, give leeway about writing skills. Even if a young employee starts with good skills, if infrequently used proficiency will deteriorate. (See penmanship above.) I work with engineers and technicians who do complex analyses, but the results are recorded in standard databases and forms. Which is why they have me, the tech writer, to do more complex reports and briefs. I’ve seen some of their resumes and they look a lot like the forms they fill out. But they are whizzes at designing and testing new systems and upgrades, which is what they are hired for.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        I did this, too! I use a bullet journal as a weekly guide and love playing with fonts. Also, I’m taking a few masters level classes and have learned that writing notes out longhand helps me retain the information better. Finally, correcting sloppy penmanship and cursive for my elementary kids helped me remember the more basic rules (although they both fuss at me for different versions of my hybrid writing!).

    4. Generic Name*

      #1- I had to go back and re-read because I totally thought it was a dig against terrible handwriting. Attention to detail on a form is much different than attention to detail in measuring a cut accurately or doing a clean weld. But it’s an interesting idea. I wonder if the recruiter could go back to their best worker’s application materials and see how “well” they’re filled out to see if there’s a correlation.

    5. Formerly Ella Vader*

      #1 – There are some manufacturing-sector jobs (including welding-adjacent ones) where unambiguous legible handwriting is a strong asset. We don’t screen for handwriting before hiring, although we do make sure they know that it’s an expectation of the position and give quick feedback if it’s inadequate. Someday our sector may have tamperproof methods of original documentation through tablets and ubiquitous barcode-scanning, but for now we depend on filing original handwritten notes and on being able to distinguish handwritten numbers.

      1. Anon just here*

        Oh man – I deal with this ALL DAY LONG with some of the provider’s medical records I file. My kindergartner writes more legibly than some of these doctors (and yes they have tablets with keyboards they can type on – they claim those are too slow – because they are hunt and peck typers).

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, in the sciences (ok, some parts of the sciences) there’s still a lot of hand writing, particularly of numbers, and it’s really important to have legible handwriting. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but I have to be able to tell a 7 from a 9 from a 4. And Jan (January) from Jun (June).

          But at least where I work “Legible” is literally a legal requirement for documentation, and it has nothing to do with attention to detail.

          1. Beth*

            Interesting. Are there legal resuirements to use the most distinguishable firms of the handwritten numerals? I find that looped 2s, crossed 7s, and 4s made with open right-angle squares rather than triangles help to elimnate the ambiguity, even when writing fast.

        2. Observer*

          s (and yes they have tablets with keyboards they can type on – they claim those are too slow – because they are hunt and peck typers

          That may actually not be the problem. Many EMR systems have TERRIBLE user interfaces. And the WORST interface is the one the clinician sees most of the time, because the focus is on billing not on patient care or even good medical and clinical record keeping.

        3. Mannequin*

          Doctors having terrible illegible handwriting was a trope long before I was born, and I’m in my 50s. And I’d say it should totally disprove the idea that having sloppy handwriting = lack of intelligence, skill, or attention to detail.

    6. quill*

      #1 Yup, though of note – even if it’s spelling / grammar, many people go into trades precisely because that’s not a strong suit but they know they can get a good job and a good education without that being a barrier.

      1. PT*

        I worked in a job that was attractive to a lot of people who were not good at reading/writing because the skills were more applied. However, we still did have to do some reading/writing at times. I did not have a problem with staff who needed extra time, help, etc., with reading/writing tasks, or who performed them inelegantly. As long as it worked, that was fine with me.

        I did however get irritated with people who refused to do their paperwork, or follow directions with paperwork, after being shown how to do it, without asking for an accommodation. You can’t just not do part of your job because you don’t like it. I had this problem with incident reports a lot. I would have someone tell me, “Oh Tim slipped and fell down the stairs last night and he was pretty out of it, we thought he had a concussion so he went to urgent care!” and there would be no incident report. Or I would find a report labeled “Name: Tim (no last name, address, or other contact info) Details: Tim fell gave ice pack. (section asking for names of employees providing first aid/witnesses left blank)”

        1. quill*

          Yikes, that’s a safety problem! And if you don’t like safety seminars, fill out the paperwork properly so you don’t have to sit through a remedial one!

    7. KoiFeeder*

      I knew what OP1 meant, but I admit I also wouldn’t have been particularly amused if it was about sloppy handwriting. My wrists like to pop out! I hold my pencil like a toddler and that’s how I write but it’s not a reflection of anything except the fact that my wrists are terrible.

      (I’d also make a terrible welder or electrician, though- hand tremors are not something you want while using an acetylene torch)

      1. Mannequin*

        I have dyspraxia/dysgraphia, which means I simply lack the fine muscle control/coordination to write in cursive neatly and legibly. I consider it good enough if I can read my own chicken scratch, lol! My print writing looks a lot better, but it’s so much slower I get frustrated & scrawl it out.

    8. SlimeKnight*

      A former grandboss was trying to do “process flow improvement.” He sat down and figured out the shortest amount of time a specific variation of a process could be completed, then without factoring in any of the other things that could make this more complex, extrapolated that out to all processes in the same flow. The result was a gross underestimation of the time required to complete the process and an overestimation of the work that he said should be completed each day.

      When I confronted him about this (it was not in my department, but I tended to do a lot of floating consulting across the agency) he acknowledged that the goal was unattainable, but that our employees needed to get the in the mindset that “they could do the impossible.” I said he was just setting them up for failure. We agreed to disagree.

      I was, of course, right. No one could meet this ridiculous goal he had set. Even our best performers fell far short. He threatened disciplinary action, several people quit, our numbers tanked, and my grandboss’ grandboss reassigned him to other projects.

    9. Les Cargot*

      #1: Once upon a time, I was tech lead of one of several small groups on a large software project. Our manager saw the need to expand our group and asked me to help screen resumes. Every.Single.One of those resumes contained at least one error in grammar, spelling, or punctuation, including the one from the person we hired, who turned out to be an excellent engineer and great to work with. Yes, the candidates should have had someone proofread their resumes. Yes, the recruiters should have double-checked. However, we weren’t hiring a writer. We needed, and got, someone who could write good low-level software and maybe wasn’t an expert grammarian.

      1. Susan Ivanova*

        When my whole software team got laid off, they set us up with one of those resume polishing services. We got together a few weeks after the layoff to do our own resume polishing and discovered the service was wildly uneven. One of the engineers was Russian and knew his English was flawed so he was hoping the resume service would tidy it up. Unfortunately for him, the opposite happened: they made it worse, and he didn’t even realize it. We tossed it out and started over.

    10. Paperdill*

      #1: Yeah, that left me feeling indignant from a lot of angles.
      I (a left hander ->sloppy handwriting) at currently doing school at home with 2 kids with ADHD, sensory and language processing disorders.
      We are working SO HARD with all of those things at the moment but handwriting will be sloppy, spelling isn’t always awesome and grammar can be a little thingy. HOWEVER, these kids will solve amazing maths problems, tell elaborate stories with spectacular vocabulary and engineer fantastic things and have capacity to have pat incredible attention to detail.
      Everyone has their strengths and the written word doesn’t need to be one. Look for the strengths you really need when employing people.
      (Hmm, my mama bear response may be showing a little, here, but my point still stands).

  2. Eliza*

    Right now I’m in a job where writing skills are pretty central, but in the past I’ve worked with very smart and competent people who couldn’t spell worth a damn. Writing is not a skill that comes naturally to human beings, any more than woodcarving or organic chemistry, and it doesn’t reflect on what they’re like as a person. If people can communicate clearly through the channels they’ll be using, that’s good enough for a lot of jobs.

    1. The OTHER other*

      Judging welders on their writing skills seems as silly as hiring writers based on their welding skills.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this.

        By all means, if it’s an office job that involves writing, particularly writing to customers and other stakeholders outside the organization, requiring some writing skills is one thing, but that shouldn’t really be the case for a welder.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Much of my job involves editing. If everyone were a great writer, I’d have a lot less to do.

          And I don’t expect great writing skills from, say, my plumber. But I do expect them to know how to find & fix a leak. Which is it’s own kind of 3-dimensional editing.

          1. Tell Me About Your Pets*


            GASP. You’re not very attentive and thus must be horrible at your job as an editor!


            1. Liane*

              “GASP. You’re not very attentive and thus must be horrible at your job as an editor!
              LOL. That’s me. If anyone read my first (or even final) drafts, they would conclude I must be a terrible copy editor/proofreader.

              As for the question at hand: Nope, don’t judge welders by their writing skills, unless the job includes writing training materials, SOPs, etc.

              1. Mannequin*

                And nowadays, you have autocorrupt randomly changing or inserting words/prefixes/suffixes/homonyms (especially the “there/their/they’re” type!) etc and even the best writers can come off as illiterate if they aren’t paying close attention, lol!

      2. Bagpuss*

        Exactly. My go-to guy for general house maintenance / repairs is a *very* skilled workman and incredibly detail-focused but his writing and spelling are terrible.

        I’m happy that my gutters don’t leak and my roof is watertight ! And that he meticulously cleans up after himself . He is worth his weight in gold.

        1. Rainy*

          A good handyperson is above rubies. My mother is currently praising her new handyperson to the skies. (And is probably going to have to take the previous one to small claims court, which she is deeply annoyed about.) One of the benefits of the new one is that he has never steered my parents wrong about contractors etc yet–he pointed her to the roof guy, the chimney guy, etc, all of whom have done very satisfactory work. Networking! So important.

          Anyway, she’s never mentioned either of their spelling abilities.

      3. Nobby Nobbs*

        The minimum for a lot of jobs ought to be “able to document what needs to be documented.” Not just the trades either; there seem to be plenty of office jobs where that’s all that’s really important in the writing department.

      4. Maglev to Crazytown*

        Spot on. I work with a large number of crafts (welding, carpentry, etc). Their writing skills typically are weak, because that is not something they are routinely using and practicing. They are out in the field all day, doing the hard and highly skilled work, and having to communicate to others in their own vernacular that would come across like a different language to most of us.

        Most of them are aware that their written skills are not the best, and freely admit it to people they know aren’t going to look down on them for being “just manual laborers,” which they get a lot from those who don’t understand just how skilled they really are.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I worked with a chemist who took a weird path – mechanic to oil additives lab technician to full scientist. We wrote a short paper together once. His writing skills were atrocious, but the ideas he was trying to communicate were good ones, and all he needed was someone to polish the writing a bit. He was a bright guy and a pretty good self-taught scientist; just didn’t have enough formal education to pick up writing skills.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Same. I work with a lot of fabricators and regularly produce drawings for them to follow. Sometimes I need them to measure what’s in the field and then send those measurements to me. I get a lot of texted photos of their notes…and it does not make it any easier when I can’t decipher their writing!!!

      5. Eat My Squirrel*

        Yeah, my husband builds things that are absolutely perfect down to minute teeny details I would never pick up. But he can’t speak to save his life. Me, on the other hand, I could probably write a prize winning novel if I had the time, but the chair I built is OBVIOUSLY made by a beginner. I’m lucky it doesn’t wobble! I didn’t think a 1/8” difference in the length of the pieces would be that big of a deal.

        Attention to detail is relevant to context.

          1. Botanist*

            I was picturing him being an atrocious public speaker, but the spelling makes more sense in line with the topic ;-)

      6. aebhel*


        Also, poor spelling and grammar doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of attention to detail. Some people (a LOT of people, honestly) just don’t have a very strong grasp of spelling and grammar to start with, and if it’s not relevant to the job it seems kind of ridiculous to penalize them for it.

        LW seems to be operating on the assumption that all of these people COULD produce writing that’s grammatically correct and just aren’t bothering, but that’s very unlikely to actually be the case.

    2. Wendy*

      Poor writing/spelling skills can indeed indicate poor attention to detail, but that assumes you learned the correct way to do it in the first place! Being super-strict about this kind of thing can lead you to unintentionally discriminate against people who are [some types of] neurodivergent, are non-native English speakers, grew up poor and didn’t have great schools or parents who could help them out with homework, etc. If the job you’re hiring for truly doesn’t rely on written communication, I’d suggest focusing on other ways to sort out your candidate pool.

      1. Grammar Isn’t Everything*

        My dad taught in an inner-city Vocational-Technical high school. Many students were immigrants or children of immigrants. Others were in foster home. His students were highly motivated to leave their poverty-stricken area and focused on welding, auto repair, and electrical repair skills. That’s what got them well-paying jobs, not grammar or creative writing. OP1, don’t penalize someone who may have made a very savvy choice forced upon them due to circumstances out of control. Hire them if they have the right technical skills.

      2. Snow Globe*

        My husband is a terrible speller because he suffers from dyslexia, which was undiagnosed until high school. For this reason, he has gravitated towards jobs in the construction field, where writing is not required, but that has nothing to do with attention to detail on the job.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Same with my dad. He wasn’t ever officially diagnosed but my mother figured it out when they were married, so he went all the way through school with teachers telling him he was a lazy good for nothing, how sad. He can’t write at all but reads well (in both English and his native language) and is a brilliant engineer who can build and repair just about anything (cars, houses, my broken laundry racks, for example). My mother is only half joking when she says she married him because she figured if they were the only survivors of some disaster, he could rebuild the world.

        2. aebhel*

          Yeah. I have a friend whose dyslexia is so severe that he’s functionally illiterate, but he’s extremely skilled in his actual field.

      3. Kal*

        And often people in those kinds of situations with weaknesses in writing skills are coached into jobs that aren’t reliant on those weaknesses, such as trades jobs. The only thing I expect out of the tradespeople working on my house is that they know what they’re doing in their job and the paperwork and such is clear enough that there aren’t unnecessary miscommunications in the process. The latter can be handled a lot of ways, including options like using a computerized system that minimizes troubles with bad handwriting or other writing errors or having an assistant/department or such that goes over the paperwork to correct any errors that could cause actual problems before it goes to the next stage.

        Out of the most competent tradespeople I’ve interacted with and who wrote something down, I don’t think a single one didn’t have some misspelling or something in it. None of them caused any issues in my understanding of things, though.

      4. H2*

        Came here to say this! I’ve taught at both a university and a community college, and I can guarantee that a lot of people in community college kinds of programs are ones who are definitely smart enough for an engineering degree, but who have other circumstances that made it way harder for them to attend a four-year university. And welding programs don’t have a big emphasis on writing! They’re not going to learn it there. Probably a good number, if not the majority, of the tradespeople you are hiring did not come from a place of privilege, to put it mildly.
        Conversely, I am an engineer who is good at language, and I am naturally a good speller and good at grammar. That definitely does not mean that I have a good attention to detail. It means that I had some natural ability and also a very good (read: expensive) education.

        1. EngineerMom*

          I am also an engineer who speaks several languages and can communicate well. That said, my attention to detail is horrible and I have to really force myself to not miss things that are obvious to others.

      5. Lady Meyneth*

        “unintentionally discriminate against people who are [some types of] neurodivergent, are non-native English speakers, grew up poor”

        So true. The best boss I ever had was absolutely brilliant. Our job (engineers) was to find out what the heck went wrong, often dangerously wrong, with our clients equipment. This man could go in, listen to the client for a half hour and, without ever seeing the equipment, offer 3 viable possibilities on the malfunction. Usually one of them was correct.

        He also Could. Not. Write. To the point one of the team always proofread his emails, and wrote any reports. We became friends after leaving that job, and honestly I sometimes struggle to decipher his texts! He’s tried adult courses, he took every medical test available, and nothing works. We all suspected some form of dyslexia or neurodivergence, because there had to be *something*. This great engineer with a master degree (so far from uneducated), who was also a great people manager, might have been completely overlooked if you only checked his written comunication.

      6. learnedthehardway*

        Not to mention that education doesn’t focus on writing skills any more. Someone I know never even learned to write cursive in school – they can only print. And their printing is terrible because everything in their school system was done on computers. Their spelling is pretty awful too – they did French immersion, and say they are semi-literate in 2 languages.

        Still really intelligent and detail oriented about what matters to their role.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Cursive writing has not been taught in our school districts for many years. Very few of my university students can “handwrite” fluently. Most use a mixture of a few quasi-cursive letters and many printed ones of various shapes. Their writing techniques don’t indicate their abilities. Unless they have to sit and write a timed examination in an in-person class (something we’re moving away from with warp speed), there isn’t any reason for them to use cursive in an academic context. I don’t either!

          1. aebhel*

            Honestly, even with that – I was technically taught cursive, but my actual handwriting is a hodgepodge of cursive and print letters. I can still write extremely fast; doing it in proper cursive would just slow me down at this point, even though I do know how to.

        2. quill*

          Cursive writing isn’t even a writing skill… printing has always been more legible from students who have to handwrite essays. (I say this as one of the last classes in my hometown to be taught cursive…)

          We were actually coached when I had to do AP language to avoid cursive so that test graders would have an easier time reading our essays – the thought was that the speed gains we’d obtain would be obliterated by the college board being confused about if we were trying to write an I or an E.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            My elementary school teachers: “Write everything in cursive! This is how adults write!”
            My middle school teachers: “Write everything in print! It’s more legible!”

            (this was in the early 2000s)

      7. Moonhopping*

        This! Yes I wish I could find it again but I read a great article on how grammar police lead to discrimination.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, OP is assuming that her applicants could fix the errors if they just bothered to pay a bit of attention, but it seems to me more likely that they are just lousy spellers and kind of bad at grammar. The trades have a higher proportion of people with weaknesses in those areas, because they very sensibly chose a career where it doesn’t matter.

      The important bit is whether they are lousy welders or not, but you won’t figure that out by the spelling.

      Also, if the labor market there is anything like it is around here, good welders, or even mediocre ones, are in way too short a supply to be picky. I’m pretty sure they’d happily hire a fully illiterate welder down where my brother works.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. Some companies in my area are even looking for welders, CNC machinists, etc. abroad. They’ll hire someone who’s been here long enough to know our language as foreman, who’s then responsible for hiring the welders, who may possibly not speak any other language than their native one, at least to start with.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        “lousy spellers and kind of bad at grammar” We should also always keep in mind that these are class markers, always have been, and often are specifically designed to be. Those English boarding schools (think Hogwarts) existed in large part to train boys in Standard English. The formal academics were largely Latin and Greek, which even at the time people realized were not useful skills for most people. But this wasn’t the point. It was really about teach class markers. The son of a gentleman from northern England would learn speak with the same accent of gentlemen from any other part of England, using the same grammar, and eventually the same spelling (a later development). In America this sort of thing tends to run along ethnic or racial lines, but of course it does.

        1. H2*

          Yes! And even saying that they should have someone proofread, as paying attention to detail, assumes that they have someone who is better at spelling and grammar in their immediate circle! And that is just simply not true for a lot of people. I think that the more important question here would be what trade schools can do to help their students have a more polished résumé!

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Am in the UK and can confirm a lot of it is still down to class markers. For instance I have *had* to learn to speak with RP instead of my native accent in order to be taken seriously at work.

        3. Junior Assistant Peon*

          The exact same thing goes on in modern America. That degree in Communications or Art History with a minor in Kegstands doesn’t really make someone a better accountant, salesperson, office manager, etc; it’s just an assurance that the applicant is a nice upper-middle-class suburban kid who will fit in well in an office environment. I’ve also noticed that white-collar professional types from the South seem to be trying really hard to lose their accents and speak national newscaster English.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            As a woman in a STEM field, (starting to work over 30 years ago), I have experienced more prejudice as a Southerner than as a woman.

            I’m now living in the Midwest and fit very nicely here.

        4. jolene*

          We do have a really strong history in the UK of publicly funded grammar schools (clue’s in the name) which were set up precisely to teach bright non-posh kids the same spelling, grammar, and Latin (sometimes Greek) as the private schools, so that isn’t a full picture. The idea was that less academic kids would go into apprenticeships (we used to have a truly excellent 5-year apprentice system, which was sadly ruined by Tony Blair in his push to get everyone to university to do Golf Studies degrees) or jobs which didn’t need strong academic-type skills. There are definitely ladders up, and my working class friends would *not* appreciate the concept of them not being able to write excellent prose because of their upbringing.

          Accent’s a separate issue.

        5. PhyllisB*

          Very true about grammar being a class marker. I live in the South where as Jeff Foxworthy says, “people hear the accent and automatically deduct 50 IQ points.”
          I stressed proper grammar and minimal use of slang to my children growing up and they are all (fairly) well-spoken. The glaring exception of course, is the use of “y’all.” You’ll never train that out of a southerner.

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            I lived for several years in the Deep South, and “Y’all” is extremely handy.
            “All Y’all” is one of the best plurals on the planet!

        6. Botanist*

          All I can think of is Henry Higgin’s comment to Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady about Eliza Doolittle: “You see this creature with her curbstone English? The English that will keep her in the gutter till the end of her days? Well, sir, in six months, I could pass her off as a duchess at an Embassy Ball. I could even get her a job as a lady’s maid or a shop assistant, which requires better English.”

      3. Lora*

        I would happily accept a welder who shows up to work on time, sober, has a MIG/TIG certificate, with no outstanding arrest warrants, wears PPE as required, and can do an orbital weld on 316L piping that can be ground and polished to 20Ra (in). These are very literally the ONLY requirements and I can’t even find that without paying more than my own salary. Please god, do not be filtering out people who can’t spell or use the subjunctive properly, we’ll never hire friggin anyone like that.

    4. Marzipan*

      #1, consider how people with disabilities like dyslexia may have graduated towards career paths where they can excel while minimising the amount of written work they need to do. Consider how people who don’t have English as their first language may not yet have enough knowledge to be able to confidently spell or construct sentences in what is one of the most illogical and non-intuitive languages out there. And consider how little these things have to do with welding. I’m sure you don’t mean to be discriminatory but there’s every risk that if you approach things in this way, you could be exactly that – and exclude excellent candidates into the bargain.

      If you want to test someone’s skills in a practical field – including their attention to detail – there are ways to test that at interview, but basing your judgement in their writing is really just guessing based on their skills in other areas and isn’t likely to end in recruiting the best people for the job.

      1. Sasha*

        This – the applicant could have taken a huge amount of painstaking effort with this application form, but if they either have a SLD such as dyslexia, or had a difficult upbringing so missed a lot of school, or went to a bad school where this stuff wasn’t well taught, this may be what their best work looks like.

        You can’t read anything about their attitude into it (and the fact that you think you can comes across as a bit snobby/classist, to be honest).

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          Would you feel the same about someone who had a terrible CV who was applying to be an accountant? I mean, writing is not important, numbers are, so…

          But attention to detail is quite universal. Admonishing someone and lecturing them for being classist because they feel that typos and obvious errors should be minimal in job applications comes across, forgive me, I couldn’t resist, as virtue-signaling in tone.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            The issue is conflating two different types of attention to detail into one. It’s perfectly possible to have typos in your letters but also be able to investigate and recognise every fault in a bit of welding.

            Lack of attention to detail in one field doesn’t automatically equate to across the board.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              TBH, I’m surprised people in these fields have resumes at all! My dad was a printer (a trade that traditionally requires more literacy than most), & he never had a resume. His dyslexia definitely would have shown up there. (On the other hand, since printers need to be able to read upside down, he said it was an advantage to already see letters every which way.)

              On the other hand, printing does require a high level of accuracy, & he would do complex math in his head as part of the job. A resume would not help show this ability.

              1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                TBH, I’m surprised people in these fields have resumes at all!

                The worker you hire to fix your sink may not have a resume, but larger companies that hire in the skilled trades will indeed outsource their hiring through recruiters and EPCM companies. Unlike the usual office resume, these resumes tend to focus on lists of certifications and include photocopies of credentials and insurance coverage. The recruiters aren’t looking for a brilliantly formatted resume listing their office achievements so much as they need to make sure the tradesperson’s licenses haven’t expired.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Oh, definitely paperwork showing certs, licenses, etc. But resumes in the skilled trades were usually not a thing.

                2. Cake or Death?*

                  Yeah I work in construction and I’ve literally NEVER seen a resume for a welder. A welders resume is their certifications and welding test results.

              2. FormerInternalRecruiter*

                It may not have been common in the past but it definitely is now. I recruited trades people for building maintenance job as well as large EPC projects and all of them were required to have resumes. The resume was a good way of finding out quickly what certifications they had, years of experience and the types of projects they worked on.

            2. ecnaseener*

              +100. “Attention to detail” isn’t ONE fundamental skill, it’s a subset of every other skill. It’s one of the things that makes you good at [writing / welding / etc] and it comes in part from having enough talent & knowledge to know which details to pay attention to.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                Can I spot a fault in your data import routine in under a few seconds by just scanning the data by eye? Yes.

                Can I keep my house tidy? No :p

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yes. I’m a translator so I do need to excel in writing. But I have a ready-written standard email for sending revised invoices, complete with the joke about “luckily I pay better attention to words than to numbers” just so they don’t start wondering whether my translations are full of mistakes too (my clients mostly don’t speak much English so they can’t really check my work).

              1. Quoth the Raven*

                I’m a translator, too. I can’t deal with numbers to save my life, but the quality of my translations is another thing entirely.

                Furthermore, some of the worst texts I’ve had to deal with have been written by engineers and lawyers (I’ve had the “pleasure” of dealing with run-on that are a page and a half long), but you know, Spanish is hard like that, and I understand their strength is in other areas.

            4. After 33 years ...*

              Yes … we could say “attention to the details which are important for what you are trying to do”. It’s best to concentrate on the details required for the task at hand, not non-essentials.

              For me , the particular details differ from what’s required of me as a professor (correct spelling of technical terms is essential) to the details that would be required of me as a painter. I have a reputation for attention to detail as a professor, but my attention to detail in painting walls has been lacking. My efforts have been so bad that my partner does not permit me to ‘help’ paint anymore.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            But there are different types of detail. Spelling and grammar isn’t the sum total of the concept of “detail” – it does seem sort of sheltered to me to think that it is. For example, my work involves a lot of visual detail and there are times when things are screaming out to me as WRONG that a lot of less visually-oriented people just don’t notice unless it’s specifically pointed out to them. Do I judge them for not realising that the menu font is wrong or the wrong glasses have been put out, or assume they must lack attention to detail in their own work? Not really, because this stuff isn’t their job. Someone could suck at spelling and grammar and still have impeccable attention to physical/visual detail like welding.

          3. Gen*

            My partner is a highly qualified accountant but his handwriting is terrible, and his composition tends to be dull and simplistic—the only reason his grammar is close to correct is that he knows how to use Word. He won’t notice using the wrong word (like word/ward, effect/affect) or punctuation if Word doesn’t highlight it. Never been a problem getting work or being sort after even with errors on his LinkedIn

          4. Bagpuss*

            I don’t agree that attention to detail is universal – I think it depends massively on the type of detail and the context.

            As an example, I really struggle to spot spelling errors, particularly in my own work and in handwritten documents, but things like inconsistent formatting or numbering in documents really stand out to me, and so do some other visual details .

            I wouldn’t even assume that errors in spelling are the same as errors in figures (although an accountant might well need both)

            1. ecnaseener*

              Errors in spelling are definitely different from errors in figures. Spelling is largely memorized (in English at least) – it doesn’t follow internally consistent rules. An accountant’s math should hopefully involve very little memorization.

          5. socks*

            You’re comparing apples and oranges here. An accountant with a strong educational background who couldn’t be assed to pay attention when writing their CV isn’t the same as a welder who literally never learned the difference between to, too, and two.

            What you consider “obvious” errors are not necessarily going to be obvious to someone who didn’t receive a high-quality writing education (or who speaks English as a second language, or who has dyslexia, or…). No amount of attention to detail will help you if you don’t know what the “correct” spelling and grammar is.

            1. quill*

              Generally speaking an accountant does a lot of work with words, aka the things that tax laws are written with. It makes sense to assume that the accountant needs to pick up the subtle differences between homophones and the legal distinction between “May” and “Must.”

          6. H2*

            I have taught physics to people and community college welding and electrician kinds of programs. I love those students, so, yes, I’m probably kind of defensive here.

            However, this analogy does not hold. Accountants have a four year degree or more, where they are expected to take multiple writing classes. Welders probably have a two year degree where they may take one class that involves significant writing. Accountants with a four year degree will have received significant résumé help in college. Welders are less likely to have people at home who can help them and give them guidance. That’s not true across-the-board, of course. And, honestly, I can’t stress enough that the kids I saw in community college were very, very often ones who were smart enough to get a four year engineering degree but couldn’t go that route for one reason or another. They were working full-time jobs to support their families, they were not documented or native English speakers, they just didn’t have parents at home helping them get set up for that. So they are starting from a place of last privilege, and getting less formal training and writing, and we want to hold them to the same standards as an accountant? And read into that a measure of their abilities in anything other than writing? Yeah, I think it reads as a little snobby. Or maybe just the OP didn’t think about it that way!

          7. Zandra*

            I think those are different enough types of jobs that the standard would apply differently. An accountant likely needs to not only jockey numbers, but also to be able to communicate in writing about those numbers to various stakeholders. A welder needs to weld. I imagine they may need to be able to record some information about what they’ve welded and how they’ve welded it, but that’s pretty limited.

          8. LQ*

            Honestly? Yeah kinda. Sorry but most people are shitty writers, I am. And people who are great writers are not great at all jobs. Communication matters for all jobs, but the conflation of polished writing (which I would disagree is great writing, but I expect I would be pretty alone in that) with successful communication is nearly willful ignorance of actual communication. You know what the guy with the welding mask and gloves on isn’t doing when something is going wrong in the shop. Stopping to write and polish an email.

            But also I want my accountant to have a glorious understanding of how to communicate a complex budget in a way that likely won’t be a long written essay, but more likely a series of tables, maybe a chart or two.

            And I’ve known plenty of people who can polish a sentence but can’t get the decimal in the right place, for an accountant…I know which I care about.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I’m a pretty good writer, in my humble opinion, but you are so right about communication not being one universal skill. My ears are not friends with my brain, and even if they were, the part of my brain that actually handles spoken words is a unicycle with the devil riding it. I can write and polish an email just fine, but I can’t order a pizza over the phone.

          9. FD*

            Sort of depends on the position. A lot of accountant roles have to do a lot of written communication and report writing in my experience, and for that it *would* matter.

            I’d say a data transcription test is a reasonable screening tool if the accountant position has to do a lot of ‘copy thing x to form y’ as part of their job, but problems with transcribing numbers may or may not have anything to do with problems in spelling or grammar.

          10. Metadata minion*

            Spelling and grammar errors are only “obvious” if you know what the correct spelling or grammar is. I have *great* attention to detail when I set my mind to it, but that won’t help if you ask me to check for typos in a language I don’t speak, or look for errors in a chemistry textbook when I know nothing about chemistry. I can use spellcheck, but that won’t save me from homophones or other usage errors and automated grammar-check programs tend to be pretty terrible.

          11. Rusty Shackelford*

            Attention to detail requires knowledge of those details. I’m sure the people applying for these skilled jobs have the knowledge they need. Yes, an electrician who has no eye for detail is going to be a bad electrician. But an electrician who consistently uses the wrong form of their/there/they’re could still be the best electrician on earth.

          12. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

            Pointing out that there are different kinds of intelligence and that different jobs require different skillsets is not “virtue signalling” and it’s really cynical at best to say that people only try not to be bigoted as some kind of social game.

          13. Coder von Frankenstein*

            “But attention to detail is quite universal.”

            It is no such thing. Attention to detail, like most traits, is domain-specific. People can have tremendous attention to detail in one domain and none whatsoever in a different domain.

            One of my coworkers is an absolutely incredible UI designer. His attention to detail is relentless for anything to do with the look and feel of a website; colors, positioning, what happens on a left-click versus a right-click, et cetera.

            But when you ask him to write the code to implement that website, you get a horrible, sloppy, barely functional copy-paste mess. If you were judging his attention to detail by looking at his code, you’d never hire him–and it would be your loss, because there’s nobody better to design your UI. You just need someone like me backing him up, who can take his prototype and turn it into a fully functional website.

          14. Tinker*

            Is it ‘virtue signaling’ to express skepticism regarding the practice of assuming that a resume free of typos and obvious errors signals a more general presence of the virtue of ‘attention to detail’ that is more difficult to test for directly?

          15. Sasha*

            Yep, there’s definitely no chance anybody working class could read AskAManager is there? Since we all work down coal mines.

      2. londonedit*

        Yes – there’s now a spin-off from The Repair Shop on the BBC called Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop, which brings together professional woodworkers/joiners with amateurs who have struggled in some way (one chap has early dementia, another woman is just starting out and trying to develop her skills, etc) to make pieces for people who have done something amazing for their community. Anyway one of the amateurs is a chap who failed all his exams at school, but got a place on a joinery course at a college and loved it – until he failed that course, too, because he couldn’t work with numbers so he was unable to deal with measurements and calculations. That’s when he was finally diagnosed with dyslexia and dyscalculia. So he was working as a school caretaker, because at least that was a job where he didn’t have to worry about writing and maths. But he’s brilliant at woodworking!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          The builder who did some work on our house can’t write text or even set out calculations properly. But he took one look at the house and was able to order the exact amount of materials needed (wood, paint, tiles). He must have calculated it all somehow, but was incapable of explaining how he knew we needed X boxes of tiles or tins of paint.
          So that dyslexic guy would probably have been an excellent joiner, just not working the way they teach it at school and incapable of invoicing his work…

          1. Le Sigh*

            I would really love to see the world more readily adapt to that joiner or your builder more. I did really well in writing/history, etc., but eventually struggled with math and suspect with better support I could have done much better. And someone like your builder I think, sure their brain works much differently, maybe not set up to work with the “traditional” mainstream learning systems we have established — but maybe if our educational systems were a little more flexible and we as a society were more open to different markers of success, it would be easier for people to make space for themselves in the world.

            I also think one way we do that is by questioning our biases and standards for what success is — including asking if we’re evaluating a candidate on what’s actually needed for the job and if they have it, or whether we’re falling back on standards we haven’t really questioned.

      3. Selina Luna*

        I’m not a welder, but I’m not a fan of “attention to detail” notes. I write fairly well. All of my professors except one thought my writing was excellent. And I teach writing now, so I do tell students how to edit. However, even in writing, the point of grammar and punctuation is to make it easier to read. If you’re being a stickler for commas and periods, ask yourself: is this important to this task?
        I would argue that in an application or even a resume for a welder, punctuation is not a good measure of their attention to detail, but that the inclusion of all of their certifications is.

    5. AJoftheInternet*

      I personally know a trucker who’s a lousy speller and also studies languages in his spare time. Thus we see writing is not even a skill which comes easily to people who have academic/book-smart skills.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Jane Austen was a lousy speller. And a great writer. Being able to spell English words has more to do with your brain’s ability to memorize letter order than anything else.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I didn’t know this!

          I think I write decently, but I also struggle with spelling. Thank goodness for spellcheck because writing IS a major part of my work!

          1. PhyllisB*

            Amen for spellcheck!! I used to a whiz at spelling, but when you don’t use your skills they atrophy. Handwriting I can’t say anything about because a toddler has better penmanship than I do (thank goodness most of the time it’s okay to print instead of using script.)
            I still get crazy when my grandkids text me and use no punctuation. And don’t capitalize sentences. However, I’ve thrown up the white flag because A. I’m not their parent, and B. I’ve been assured I’m a dinosaur and no one else cares. I just tell them I hope they don’t write their school papers like that or their teachers will crucify them.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      My boss is definitely smart and competent. He has me proof read anything important he wrote, before it goes out the door. This is part of being smart and competent.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, my ex-boss was not a good speller. I’d sometimes see him edit a document in real-time in meetings and you could really see him look at the red squiggle underneath a word, pause, fail to see what was wrong with it, try a few variations on the spelling which were still wrong, and either eventually manage the right one or give up so the meeting could progress. (Or sometimes I or someone else would tell him the correct spelling.) I’m someone spelling comes really naturally to, to the point where I can be skim-reading a text not taking everything in and a misspelled word will still bring me to a screeching halt, and it really made me realise how much of this sort of thing comes down to how your brain works. It would be a big, big mistake to think I’m smarter, more competent or more detail-oriented than my boss just because it’s a lot more work for him to make sure a text is error-free and a lot easier for something to fall through the cracks.

        1. sswj*

          Agree totally.
          I can’t reliably add 2+2 without a calculator, but I can write reasonably well and spell almost anything without looking it up.
          My husband is horrible at writing/spelling, but can look at a column of numbers and will know what the total is, more or less, without adding it.
          He’s a physician, and if he has anything more important than a quick memo to write I generally proof and edit for him. Fortunately he can dictate his patient notes, and macros in the software do most of the work.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes – I used to tear my hair out with the people who would ‘helpfully’ suggest that I write out the different possible spellings to see which was right.

          To me, they all looked equally right (or wrong) writing out different possibilities was of no help at all. (and of course it relies on you being able to tell that the first one you used was wrong, in the first place. )

          It’s easier on screen / print than handwritten, possibly because the shape of the word is more consistent

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Yeah–spelling is partly a pattern-matching thing, and if you don’t already know the correct spelling, writing a word in two or three ways won’t tell you to write “whether” instead of “weather,” or the correct number of S’s in Mississippi.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m someone spelling comes really naturally to

          I really do think there’s some kind of genetic component. I know smart (even book-smart) people who just can’t spell.

          1. londonedit*

            I really think there are different ways people’s brains work with this sort of thing. If someone asks me to spell a word, I can almost see it in my mind’s eye like a picture, and it’s easy for me to spell. My mum, who is in all likelihood dyslexic, has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about when I describe this. If someone asks her to spell a word, she doesn’t have any sort of mental picture of what that word might look like. But if someone asks me to do mental arithmetic, unless it’s really simple I have absolutely no clue – my dad can add up strings of numbers in his head, but it’s like a shutter comes down in my mind and I can’t access the information.

    7. L.H. Puttgrass*

      One of the smartest lawyers I know is awful at spelling and catching grammar-related typos. He just can’t see them. But he’s an excellent writer in the things that matter: organization, clarity, being interesting and engaging to read, etc. The spelling and typo thing is an easy fix—he just has someone proofread everything he writes. There’s no shortage of people who can fix spelling and grammar; being able to write about esoteric subjects in a way that’s educational, interesting, and accurate? That’s a lot rarer, and I’d hate to think that someone who saw this lawyer’s unedited drafts would dismiss his abilities because he gets tripped up over the mechanics.

      Or, to use a different metaphor: a bad carpenter can be a great architect.

    8. ThatGirl*

      My brother in law is an electrical engineer. He’s very good at his job. He also has dysgraphia and can’t spell worth a damn. Similarly my father in law is extremely handy, owns a successful small business related to the construction industry, and has terrible spelling and handwriting (I suspect he also has a learning disorder that was never diagnosed, considering two of his sons do). As long as the plumber, electrician, etc can communicate decently well in general, I would not consider writing skills very important.

    9. lilsheba*

      That’s why they invented schools, so people could learn to write. I tend to think sloppy writers who can’t spell, use grammar or punctuation correctly as less intelligent, and definitely not paying attention to detail. If I was in a hiring position, a resume that was written badly wouldn’t be considered. That kind of thing should be checked and checked again so it’s correct.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        “I tend to think sloppy writers who can’t spell, use grammar or punctuation correctly as less intelligent, and definitely not paying attention to detail.“

        I think you mean that you believe they “are” less intelligent, not “as” less intelligent. Unfortunate lack of attention to detail there.

            1. ThatGirl*

              And pointing out a typo or slightly misused word is not pointing out a glaring flaw; either lilsheba meant “are” or she meant to put “of” earlier in the sentence, either way, the meaning is clear. EventPlannerGal was being snarky, not addressing the actual argument.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                Yes, I was being a little snarky about someone making the argument that poor SPAG indicates a lack of intelligence in a comment which contains multiple SPAG errors, because I think that’s pretty funny. You got me! As you say, the meaning is clear – perhaps in future lilsheba can extend that grace to others rather than writing them off as unintelligent.

              2. lilsheba*

                I missed a word…at least everything is spelled correctly and used correctly. I know how to use there/their/they’re and lose/loose and sale/sell and accepted/excepted, these are the types of mistakes I see on a daily basis everywhere and what would make me think twice about someone if I saw them in a resume.

                1. Coder von Frankenstein*

                  That wasn’t your only mistake. You used “I was” instead of “I were” when speaking in the subjunctive (it should have been “If I *were* in a hiring position”). You use comma splices all over the place.

                  Does this matter? It matters exactly as much as the correct usage of their/their/they’re; no more and no less. Judge not other people’s knowledge of nitpicky rules of grammar, lest ye be judged by those whose knowledge and nitpickiness are both greater than yours.

                2. Coder von Frankenstein*

                  (And, of course, I myself made a mistake typing “their/their/they’re” instead of “there/their/they’re.” Sigh.)

                3. Sasha*

                  Oh right, is this one of those “I simply missed a word out, you have poor spelling/grammar, he/she is unintelligent and doesn’t deserve a job” jokes?

        1. Beany*

          Or perhaps lilsheba meant to put in “of” earlier on: “I tend to think OF sloppy writers […] as less intelligent […]”?

          Most of my mistakes in writing and speaking come from starting a sentence one way, and then changing my mind mid-stream. And then I find I can’t go back to edit (like on this board), which I can understand because it can be abused to twist arguments. It would be nice to have a “grace window” of five minutes or so to fix things, before the comment gets set in stone (WaPo comment boards allow this).

      2. Colette*

        By the same token, would you disqualify anyone who couldn’t calculate large sums in their head, give you an accurate synopsis of their elementary school social studies classes, or play basketball?

        Writing ability only reflects intelligence if you define intelligence by the ability to write well.

      3. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

        This is a very interesting take for you to have, considering that this comment is missing no less than two words.

      4. Not Bragging*

        I have an IQ in the top 1% considered gifted range, was a national merit scholar, attended a top university, and am a C Suite Executive- my spelling is atrocious and my grasp of punctuation rules a little hazy. Your assumption is so wildly out of line with reality.

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          I too have a 1% IQ and was a national merit scholar etc. I am not an executive and my spelling and grammar are generally pretty good – because I read constantly, and thus misspelled words and grammar errors simply ‘look’ wrong. On the flip side, my eye/hand coordination is atrocious, my handwriting unreadable, and I would make a truly terrible welder!

          1. Loredena Frisealach*

            I suppose too I should specify that my written spelling is what is good – oral spelling (e.g. spelling bees) requires that I visualize the word on a mental whiteboard as I spell it out. Because spelling in English especially is truly a matter of pattern matching.

      5. Joanna*

        Lilsheba, i encourage you to Google “twice exceptional” and read up on academically gifted people who also have learning disabilities. Many neurodiverse people excel at many jobs, and your removing them from the job pool is abilist and limits your ability to hire people who will excel at not writing focused jobs. For example, dyslexics often excel in visual spacial tasks, and make excellent graphic designers, and excel in the trades. Personally, I don’t care if my aircraft mechanic can write a pithy memo, if they can fix an aircraft properly.

        1. Selina Luna*

          Twice-exceptional! That’s me!
          I have dyslexia and ADHD (I was diagnosed with the first in kindergarten and the second last year), and I also graduated from college with a double major in English and Education. Teachers get paid crap, but I’ve not started a school year jobless in the past 13 years. And I teach English while having a processing/writing disability that affects my ability to DO English.
          I teach grammar when I see a pattern of misunderstandings that make reading students’ writing difficult. I have posters and handouts of the English language homophones, but I don’t teach those directly. I grade for spelling sometimes, but I don’t teach spelling at the high school level. I do teach vocabulary, but spelling is a matter of memorizing rules, not understanding meanings.

        2. Scarletb*

          I think that describes a colleague of mine! Amazing statistician, sharp as hell, numbers are her BFFs and she is brilliant with them. BUT, also working with dyslexia and is pretty consistently likely to make odd little word-based errors. However, while her role involves writing, it ALSO involves a review process like everything we do; typos or homonym substitutions therefore matter far less in that context than getting the underlying figures (and interpretation, and contextual caveats etc) correct, and she’s always spot-on in that department.

      6. Cake or Death?*

        “That’s why they invented schools, so people could learn to write.”

        You seem to be completely ignorant of the varying levels of quality in education in the US. Around 20% of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. Also, English is one of the most non-sensical hodge-lodge languages that exist.

        It’s very classist to assume that everyone receives the same level of education. Or that everyone had the support and background to do so. ESL, learning disabilities, poverty, foster care, etc…all of these can impact the education a child receives. To write someone off as “less intelligent” for not having great spelling and grammar on a resume for a job that requires zero spelling and grammar skills, is pretty unintelligent if you ask me.

        1. RussianInTeaxs*

          “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”
          –James D. Nicoll

      7. RussianInTeaxs*

        I think you should be saying “are less intelligent”, but who am I to say, just a less intelligent person with English as a second language who’s spelling and grammar aren’t always perfect.

      8. HQetc*

        There are a LOT of assumptions in this comment: All schools meet a minimum standard as far as teaching spelling, grammar, and writing; learning disabilities don’t exist so everyone should be able to “see” a spelling error as long as they look at enough times; intelligence is a single spectrum from “unintelligent” to “intelligent” rather than a multi-dimensional space with different skill sets and capabilities that interact in complex ways; your “missing a word” is a different caliber of mistake with a completely different meaning than someone else’s different type of typo. It’s a lot.
        One of my best friends went to public high school and a state university. Now she teaches art in elementary schools. Her ability to read people (especially children), understand their emotional state, help them to navigate that state with the very limited emotional skills of an elementary schooler, and bring them out of their shell in a way that makes them more confident and comfortable in their own skin blows my f’ing mind. She also can’t spell for shit and her grammar sucks.
        I have a PhD (went to private schools from middle school on, money money money), spell fairly well (at least well enough to catch mistakes even if I can’t always fix the without a lookup), and write pretty dang well (parentheticals aside (a double pun!)).
        Anyone who hired me for her job because I am “more intelligent” would end up with several classes worth of sad, emotionally neglected children with no art skills. Intelligence is not a fucking binary.

      9. Jess*

        Lilsheba: You’re judging people harshly against a standard you don’t appear to meet, what with your multiple grammatical errors.

        Do you believe your errors mean we should disregard your views? Do you believe the errors accurately reflect your intelligence and your attention to detail?

        Context matters, and when applying for jobs, the kind of job and the needs of the job are the context here.

        I don’t say this to be snarky. I’m hoping you can see why, in some situations, dismissive judgments about people based on spelling or grammar are really not fair or rational.

      10. Marzipan*

        Schools don’t magically make disabled people not disabled, though.

        I’m sure you would agree that the following is a pretty horrific take: “That’s why they invented gyms, so people could ensure they have strong bodies. I tend to think of people who can’t walk, use wheelchairs or walking sticks as lazy, and definitely not putting in enough effort. If I were in a hiring position, a person who didn’t stride confidently into the room wouldn’t be considered.” – your comment actually isn’t all that different.

        Disabilities such as dyslexia exist. People can’t will their way out of them, or just decide not to be disabled by working really hard at it. There are aids and strategies they can use to make their disability more manageable, but the disability is not going to go away.

      11. Le Sigh*

        This comment assumes education systems are set up in a way that equally serves all students. The U.S. education system serves many students well, but often takes a cookie-cutter approach that can leave many students, especially those with atypical learning styles or needs, behind. And that doesn’t even get into the racial and economic inequities in our system.

        Your comment frankly reveals a lot of classist and biased beliefs that I think are worth interrogating.

      12. Sasha*

        That’s why they invented schools, so people could learn to write.


        I tend to think sloppy writers who can’t spell, use grammar or punctuation correctly as less intelligent

        Surely those two sentences are mutually exclusive? You do realise not all schools are created equal? If it was a marker of intrinsic intelligence, you wouldn’t need a school to teach it.

        How do you feel about somebody who writes perfectly in their first language (and maybe even their second) but not in English? Are they stupid too?

    10. tallteapot*

      Agreed. I’ll also chime in here–As the parent to a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia–the OP’s belief is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. He has amazing attention to detail, is so good with puzzling through problems and finding solutions, is kind and helpful–but at 12 and half, he still writes his name backwards and even with spellcheck, he spells phonetically. I totally see him going into a ‘out in the field’ sort of job because it’s what he loves. The idea that you wouldn’t care about the content of his experience and wouldn’t bring him in for an interview based on spelling/grammar for a job that doesn’t require those skills in order to be successful–ughhhhhh

    11. Shan*

      My dad was a very sought-after commercial electrician for almost fifty years, and he was also just naturally gifted at math/physics/etc. I know I’m biased, but he was honestly pretty brilliant in that department, pre-dementia. But he also really struggled in school and has terrible spelling and grammar. If employers had judged him on that, they’d have seriously missed out! They needed him to install high-voltage equipment in mines and hospitals, not write essays on it.

  3. Mystic*

    For #1, I know someone who can’t write it spell at all (she’s dyslexic and has a hard time) but she is now a main engineer at a high profile place. Plus, if it’s physical handwriting and not typing, my hand can’t keep up with my brain sometimes.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      This is my eldest nephew (who is in his 20s my god I’m old) to a T.

      He’s never done well at writing, even got into a lot of trouble at school because he got so frustrated at being judged on something he couldn’t really do.

      He’s an electrician now. None of his clients ask him for a writing example first, they just want to know that they’re not gonna get 240v across the body when they hit a light switch :)

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes. I was never formally diagnosed but I am 99% certain I am dyslexic.(I have several family members who have been diagnosed, I slipped through that net at school ) I definitely cannot spell – I read the shape of words, so very often a word looks fine to me even of some of the letters are in the wrong order. (on the other hand, I can sight-read Chaucer with no trouble at all!) I find it easier to spot mistakes when things are typed that when they are handwritten, and spellcheck is very useful and I have my e-mail settings set to auto spellcheck before sending anything to try to make sure that my professional correspondence looks professional . It’s not that I don’t have attention to detail, it’s that there are some details that I literally cannot see even if I am looking directly at them.

      If I know I don’t know how a word is spelled I will look it up, but to do that, you need to know it’s wrong.

      I’m a partner in a law firm and attention to detail is crucial for my job, but it is a different set of skills from spelling or handwriting .

      My handwriting varies a lot depending on what I am doing. My diary is pretty neat, notes I make in court, not so much.

      1. londonedit*

        My mum is the same. Of course because she’s in her seventies, when she was at school she was just labelled ‘slow’ and ‘thick’ and put at the back of the class. So she’s always had a huge confidence issue with writing and spelling, because no one ever helped her with it. She went on to do a vocational course at college and was very good at the resulting job – she got to travel to all sorts of interesting places doing it. But to this day she’s extremely self-conscious about her spelling and will get me or my dad to check emails and letters that she needs to send. It’s such a shame because she’s highly intelligent and is amazing at things like drawing, painting and crafts, but she was written off at primary school because no one had a clue about dyslexia.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Husband is dyslexic, I’m hyperlexic (the running joke is that we average out to normal!) and I’m the one who often has to do a lot of the paperwork round here because he really really struggles with words.

          However, he’s a very VERY good QA tester and accomplished artist in his own time. His mum had to really fight to get him to be ‘allowed’ to do art and stuff at school because in those days if you were labelled ‘thick’ you got put into remedial English classes.

        2. Bagpuss*

          I’m sorry for your mum. I do think schools have come on a fair bit.

          I was fortunate in that I learned to read before I started school, and was academically strong so I didn’t get diagnosed, or leblled as ‘thick’ because I compensated (and because I was in school during the period when the Power That Be decided that spelling was less important. I did use to get told off for making ‘silly mistakes’ because I was ‘supposed to be bright’ so apparently shouldn’t have made spelling mistakes…

    3. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I noted this above, but my BIL is an electrical engineer who has dysgraphia and can’t spell for crap; his dad (my FIL) also can’t spell worth a darn and has terrible handwriting but he’s extremely handy and very smart in general.

  4. New Jack Karyn*

    1) Oh, no. Do not penalize welders for having misspellings on their resumes. You want them to show up each day on time, follow safety requirements, and make clean, dependable welds. You’re not paying them to tend gardens, serve tea, or spell ‘oxyacetylene’.

    1. Copper penny*

      I used to hire welders. There is zero correlation between the spelling and grammar on their resume and welding ability. One of our best welders sent me a picture of a handwritten sheet of paper with company names, dates, and the types of welding for each job.

      Now if your welders and millwrites are failing written tests that’s a different problem, but skill on writing resumes is worthless.

      In these careers they are not taught how to write a resume because a lot of time they don’t need to. We hired a lot of guys on word of mouth. We had to have a resume for our company, but I wrote a lot of them based on conversations.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Even if they are failing written tests, I’d want to look at why – if they know the correct answers but can’t readily read the question, or can’t give the explanation clearly in writing but could tell or show you then it may be that you need to look at how the tests are administered (and if they are external, look at what accommodations are available. Years ago, my mum worked in the special needs section of the local secondary school and in exam season one of her roles was to act as scribe and/or reader for students with dyslexia or other special needs (which as she said, was harder than it looks, because it’s quite difficult to keep a neutral expression and just write exactly what the student says, when you know the right answer and they a are making mistakes), so that the students were tested on what they knew, not on whether they could write clearly / quickly.

        I don’t know how easy it would be to arrange something similar for welders or other employees but I would have thought it might come under reasonable adjustments / accommodations.

        Reminds me of a client I had years ago. He had learning difficulties but had always worked, he worked as a binman (manning a garbage truck)
        He had to give up work when Social Services got involved about his children (which is where I came in) and then when he’s completed the various assessments, courses etc required, wanted to get his old job back.

        They wanted him – they were short staffed, he was a good worker, it’s not a job where they had a lot of applicants. But it’s a council service so there was a standardised application process, with forms to fill in, and he was functionally illiterate – he was completely incapable of filling in the application form.
        (in the end, I did it for him, reading him the questions and writing in his replies, and he then signed and submitted it, but it bugged me then, and does now, that someone who wanted to work, was willing and able to do the job, and was needed, was excluded because of a lack of skills that were not actually relevant to the job. I can’t help wondering how many other employers who need people for ‘unskilled’ jobs miss out on potentially good employees for similar reasons.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        The only correlation would likely between the spelling and grammar on their resume and having someone available to write their resume and formal communication. My husband is a tech and I wrote his resume and I generally dictate his emails. It a “Hey Honey? How should I respond to this? … Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll type that.”
        He has better face-to-face communication skills than I have, and and excellent phone etiquette, but he doesn’t send emails everyday like I do. It’s a form of communication that he has no exposure to.

    2. HBJ*

      And from what I hear, I wouldn’t be penalizing welders, electricians, etc. for almost anything. They are in short supply these days. They can have their pick of jobs, and you’re going to be hurting yourself by eliminating them from your pool.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Well, I’d penalise them for anything regarding bad safety procedures (not wearing a mask, thinking it’s okay to jury rig your kit with spit and wire) but otherwise yeah ;)

      2. banoffee pie*

        Exactly. When I hire tradespeople like locksmiths, electricians etc, I need someone to do the stuff I can’t do for myself, often urgently, and I’m always impressed at their specialist skills. I don’t need help with spelling so why would I care if they can spell ;)

  5. Artemesia*

    #4 yeah — those are exactly the changes that herald mergers, layoffs etc. Especially the very cynical stealing of your PTO. So start thinking about your future and getting a search started AND USE YOUR PTO. Get that crown or other dental work covered by your insurance, get that check up and mammogram you have been procrastinating on.

    I was blindsided by a merger that nearly derailed my career and certainly drastically changed it — you would have thought when people came through our offices putting number stickers for inventory on all the stuff, that it might have seemed obvious — but young and naive I couldn’t imagine that an institution that had existed for 200 years was going to disappear. (and I had moved my husband out of a partnership track job to follow me there)

      1. Hannah Lee*

        The stickers are fine, it’s when the ask you to hop on the moving cart and hand you your photos and potted plants that you have to worry!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Many years ago I managed a chain convenience store. The home office closed that store. The procedure was to keep this a dark secret from the employees in the store, on the assumption that they would rob it blind. Instead, a special crew would show up in the morning to do inventory and take the place apart. When that day came and my district manager walked in with the crew, my comment was I was wondering when they were going to show up. How did I know? For one thing, I can read a balance sheet and knew the location wasn’t making money. But when the credit card machine was disconnected a few days earlier, I knew the closure was imminent. So my distract manager got a panicked look, as he expected the inventory to be gutted and the cash missing. He was flabbergasted that they weren’t. I explained to him that I am not a thief. He then offered me a different position, but by this time I was done with working for these people.

  6. nnn*

    #1: There is a difference between attention to detail and skill at a particular task.

    For example, parts of my job involve writing and editing, and I have the attention to detail and the writing and editing skills to do it well.

    However, I lack the skill to do anything physical or tangible, by which I mean I’m simply not able to make my hands make my tools do the work perfectly. I can’t wrap a gift tidily. I can’t wash the windows without leaving streaks. I can’t make my eyeliner symmetrical.

    I have the attention to detail to see that the giftwrap is lumpy and the windows are streaky and the eyeliner is asymmetrical, but, no matter what I do, I can’t make my hands make the tools fix it. Even if I watch all the youtube videos, I can’t replicate the result in real life with my own hands. I just . . . don’t have that level of control over tangible things.

    If my brain can work this way, surely some people’s brains can work the opposite way, giving them the ability to do their trade well, but lacking perfect control over written language.

    1. Redd*

      For a couple of years after my last bad concussion, I really struggled with language. I mixed up words, I couldn’t spell worth a darn, and my sentence structure was a complete mess. But I was still meticulous with my actual job, I just needed a little grace when it came to emails or slower speech.

    2. Tali*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if many people’s brains were able to easily comprehend and fix “real” problems like the gift wrapping not sitting nicely or the window is still streaky, but can’t comprehend or just don’t care about abstract language mistakes like your vs. you’re. These kind of mistakes rarely obscure meaning, while a streaky window or loose screw indicates a poorly-done job.

    3. Caroline Bowman*

      That’s very true of course, and many people struggle. The thing is, you are aware of your various challenges and presumably if it were important, you’d get help / someone to wrap the gift / sense-check the CV before submitting it. I know I would.

      I would definitely NOT dismiss an application because of a few spelling errors or typos of course, but it would make me query the attention to detail if there were lots and lots – which is obviously quite subjective.

      1. ecnaseener*

        And if this were an office job or something writing-focused, I’d say absolutely get someone to proofread your resume. But for a welder, I can’t blame them for assuming writing skills wouldn’t matter – as others have said, they probably don’t even submit a resume for most welding jobs.

      2. H2*

        But, again, you are making the assumption that these welders have the same background as you do. For a lot of people, it’s not as simple as just asking a friend or family member. A lot of them may be the first people in their families to get any kind of post secondary education. A lot of them may be first generation English speakers in their family. And having someone professional proofread your resume costs money! And time! And it implies a level of savvy that largely comes from having white collar parents.

        1. Cat Lover*

          (or they could just be weak with spelling and grammar! not everyone needs a sympathetic background story to explain every life detail.)

          1. Chris G*

            How do you think “weak with spelling and grammar” happens??

            There’s definitely class lines involved, and those are usually parallel to race and immigrant status.

            If you’re not willing to see the patterns, you’re part of the problem.

    4. Saraquill*

      A teapot startup contacted me, asking if I was willing to apply as a teapot consultant. They sent me an application I could not physically fill out, even after reading the instructions several times. I asked for clarification, and they withdrew the offer, saying the question and it’s minor typo was proof I don’t have the attention to detail needed to consult. Note their email said I was welcome to ask anything.

      This was a few weeks ago, and I remain insulted they turned me down for reasons unrelated to my skills.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Super obnoxious after *inviting* questions! I’d say you dodged a bullet – imagine how that boss must treat employees when they have questions.

    5. RussianInTeaxs*

      High-five over inability to wrap gifts. I’ve been taught multiple times, and it’s just Does Not Work for me.
      Gift bags FOREVER.

    6. I'm just here for the cats!*

      This is a great point. There are other ways people can be good at details that don’t include writing

      It also makes me think of immigrants or people whose 1st language isn’t English. You can speak perfect English work really great at being a plumber or welder or whatever but not be able to write well.

  7. MeepMeep*

    #1 – I’m a stickler for spelling and proofreading, and even I wouldn’t pick on a welder for having typos or spelling errors in their resume. That’s not at all correlated to job performance.

    If you’re hiring lawyers or editors or proofreaders, though, then yeah, any resume with a typo or spelling error goes straight in the round file.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. If you’re hiring a craftsman or a tradesman extremely good written skills are unlikely to be essential for their job. The best painter / handyman I know is extremely dyslexic and struggles with writing stuff down. It does not affect his ability to paint and fix things and he has a brilliant practical mind.

      In the UK at least people often go into jobs like welding or plumbing because they’re not enjoying more academic pursuits. So I would not expect from them brilliantly crafted writing.

      1. Batgirl*

        I teach the lowest set English class in a boy’s school. They’re extremely bright but there’s a lot of dyslexia, ADHD and plain old “I cant concentrate or take anything in if I have to sit down and not move”. A lot of them are aiming for jobs the OP describes.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          “I cant concentrate or take anything in if I have to sit down and not move”

          Oh man I wish my nephew had had a teacher like you who understood that that was a thing! He’d get so frustrated at having to sit still and stare at things he couldn’t understand that he became very disruptive.

          1. Batgirl*

            That’s very kind but I haven’t yet figured out how to teach writing skills while moving! Maybe this year!

    2. Stitch*

      I’m a lawyer myself and our hiring committee will 100% toss someone’s application for repeated errors. My big advice: Word has an exemption in spell-check for all caps lettering but you can and should turn that exemption off. It’s extremely common to see spelling errors and typos in things that are all caps.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        My dark confession: At one point my resume had “summery” where it should have had “summary.” “Summery” is a real word, so it wasn’t highlighted and I simply overlooked it. Correcting that was the one piece of unambiguously good resume advice I have ever received. Another piece of advice was to change where I used “effect” as a verb. I pointed out that “effect” has a verb sense and I was using it correctly. The response was yes, but will the person reading it know that? It pained me, but upon reflection I concluded this likely was a good idea.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I routinely mess up ‘viscous’ and ‘vicious’ – which the spellcheck of course lets me get away with although when you’re describing certain materials it really does make a difference!

          1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            definitely and defiantly get me every time. (And autocorrect has largely given up on me) I never got high marks in spelling tests despite having over all good grades. And I tend to spell words the way I say them and I have a Midwestern accent so we say a bunch of words wrongly. Also I broke my right hand the year we were supposed to learn cursive in elementary school so I can now right equally sloppy and semi illegible with both hands. But neatly with neither. Teacher once made me rewrite a paper 3 times before he realized that yes indeed that was as good as my handwriting was going to get. Despite all of this I get high marks on my yearly reviews at work.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I routinely typo “complaint” as “compliant.” This can be embarrassing in legal writing, so I look for this one in particular to make sure it doesn’t slip through.

            2. Loredena Frisealach*

              It’s then and than for me! I mostly trained myself that when you effect a change it has an affect, and other common homonyms fall into typo territory for me — but I regularly use then in lieu of than.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I have never, ever spelt “received” correctly on the first try. Ever. And I think I type “we have received your enquiry” about eight times a day.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I always struggle with “restaurant” because I feel like the way I pronounce it, the “u” sounds like it should come after the second “a” rather than the first (and then I get worried about whether I am pronouncing it weirdly?)

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I expect a very high standard of written communication from a law firm, not as much from an electrician.

        But I don’t generally expect a law firm to be up to date on all the current safety codes, so they’re not really comparable.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yep, when I was still in college I found that I had a typo in my “EDUCATION” header which was really quite embarrassing haha. I actually didn’t know that was an exemption you could turn on and off!

  8. Mary*

    OP#3, in addition to Alison’s feedback, I wonder if you are the strongest person at your role, so instead of managing and developing the skills or your teammates, your boss is taking advantage of your strong work ethic and making you output more to make up for your teams underput.

    1. Emily*

      Mary: Yeah, I have a strong suspicion this is it. To be clear, I think OP should definitely follow Alison’s advice to make sure there’s not a piece of this that OP is missing, but I strongly suspect this is a “rewarding the hard workers with more work” scenario.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        And if this is the case, the manager should clearly state if there is a real reward (a promotion? a bonus?) or just more work indefinitely.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          That’s another issue with individual goals. At a previous company I was getting 4/5s consistently for my performance reviews.

          That meant I got about 1% more raise. However the next year my 4 performance became the baseline for me getting a 3. That meant that after a few years I was producing about triple the product as people who were getting a better raise then me because they had beaten their individual goal and I had only managed to get to 90% of my goal.

          1. Loredena Frisealach*

            Yes, I had a manager who straight out told me that as I was more intelligent than my peers and ‘capable of so much more’ that I had to do substantially better than them to get a ‘meets expectations’ versus their exceeds. He failed to grasp how incredibly demotivating he was as a manager.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, I realised I was producing double what my colleague produced, in less time. No pay rise or even bonus on the cards so I just made sure to do the minimum required and then started doing my volunteer work at the office, and/or listened to music.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      I definitely got whiffs of – the goal should always be greater then it was last year. Which often leads to unattainable goals. Which then leads to people dismissing the goals because they know it’s not attainable. It can also be a tactic to keep raises low if the goals are used to calculate your raise.

    3. INFJedi*

      Yes, OP#3 reminds me of a friend of mine: he was working for a Printer/Publishing firm (wide-format, magazines, banners, and the likes) and worked on a quite large press machine. He was in his early thirties and was the most productive of all the printing staff. The thing was that he ran from one side of the machine to the other side. After a few years he started to get pain in his hip and knees.

      The thing was, his co-workers were between the ages of 40-55 and worked slower than him. So he decided to no-longer run but walk so as to relieve the stress on his hip and knees. And he was still the most productive of the team. But guess who got in trouble because his targets were lower than before? My friend had recurring appointments with his physical therapist and after a while he (finally) realised that his job wasn’t worth this… suffering for a job? No accommodations and just going to physical therapy because the job was ruining his health. While he was still one of the most productive ones and his (older) co-workers never got in trouble. (BTW this is not a jab at “older” workers. In fact, to me they were smarter than my friend and never tried to achieve the ridiculous high targets management wanted and definitely never put their health in jeopardise).

      It took some time, but my friend finally quit.

      His mental and physical health changed for the better in no time, and after a short break of about a year where he also followed a course that would help him in a new field to work (We have decent social welfare that helps in cases like this), he got a better paying job and he no longer has to run around and reach ridiculous high targets.

  9. anone*

    LW1: “Attention to detail” is too generic of a skill. Attention to *which* details? In what context? A surgeon might have incredible attention to detail when it comes to her ability to do her job but not know her comma splices from her subordinate clauses. Someone might be extremely attentive to remembering people’s names, family members, hobbies, and important life events but have trouble keeping track of numbers in any order (or vice versa). Someone might have a policy handbook memorized but struggle to read a room. These are all different kinds of details someone might attend to. No one can attend to them all. Don’t read too far into things that are abstracted from the actual skills you need people to have in the context you need to have them. (Source: someone who used to think I was “detail-oriented” but it turned I had an anxiety disorder and hypervigilance.)

    1. Batgirl*

      I think the OP is assuming that everyone knows how to proofread, edit and has the skills to correct, which as an English teacher I actually find quite endearing.

      1. Amaranth*

        I think some people see it as lazy or uncaring not to ‘just run spellcheck’ because its ubiquitous in *their* job, and they don’t make the leap that not everyone has that in their toolbox.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          And spellcheck isn’t a great tool either! I mean, my grammar is absolutely appalling and I can get words that are spelt similar wrong when I type and it doesn’t pick up on that.

          (Although how I managed to get A grades in English at school and still have no idea what a noun is, when to use ; or : is a mystery for the ages)

          1. Bagpuss*

            Well, there was a whole chunk of time where those things were not taught in English schools and didn’t form part of the exams, which could explain a lot. And of course means that there are now an entire generation of teachers who weren’t taught it.

            I was one of the lucky people who went through most of my school career not being taught them and then took my GCSEs just as they decided they did matter and you would lose marks for getting them wrong, so that was fun.

            Bizarrely, while I was never taught any English grammar, and couldn’t identify a fronted adverbial at 100 paces, we were taught grammar in French, which means that somethings I can identify and define but only if I mentally translate them into French first.

            Because I was always a voracious reader, I am pretty good at spotting grammatical mistakes and know when something is ‘wrong’, but mostly not *why* it’s wrong .

            I am, oddly, better at grammar than spellkng in terms of spotting what is wrong and correcting it.

            1. londonedit*

              Yes, I was part of the years of ‘Let’s not stifle children’s creativity by making them stick to things like grammar – as long as it’s understandable, it’s fine!’ teaching. Luckily for me, I went to a very small village primary school where the teachers were happy to ignore this and teach us spelling and grammar as part of our English lessons. No nonsense like ‘fronted adverbials’ (I’m an editor and proofreader and couldn’t tell you what a fronted adverbial is) but nouns, verbs, adjectives, the correct use of apostrophes, the difference between your/you’re, their/there/they’re, its/it’s, etc. And I’m so glad they did! But other kids in my school had absolutely no clue about any of that. They passed their GCSEs because it wasn’t an important part of the marking scheme, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing the job I am now if I hadn’t been taught that stuff when I was 7 years old.

              1. Bagpuss*

                *grin* I had about about 18 months at a small village school where we had weekly spelling tests (also mental maths tests) so I have a little cache of words I did learn how to spell. I suspect if I had been there longer or when I was the right age for the middle class I might well have been taught some grammar, too.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I wonder if we’re from the same generation? The top sets in English at GCSE level were never taught rules of grammar or punctuation – as I recall we spent most of the time reading Shakespeare. The lower sets *were*.

              Uploaded a finished piece onto AO3 the other day and got reminded, again, that I really need an editor…

              1. Batgirl*

                Grammar was absent in the UK curriculum from the 70s until very recently. I’ve learned it all while teaching!

                1. banoffee pie*

                  I think you could only lose something like 10 marks out of 400 in GCSE English, no matter how bad your spelling/grammar was, when I did the exam in the UK (early 2000’s). It’s more strict now I think, Michael Gove is a bit of a grammar stickler apparently and he pushed for it. I don’t feel too confident with English grammar and would have liked a better handle on the rules if I’m honest.

            3. turquoisecow*

              When I learned about direct and indirect objects in Spanish class (when to use le and lo) the teacher had to first stop and teach us the concept in English because we had never learned it. Grammar details like that are much more useful when you’re learning a new language.

            4. Sasha*

              I learnt all my English grammar in French and German lessons too! And then had to do a quick crash-course when I became an EFL teacher (the EFL course does not teach you English! Just teaching techniques). If you are having to explain why you use present continuous and not present perfect in a given context, it helps to know what those actually are.

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            Did anyone else ever get the “spell chequer” poem? I still have it memorized from grade school. The first line is “Eye halve a spell chequer”.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Yup, I remember one from elementary school that starts something like “Prays the Lord for the spell chequer / That came with our pea sea! Mecca mistake and it puts you rite / Its sew easy two ewes, you sea.”

          3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            I suspect that while you might have looked blankly at a quiz that said “circle the nouns on this list,” you still know how to use them, in the ways that are normal and expected in English. Children speak clearly and grammatically long before they are taught any grammar more formal than that the plural of “child” is “children” instead of “childs.” All those people who “don’t know grammar” know enough that they would say “I don’t know grammar” rather than “I know grammar don’t,” and “a green car” rather than “a car green.”

          4. Kal*

            With things like not knowing what a noun is, I like to say that people can know how to use words without knowing their names. Just like how people generally know how to use their hands without being able to name all of the bones and muscles. Or how you can know how to drive a car without naming all of the parts of the engine and drivetrain.

            Some people are better at understanding how to use language if they can make it more scientific and formulaic, which learning about classes of words and grammar rules can help with. I work that way a lot of the time. But often, you don’t need to know the science behind something to know how to use it. Language is especially good for this sort of thing, since humans are naturally programmed for language, and the science comes afterwards with people trying to understand and describe the rules that already developed naturally.

            1. RussianInTeaxs*

              English is not my first language, and I grew up speaking and writing in Russian. I was 20 when I moved, so Russian is my true mother tongue.
              I had good grades in Russian language and lit while in school, and I absolutely cannot explain or remember most of the grammatical rules anymore. I remember most spelling rules, there aren’t that many in Russian vs English, but grammar? Cases? Tenses? What are those?
              I just speak the language. I can see when it’s not right or awkward, but I cannot explain why. It’s just not how it suppose to be.

              1. Sasha*

                Every newbie EFL language assistant discovers this very quickly! Speaking the language as a first language does not equal being able to teach it.

        2. Canadian Valkyrie*

          Also spell check doesn’t find everything; I’ll get corrected on grammar things by a person who’s whole life is editing that looked correct to me. Sometimes the wording is ok according to the word processor but don’t make sense in reality.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah, as a proofreader I learned to hunt down the “pubic service” kind of typos that the spellcheck will blithely approve.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes. I am great at spelling, noticing where in an Excel table there is a comma instead of a decimal point that’s messing with the formula, and cataloguing according to specific standards.

      In crafts, it’s really different. I can tell colours apart well, but cannot cut in a straight line. I can match jewellery faultlessly with clothing but when I paint a wall, it’s messy somehow, even with a single colour.

      Ask my mother about how clean I keep my apartment (don’t, please, she is working really hard on not criticising me for what she considers an unholy mess).

      All these can go under attention to detail. A painter would think I am sloppy. Our financial department at work loves me for making the smallest number of possible mistakes.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Yes, I’m exactly the same. Cannot cut or paint a straight line, but can catch all kinds of details in someone’s writing.

  10. KR*

    Hi OP 1,
    From my experience working with electric technicians and others in the trades, they most important communication they will do is completing work orders and providing status updates to management and support staff. In my experience, management are the people who provide updates to stakeholders and/or lenders. The electrician’s job is to pay attention to detail on the wiring, not the finer points of grammar.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      I work with plumbers, and 100% agree. My job is to quote/ order material lists for jobs. If the words are passably close (ie – cuppling, furnko, etc), then they’ve done their job well enough that I can do mine.

      OP1, when we’re hiring we have the plumbers do short skills tests – make a material list to install a 20gallon hot water heater, name the parts of a flushometer, how would you diagnose X issue. We also ask how they like to organize their trucks – this is by far the #1 indicator (as far as I’ve experienced) of whether you have a neat and organized tech.

  11. Drag0nfly*

    OP #1, your concept for the day is “domain knowledge.” Martha Stewart’s domain is cooking and baking. You don’t evaluate her scones on how well she can direct movies. Martin Scorsese’s domain is filmmaking. You don’t evaluate his movies on how well he makes soufflés.

    What do your would-be welders know about welding? *That* is what you should focus on. Now, if *you* lack domain knowledge of welding, your skills at spelling and grammar simply do not equip you to evaluate how well a prospective welder attends to *welding* details.

    I’m wondering if you’re focusing on something so irrelevant as spelling and grammar because you’re unable to evaluate whether the tradespeople are good at their trades? If so, shouldn’t you should leave the selection process to the senior tradespeople, while you focus on the personnel whose job primarily involves written communication?

    To be honest, a lot of the articles I see about the broken employment process bring up the mentality you’re exhibiting here. Perfectly good candidates are excluded because of irrelevant, nitpicky nonsense by screeners who don’t understand what they’re screening for. Here’s one on by Harvard on hidden workers (see the executive summary if you don’t have time for the article).

    1. Batgirl*

      This is a great point about managers having familiarity with the skill they’re hiring for. It is the bane of my partner’s life since he’s an IT professional.

      1. Andy*

        Many IT companies have tech people doing large role in the hiring. With HR pushed away as much as possible and management having only one of voices in the decision.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        It’s definately why I make a big deal about asking most of the questions in interviews for my team – I *did* work my way up the ranks and can still fix your machine if need be. Some of the HR bods don’t like this at all.

        1. Bagpuss*

          This reminds me of something my dad talked about. He worked for a large organisation which dealt with a lot of defence contracts, and a fair number of their management were ex-services.

          My dad was on the interview panel for someone for his own department, so they needed someone who could code, and do all the proper, in depth tech stuff.

          He said he spent a lot of time pointing out to them that marking people down because they hadn’t polished their shoes / worn a tie for the interview / been in the cadets was not optimal if they wanted people who could actually do the job.

          Fortunately, he had sufficient clout that they listened to him, but he did say that he had to have variations on the same conversation almost every time.

      3. The OTHER other*

        This also applies to the letter from the writer being pressured to make more teapots, despite already producing more than 2x the teapots of anyone else on the team.

        I found myself wondering if the manager had ever made teapots, and if so did HE average two teapots a week? Not every manager came up through the ranks, but IME the best ones have a successful background in doing the same work as their reports.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah and mine: as a translator, I produce work that my clients are simply not equipped to assess.

    2. ToniLeeJordana*

      I think this is unnecessarily unkind. The OP is receiving good advice above, and clearly she’s open to different perspectives on this; that’s why she’s written in. The question, I think, is a valid one. She’s asking if ‘attention to detail’ in one area has universal implications across a variety of skill sets–she’s not asking if a welder should have the same spelling and grammar skills as someone whose job focuses on written communication. We can all agree that the answer is ‘no’ without being snarky.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I don’t find this unkind or snarky, but I could be reading it differently. I think Dragonfly is just pointing out that if OP is, say, a GM who does invoicing and proposals, or HR who works in benefits, they may be grading on a different rubric that will inadvertently screen out some great welders.

        1. Cat Lover*

          I thought the tone was very nasty. Especially with “To be honest, a lot of the articles I see about the broken employment process bring up the mentality you’re exhibiting here

        2. Cat Lover*

          Ugh, I hit submit too early.

          Anyway, it read very much as “you, specifically, are the problem, shame on you”. Like????? We have no idea if LW is HR, a CEO, etc. Or if they have been hiring for 1 year or 10 years.

          LW come here for advice, not to be admonished for asking questions.

          1. Kal*

            I’m not sure how “you might be falling into the same trap that others have and it may be leading you to missing out on people who would make for excellent employees” is somehow nasty? Warning someone that they may be falling into a trap so that they can reevaluate and avoid that trap is helpful advice!

          2. Starbuck*

            We have to be able to talk about systemic issues and acknowledge that people might be playing a role in them, even if unintentionally/unknowingly, without that being taken as a “nasty” personal attack. It’s really not!

            1. Cat Lover*

              I don’t disagree with what the comment was saying! I disagree with the way it was written. Many other comments on this post said the same thing and we’re kinder about it.

    3. hbc*

      To be fair, oftentimes what separates a good employee from a great one is the supposedly “irrelevant, nitpicky nonsense.” I’ve had the welders who make great product but can’t fill out legible paperwork for how much scrap they generated or clearly communicate to the engineers what needs to change in the design to make them more efficient. Of course I’ll take a good welder with bad writing over a bad welder with good writing every single time, and an impressively formatted blue collar resume means “I’ve got white collar friends or family helping with my job search” at least as often as it means “I have excellent written skills”—but that doesn’t mean it’s useless to have a welder capable of writing something up that I can pass straight to the engineers.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I can see that. But that skill will present itself on the job over time. If you just need experienced/trained welders tomorrow, don’t bar any for their grammar. The ones who can do *both* will rise, get better assignments, etc.

      2. Batgirl*

        Yeah I honestly think a lot of competent application materials are filled out or checked over by the family scribe. Which does further disadvantage disadvantaged families.

    4. Cat Lover*

      Why are commenters on this site getting so nasty to LW’s with actual, legit questions?

      Not everything is a personal slight. Hiring is hard and LW is clearly seeking advice.

      Also, is spelling/grammar “nit-picky nonsense”? It’s low on the priority list for welders, yes, but it’s also written (and verbal) communication is important in EVERY job. Should OP exclude resumes for welders with spelling errors? No. Should we call LW the devil for asking a question? Also no!!

      1. Eden*

        Yeah. She’s not “focusing” on it, she’s asking whether or not she should consider it, presumably along other factors. I think the topic must hit close to home for a lot of people which is completely understandable but it doesn’t mean OP os a terrible person for asking how to do hiring in what sounds like a newer field to her.

          1. banoffee pie*

            To be fair to OP, sometimes people are ‘advised’ to discard resumes for all sorts of reasons, so maybe she thinks poor spelling should be one of them? I don’t think we should be too harsh on her. She could also be very new to hiring and seeking advice

      2. Kal*

        If you are seeing comments calling the LW the devil and going that far against the rules in these comments, you should report it so it can be removed. The page on the commenting rules for the site (a link is helpfully provided above the box for adding a new comment) will help you know how to make sure messages that are breaking the rules are noticed.

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        Literally no one called the OP the devil? I don’t see anyone being harsh to them, simply pointing out things that they may not have considered in terms of spelling/grammar and how it can relate to classism.

      4. Neptune*

        Can I ask if you have any actual advice or commentary for the OP? It’s just that I can see your comments all over this post scolding others for their tone and accusing them of calling the OP the devil and so on, and it seems like you’re a lot more concerned with calling out any hint of what you perceive as virtue-signalling than actually giving advice. You seem very frustrated with overall trends in commenting on this site but I’m not sure it’s terribly relevant to this particular letter.

  12. Despachito*

    OP 1- I have a friend who is a very good teapot maker, really knows his stuff, knows how to calculate dimensions, thinks ahead, is reliable… and is a very lousy writer (when he once had to write a report, he huffed and puffed and sweated and had to ask someone to write it for him). It does not affect his teapot making one bit.

    If I were you and were hiring people who are not going to use their writing at all, I’d always think of him.

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      OP 1- Allison gives good advice. If your looking for someone in a skilled trade, hire based on their skills, not how pretty their writing, grammer or speech is. Although Im sure there are vo-tech and college classes on the subjects, I would bet that many of your potential hires learned on the job. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, Im not well spoken, my hand writing is horrible, and I cant spell for crap, but I’ve been told I can weld dang good, among other things. Hire based on the skills you need them to do unless its a vital part of the job.

  13. Baron*

    I just wanted to say that, while I agree with all the advice #1 is getting, I also feel real empathy for them. A lot of the advice out there for applying to jobs is focused on office jobs, and so I think a lot of people have internalized the importance of a well-written cover letter or resume for every job. But it’s not important to every job.

    The best employee I’ve ever hired sent me a cover letter full of misused homophones. I was put off. But then I realized that this had nothing to do with this particular job. I assessed the person’s technical skills, and they were great. I hope the same is the case for your welder.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Yes, I don’t think the pile-on is deserved. She’s looking for ways to predict attention to detail in her hiring process and asked a question.
      Perhaps readers have other ideas of how she could screen for this, since writing isn’t an effective way.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Im really not seeing a pile-on, so much as I’m seeing a bunch of polite-yet-emphatic explanations. Maybe a few rude comments in the mix, but very few. I didn’t see any downright attacking OP or anything like that. People care about this and have a lot of thoughts about it.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I’ve been involved in hiring plenty of non-office staff – albeit in an events/festivals context, so mostly either hospitality (chefs, waitstaff, ushers) or security. I would say that the main things I would look at if I was in doubt about a messy application are as follows:

        – is the application complete/all the requested materials provided, even if they aren’t spelled terribly well? Are the errors basically cosmetic or does there seem to be an actual issue with comprehension?
        – are they on top of all their documentation/certificates (for us that would be things like SIA cards, food safety certificates etc and I presume there are many more for the skilled trades) and can they provide them promptly when asked? Are they organised?
        – their references/referrals/word of mouth – when it comes to more skilled positions we are often hiring from quite a small pool so you do get to know people by reputation. It sounds like OP doesn’t usually hire for this type of position so I don’t know how familiar they’ll be with that kind of thing, but the references will help.

        I’m sure there are other things I’m forgetting as I haven’t done this in a while, but those would be my main ones.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      The broader point is that a lot of advice may be good within a specific domain but terrible in another domain, and yet couched as universal truth. I see this routinely in discussions with the self-publishing writing community. The bulk of self-published books are commercial genre fiction. Discussions within the community are aimed at that. This is perfectly fine for most purposes. The relevant domain is implied. But taken at face value, there are many absurdities. I nearly choked when I saw someone assert that no book is worth paying $10 for. I was currently reading a magisterial history of Christianity, which clearly was the result of decades of scholarship. Ten dollars for this would have been a steal. But the person who said this was thinking of a novel intended to provide the reader with a few hours’ diversion.

      1. quill*

        As someone who has been staring with terror at publishing for a long time, the person who thinks that you should never spend $10 on a genre book is also way off base. The reason book prices haven’t gone up at the same rate as everything else since the 90’s is the typical Amazon / Walmart problem of trying to undersell everyone else to control the market.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          The people outraged by that price are writing the modern version of the old dime novels. The price is even about the same, once you adjust for inflation. I would be miffed if I paid $10 for one of those.

          As for books in general, the underlying issue is that demand has been flat while supply has sky rocketed. Back around 1990 or so, a big store like Borders carried about one-quarter of all books in print. That is astounding. What changed? Partly it was the rise of the self-publishing crowd resulting in a lot of books entering the market, but this is only within the past decade or so.

          The bigger issue is that more people are writing without any real expectation of making a living off it. My book barely brings in beer money. And I am OK with this. Money wasn’t my motivation. On the publishers’ side, many (not all) houses have taken a spaghetti-on-the-wall approach: cut overhead as much as possible, publish a boatload of books, and hope that a few do really well.

          The final shift, this one over the past two decades or so, is that “in print” and “out of print” don’t really mean anything anymore. With the old offset printing technology the per-copy cost was low, but there was a large up-front setup cost. There was a lot of guesswork on setting print runs. Print too many and you are paying to keep a bunch of books in your warehouse. Print too few and you have to do another print run with that up-front cost, and in the meantime you are losing sales. Once you sell what you have in the warehouse, the decision is whether to do another print run or let the book go out of print. Publishers nowadays only use offset printing on books they think are a sure thing. For everything else uses newer technology, essentially high-end printers. The per-copy cost is higher than offset printing, but the set-up cost is much lower, essentially creating the computer file, and you only have to do it once. So you can do small print runs, down even to a single copy. Warehousing is much less of an issue, and there is no real reason to let a book go out of print. The result is that essentially every book published this millennium is still in print, where in the old days there was a constant churn of books falling out of pring.

    3. Canadian Valkyrie*

      It makes sense what you’re saying; we’re taught all the time that flawless writing is some be all and end all and some how proves what a good successful person you are. Though there’s tons of contexts where it doesn’t matter but if you’ve been told it matters so much, it’s hard to change that mentality and think bad grammar doesn’t = lack of attention detail because that’s what we’re told it means.

      1. Cat Lover*

        It also hard because one of the first things (if not the first thing) hirers see from an applicant is a resume and/or cover letter.

  14. gimmeausername*

    Lw4, More relevant if you are in Europe but double check local laws. It may be legally required for your company to pay out PTO (definatly is in EU)

    1. blackcat lady*

      I came here to say the same thing! Check your state laws. Many states require your unused PTO be paid out when you leave.

    2. Alice*

      It absolutely is in Europe, but maybe OP would rather use their vacation time than cash it out. I got a nice payout when I changed jobs but I’d rather have had the chance to enjoy the time off, unfortunately I didn’t plan enough in advance.

      1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        All else being equal, I would prefer vacation days vs a cash out. But in the case of a potential (not sure either way) layoff, I wouldn’t want to burn all my time bumming around the house, only to not get laid off and then not be able to go on any real vacations.

        That said, in LW4’s case, I 100% would be using up as much PTO as I could, just because of the terrible policy change.

  15. Andy*

    LW 1: both the question and answer reminds me the “I don’t hire unlucky people” essay. It is primary about programming jobs, but its general point is about dangers of hiring on signals unrelated to actual real performance.

  16. Green great dragon*

    #1, as a counterpoint: I am my office’s unofficial proofreader because I’m good at grammar and good at spotting errors in written text. But I am absolutely not a details person.

    1. Carlie*

      I can write a flawless letter, and then get the address wrong, forget to buy stamps for two days, lose the stamps, then leave the envelope in my car another three days before I manage to mail it.

    2. MeepMeep*

      Same here. I’m hyperlexic, and can spot typos and spelling errors at a glance. I’ve been this way since the age of 3. My resume has no spelling errors.

      When I was working as a mechanical engineer (a role for which I was badly suited), I messed up some sheetmetal part design badly enough that a whole bunch of sheetmetal had to be thrown out – the fastener holes were in the wrong place and the device just couldn’t be screwed together. I just didn’t see it.

      I’m a lawyer now and find that it suits my natural capabilities much better.

      1. A Person*


        How have I never seen this word before, nor thought of it myself? Because I think it fits me too. I can glance at a page in a book or magazine and have my eye fall right on the typo. How do I do it? I don’t know, but I try to use this superpower only for good. (In my current job, I’m not actually writing very much, but I’m double-checking other people’s html coding before our project lead gets it. How can other people not see the patterns that are really clear to me? I don’t know, but it’s nice to have a useful skill.)

        1. A Person*

          (And now that I’ve read up a bit, I think maybe I jumped the gun. But I’m still so happy to have learned about this. Thank you, Meep.)

  17. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

    OP #2- a few years ago, I worked for a big llama training middleman organisation, where people would use our website to book their trainings. My job was sourcing the companies to train the llamas, and negotiate pricing and service. I really enjoyed it! After my manager went on mat leave, a new manager came in and decided to massively increase the number of companies we had on board. Our targets were increased – in fact we didn’t have targets before, just to make sure we had enough llama trainers who provided to good training at a reasonable price! Turns out the new manager had promised the company that we would bring on 1000 new trainers in a year, not understanding that we didn’t actually have enough business to sustain that amount of supply. Trainers who has been getting 100 bookings a week were getting 5 (and were not happy with this!)

    I tried every way possible to explain that this was not a good idea, and we were ruining our relationships with our key trainers by taking business from them, and also risking breaking our own contractual agreements, but to no avail. I ended up leaving, because I couldn’t sit there and justify all these changes to my suppliers everyday, just because my boss refused to go back to the top level and admit that what she had promised wasn’t actually feasible, considering the amount of business we had coming in.

  18. UKgreen*

    Incidentally, my husband runs a hospitality business. He gets a LOT of applicants for jobs like waiter, barista, chef etc., and there is ABSOLUTELY a correlation between those who submit sloppy, poorly written applications and those who are sloppy, poorly presented, late for work, not good with basic details like food hygiene etc.

    He wouldn’t judge an applicant for a few spelling mistakes, but he’s learned quickly that if a CV or covering letter is LITTERED with errors, or the cover letter is missing altogether, or people communicate like this: ‘hop u got my app, can i get a trial shift man thx’ that he won’t be bothering to interview them!

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I think a lot does depend on the number/degree of mistakes and if it seems like the person can otherwise follow directions. I’ve seen many of the types of CV you’re talking about and I do also hesitate over the really egregious ones, but things like missing cover letters/incomplete applications/applying through the wrong channels/being inappropriately casual would all be problems anyway even if it was all spelled correctly so I don’t think it’s just the SPAG errors that indicate an issue. All the OP says is that there’s “more mistakes” so it’s hard to know how bad we’re talking.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I think it is likely true that most people who work sloppily also write sloppily. It probably doesn’t go in the other direction that everyone who writes with apparent carelessness is careless.

    3. Pocket Mouse*

      To be fair, with regard the correlation your husband observes, it seems there are many roles in the hospitality business where the work output is experience-oriented, rather than product-oriented. Applicants who submit sloppy materials, skip requested/required steps, or communicate poorly aren’t reading their audience (the hiring manager in this case) well enough to tailor their presentation to what their audience wants, would find helpful or polished, or is specifically looking for, when reading the audience and facilitating their experience is kind of a necessary component of the roles they’re applying for.

      I’d bet some of those applicants are absolute wizards at, say, fixing up cars or crafting with textiles.

    4. duck*

      I work in hospitality and I literally don’t even read resumes or interview people exactly.

      I guess I scan the resume to see if they have some experience but my basic attitude is to just give whoever shows up a go really. You don’t know until you work with them. The only thing I’d ask is how many hours they are looking for and what their availability is.

      If you show up for an interview you’ve pretty much got a trial. The interview is to check if you exist. To lose the interview you’d basically have to spit on me or something during it.

      A 2 hours trial and your first few shifts tells me more than any interview or resume could. You can either do the job or not.

      And anyway shoot me for being some form of classism but for these jobs do you even want people who are super educated etc? They tend to get restless and can often be poor takers or direction. FYI I’m educated. Young privileged educated people often have unwarranted confidence and you’ll have someone whose been in the industry a year decide they would know how to run the business better. Working class employees tend to just get on with it or as not as aggressive in making suggestions.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        With regard to classism, people who really thrive in the restaurant industry tend to be a different breed of duck. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and I love Anthony Bourdain’s writing because he makes this explicit. A lot of food writers prior to him had a reverence for the restaurant like it was a church or something.

        It really is about can you get the orders correct, can you remember which table had which order, can you put up with crabby customers, etc. None of that is correlated to writing ability. I like your trial in lieu of an interview.

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          Oh gods yes, I tend to frequent the same restaurants repeatedly and have had some great wait staff. And honestly – I’d be horrid at it. it’s very much its own skill set!

      2. Witch*

        Got a roommate who’s worked in BoH her entire life. A real good sous chef. She gets jobs like she’s picking apples.

        She literally just shows up to an interview and says, “Yeah I used to work for this nursing facility plating 200 a night weekly, then this local area restaurant doing catered private events and this high-end grocery store that offers prepared meals.” And boom. She’s hired.

    5. Witch*

      No offense to your husband but what a waste. There’s a lot of issues with hospitality and food service, but generally I think the straight-forward approach to hiring is its boon.

      evn if sum1 txts lik thiss they can still likely cook. The two most important things for working in food service, as I understand it, are A) an ability to show up on time and stay your entire shift. B) A good working attitude even if stuff gets wild.

      Communication is a part of B, but it’s verbal communication. You need someone who can talk about what they’re doing and be clear and direct without yelling. Writing skills literally only matters if you’re ordering product. You need math skills more as a cook than writing skills.

      1. Meow*

        Aren’t you ignoring her real point here though, that they actually HAVE noticed a correlation? It seems like you’re arguing about their actual lived experience with their own business. Very odd.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Well, it’s one thing to notice a correlation when you are looking for it, but to have actual data to back up your observation is another thing. It’s possible they are just seeing what they want to see. People do that all the time.

        2. duck*

          I’ve worked in hospitality for 20 years. There’s no one indicator of success in my experience. People in hospitality come from all walks of life. You either have ‘it’ or you don’t.

      2. UKgreen*

        No, I’m sorry, but if sum1 txts lik thiss they likely CAN cook, but in OUR ACTUAL EXPERIENCE they are sloppy in terms of timekeeping, appearance, record keeping, food hygiene, and they’re less likely to be reliable and more likely to be jobhoppers.

        He would rather someone who can both cook AND do the rest of the stuff AND is likely to stay in their job for more than five minutes.

          1. Sasha*

            Yeah I have never heard that one either, and I waitressed/barmaided for about 7 years. Is it a joke about cooking meth? Doesn’t transfer at ALL to the UK.

  19. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: I drove myself nuts with anxiety asking a boss at a former place if our team was about to be laid off. I’d convinced myself that if I could just get a definitive answer I’d be okay. He couldn’t tell us anything of course.

    I got chatting to someone in another department who told me that in her opinion there was something nasty coming down the line for us. An outside perspective on the facts helped.

    In the end I actually had a start date for my new job by the time our boss actually announced the entire department was being dissolved.

  20. lailaaaaah*

    #1 – welders and electricians who I work with often struggle with writing-type tasks, but that’s why they picked their jobs- because they’re not predicated on who can write well! They’re absolute wizards at what they do, judge them on that.

    1. J.B.*

      That is exactly what I wanted to add. A teacher I worked with explained that many people in trades wound up because they want to do something with their hands and can’t stand to sit at a computer all day. It can be a very different mindset than if you are more of an office worker.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      And if anyone knows a trade-y who is looking for work, it would be a blessing for you to offer to tidy up their resume for them. As a career center counselor who HATES writing other people’s resumes (because I don’t know their skills better than they do, so I’ll write something flat and boring), I LOVE writing up an electrician or maintenance mechanic or welder or whatever resume because I know that I’m doing something that will make a substantial difference in their ease of finding employment.

  21. Victoria*

    1. My youngest brother works in a trade and is great at what he does. He also struggles greatly with written communication, and it was one of the reasons he left school early and pursued a trade. Like many of us, he has found a career that works for his strengths and where he doesn’t really need to write – the admin staff are the ones who communicate via email with clients, my brother just shows up and does the work. On the flip side, I’m good with written communication, but not great with numbers, and work in a job where I don’t really need to use math, other than basics like addition/multiplication/calculating averages etc.

    1. Victoria*

      Also, just something I thought of after pressing send – a lot of trades jobs often attract people who speak English as a second language, which could contribute to a rise in grammatical mistakes.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        That’s a good point. I’ve worked with a lot of trades and I’ve sort of figured out how to decipher what someone is trying to convey to me if their first language is Spanish. I get a lot of Gs and Cs switched, such as someone writing “gabinets.”

  22. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I’m highly educated.
    I do detail oriented computer simulations of physical processes and coding.
    I still can’t write for shit and proof reading is completely beyond me.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I made some extra money in college helping my dormmates type & edit their papers. They were very intelligent women. But they weren’t raised by a professional editor like I was.

  23. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    I think it’d benefit a ton of working adults to improve their writing skills. I work for & with executives and they should be *embarrassed* by how god awful their writing is. Do you really want to look this bad in front of others???

      1. Dino*

        Well we’re talking about trades right now.

        All your comment does is judge people, and not even the people who are the focus of the question!

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I guess I don’t understand the problem.
      If you give notice in December, you won’t be using your vacation regardless of whether they push you out early or not. Most places wouldn’t approve vacation during your notice period.

      Why not just use your vacation earlier, then give notice early enough that you won’t be working over the holidays?

    2. duck*

      My experience with executives is that they know what skills and tasks make them money. No one seems to care about higher up’s writing so why focus on it? Some older execs can’t even really use computers. Or maybe those people have retired now? It was that way.

      What rich people and executives are good at is politics. They don’t care about writing, they care about networking, knowing the right people, appearing to add value and managing their own brand.

      I have noticed a lot of the skills lower level people and women focus on are not appreciated. Some of these skills are forced on us too. Things like writing the perfect resume, helping out with office mom tasks, working on the soft side of the business like HR not tech and finance and so on.

      Work on your writing if you want and if you’re stuck in some middle ranking role. If you’re aiming to be a big kahuna you’d be better off spending that time going out to events and schmoozing people.

    3. Teapot Repair Technician*

      I work for & with executives and they should be *embarrassed* by how god awful their writing is.

      I object. I don’t think anyone–welder, electrician, or executive–should be *embarrassed* by their writing skills.

      I am a technical writer working in manufacturing. Everyday I work with material written by various blue and white collar professionals, and yes, some of it is bad. But people being embarrassed or hesitant to write is a bigger problem for me than people being bad writers.

      When someone writes badly, I can do my job–which is largely to translate bad writing into good writing. When someone doesn’t write at all (perhaps because they’ve been told they’re a bad writer) I have nothing to work with.

    4. The OTHER other*

      I value good writing skills and write a lot for my job, and confess I get annoyed by mistakes with apostrophes, confusing there and their, and so on. But I try not to sweat the small stuff. Not everyone is good at writing, or has to be, or cares much about it. Not everyone was blessed with a good education, or even English as their first language. Yes, lots of people would benefit from improving their writing skills, but really you could say that about just about anything: Math, music, financial literacy, civics, fitness, etc. We are all flawed human beings.

  24. CTT*

    As a follow-up to #5, are responses expected if the recruiter is sending generic mass emails? I’ve gotten several over the last 6 months where it was clear that they are sending these inquiries to a lot of people without looking closely at bios – my favorite was the one who was pushing firms in smaller markets, the examples of which were all at least 6x bigger than where I live (I work for a BigLaw firm, but I’m in one of their smaller offices). I’ve been working off the assumption that these are so generic they’re only expecting a response from a small percentage of the people they contact.

    1. anonymous73*

      Nope. I lost my job last October and just started working again last month. I have gotten so many emails it’s bordering on ridiculous. Some are super aggressive too – they’ll call me, email me and text me, all within 5 minutes. They get blocked. And I get job postings for stuff I haven’t done in 20 years or have never done. Those emails get marked as spam. Too many recruiters rely on software and don’t take the extra step to actually read your resume to verify that you’re actually qualified for a job. I only respond if it’s something I’m generally interested in pursuing.

  25. jiminy_cricket*

    LW #1: There’s definitely some classist undertones here. Something to be aware of — for all of us, tbh!

    1. Sleet Feet*

      I think this is off base and needlessly antagonizing.

      This person has the self awareness to realize that what their base response is – grammer and spelling is important, like we were all taught until we were 18 – is something to question in regards to hiring. So they reached out to someone who specializes in advising managers.

      That’s what you want people to do. And if every time someone stops to question themselves they get a lot of – check your privelage your an -ist type responses they won’t want to seek advice again and may instead make the wrong call and continue to contribute to systemic issues.

      1. Anononon*

        I think this comment is needlessly antagonizing.

        First, “like we were all taught until we were 18” – that alone is not correct and shows a lot of privilege.

        Second, “having privilege” in an area is neither a bad nor good thing. Almost everyone has privilege with regards to certain aspects and lack of privilege with others. There is nothing wrong with letting people know that, hey, your experience is not universal, and there may be valid reasons why someone isn’t responding/acting/doing like you think they should.

        Honestly, I find people getting upset about being reminded of their possible similar akin to thinking that calling out something for being racist is worse than being racist.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          I think calling out an -ist should be reserved for big things when it comes to the internet personally. If it’s your friend or someone you known irl, then sure call out if you think there are undertones of an -ist in their speaking. Because you have context and background information to make that call.

          When it’s an internet stranger and your trying to call out “whiffs of an -ist” you aren’t helping anyone and frankly it comes across much more like. Look at me I’m so woke and helpful.

          As someone whose parents didn’t graduate from highschool, I grew up on Medicaid and food stamps and have experienced my fair share of classism. When you say I need to think on my privelage I honestly rolled my eyes. Because who are you? Did you have to experience classism everyday when you were a child? Maybe you did who knows. But that’s sort of my point. You made a bunch of assumptions about me based on one sentence (I was referring to the K-12 system where yeah they focus on grammer and spelling). I do get really irritated at this comment section when people seem to be more interested in signaling how not -ist they are instead of helping the OP have a better approach. Alison’s approach is much more helpful. Here is the issue and why you shouldn’t apply this thinking that way.

          Most people get defensive when called out on the internet – you got defensive for me even suggesting that someone else was wrong to suggest the OP is classist. That’s why I don’t think it’s constructive in this comment section or helpful to fighting systemic issues at all.

          I am sorry if this comes across as against you personally, it’s definitely not. It’s just really frustrating to me that so-called allies who are proclaiming to try and fight whichever -ism exhibit behaviors that lead to people hunkering down or being afraid to even ask.

  26. nerak*

    As a lefty, please don’t judge people for poor handwriting. My spelling is great, but my handwriting, especially now that I just don’t write as much as I used to, is near terrible. I try my best to make it more legible (it’s legible, but barely), but other factors like the ink I’m using and the paper I’m writing on can make things far worse.

    1. nerak*

      So I totally read #1 as sloppy handwriting and not poor writing skills, so my bad–but I do agree that people who aren’t using writing skills in their daily jobs shouldn’t be judged on those skills (or lack thereof). I also want to point out that forms you can fill out beforehand online and type directly into are a godsend.

    2. Allison*

      Yeah, there are a lot of people out there who are great at their jobs, but have garbage handwriting. I’m one of those people.

  27. Edward Williams*

    #3: This goal-setting might be a devious way for racist manager X to get the Black (for example) employee fired. The manager didn’t want a Black subordinate, but HR and his/her boss arm-twisted him/her into it. One scenario I learned about from a friend several years ago: The sales manager kept a file of all the prospects who had repeatedly said “We’re not interested in your product/service.” In six months, a Black man, a woman who wore a hijab, and a man from India were successively assigned this list as sales calls to make, and fired at 2-month intervals. Racist manager: “You keep making me accept all these people onto my sales team, and they can’t sell their way out of a soggy paper bag.”

  28. Delta Delta*

    #1 My younger brother is a brilliant writer but a horrible speller. He’s an ESL teacher and is very accomplished at it. So, I dunno. Seems like meeting and talking to the applicants and learning about the substance of their abilities for the job at hand would be the best way to figure out if they’re a good potential hire.

  29. duck*

    If writing doesn’t matter for the job, then it doesn’t matter how their resume is. I work in a role where it really doesn’t matter so I wouldn’t count that stuff in my decision.

    That said, can we stop the rampant virtue signalling on this site? I am progressive, I’m working class, I have a disability. I am also expected to be able to do my job. Of course sometimes people who do x is because of sad story y. And we should be accommodating. And legally you often have to be accommodating.

    But come on, sometimes people are just rude, inept, crap at their jobs or don’t deserve their employment. It has become impossible to suggest on this site to suggest that maybe someone who is doing x should shape up without a chorus of people declaring you ableist or classist or something -ist.

    I’ve worked with tonnes of people including people with disabilities we’ve made accommodations for. I myself have a part time work schedule for my disability and choose appropriate jobs. That said, it seems on this site there is literally no standard for people with issues. You can be a wrecking ball at your job and that’s fine! It is patronising to people with disabilities to suggest we can’t meet some kind of standard or norm. It’s an accommodation not a free charity job where you can do literally anything.

    In some cases writing matters. Is this unfair on people who don’t have access to good education? Yes. Should you hire someone who can’t do the job because you have privilege person guilt? No.

    1. Cat Lover*

      Yeah, I agree.

      A lot of letters on this site deal with coworkers/managers/subordinates who having issues/being an issue. I feel like real, tangible advice can’t be discussed in the comment section because “what if they are disabled or their house is on fire or their mom died, etc”.

      Like… ok???? We can discuss accommodations in a thoughtful and empathetic way while still understanding that people are hindrances!!

      OR, they just might be awful at their jobs, or be terrible people.

      1. socks*

        I agree that sometimes this site leans too far toward “but have you considered every possible mitigating circumstance, no matter how unlikely????” but this seems like an odd thread to go off about it. In this thread I’ve mainly seen people saying you shouldn’t judge people by writing ability *if writing isn’t part of the job*, in part because you’ll probably end up reinforcing structural inequalities. That’s hardly the same thing as insisting on giving people 30 million chances no matter how badly they screw up.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Hmm, I’m not seeing anyone suggesting that you should hire someone who can’t do the job.

      I think what most commenters are saying is that you shouldn’t *assume* that someone can’t do the job, based on the fact that their application is poorly written or has spelling or other errors, unless the job is one where spelling , grammar and writing are key elements of the role.

      1. duck*

        I agree with notions like writing, internships, gaps and so on not being indicative of a good worker and often related to discrimination.

        But some comment sections are becoming unreadable due to the amount of virtue signalling. Someone will say ‘my worker didn’t turn their work in on time and it’s holding up my work’ and a bunch of people will write back ‘you monster. Don’t you know some people suffer from a time-adjustment disorder? They can’t tell what the time is and when things are due or not due. Stop being ableist. Next, some people didn’t grow up in environments where things were turned in on time and they don’t know these norms. Stop being classist.’ And on it goes.

        It is good to be aware of your blind spots and to be accommodating. Legally many accommodations are required. But do we have to assume that every person is has an issue? Can some people just be crap for once? And for class we all know that privileged people have more opportunities do we need to peg literally everything to class. It is getting to the point where someone could show up naked to an interview and someone would say in poor households wearing clothes was not a known norm. We know, rich people know the in’s and out’s a bit more.

        As a person with a disability that is so proper I only work part time for minimum wage I do find some of the discussion to be patronising and saviour like. I need accommodations but I’m not an innocent lamb that can never be told off for something at work.

    3. Sleet Feet*

      Yes. I just posted about this above too. It’s not helpful. As a trailer park latchkey kid I’ve found everyone getting on the OP for being classist more a signal that they want to be seen as anti-classist instead of wanting to actually help people undue their systemic classist indoctrination.

      OP if you read the comments please know that’s it’s awesome you are thinking about this. Keep questioning your assumptions and ignore anyone’s whose only is advice is oh you are so classist and privelaged.

      Alisons advice is spot on. In hiring always try and think – does this really mean what I think it does? Does this really matter or can I let it slide? Can I make this person’s bus schedule work with the job? That’s the best way to be an ally and hire the best people for the job without letting unnecessary barriers systemically cut applicants from your pool.

    4. Kal*

      As someone who is also disabled and poor (i.e. working class), while I do sometimes see a few comments to that effect, that is really not the overwhelming sentiment. For every message that is like you say, there are many more that say that people still have to be able to do the core function of their job, and that no disability or hardship is excuse for poor behavior or mistreating coworkers. I have personally never seen any comment that says that someone can be a “wrecking ball” at their job and that must just be allowed. I truly, truly do not see the overwhelming ocean of “virtue signalling” that you seem to be seeing. Maybe I’m just reading very different articles from you?

      And this is all beside the fact that the conversation about OP1 has nothing to do with that – the discussion is focused on the fact that the ability to write a office-job quality resume is irrelevant to the job of being a welder or electrician, with just a bunch of examples of why people who have a weakness in writing skills may end up in the trades. So this whole comment chain is rather off topic.

  30. rehtaej*

    I have actually hired electricians, welders, plumbers, etc, and I can tell you definitively that their writing skills are not even weakly correlated to their job skills. (They are often strongly correlated to a female relative’s — usually a gf or wife, not always — writing skills.)

    1. Sleepless*

      I laughed out loud at this one, because my son is bouncing around within the trades/hands on kind of work, still figuring out exactly which direction to go in. He’s good with his hands and a good worker, but the only reason he can make himself reasonably clear on paper is because of a female relative (me).

  31. Ternary*

    LW 5: make your effort refusing a recruiter proportional to the effort the recruiter put in to contact you. Eg. if it’s a templated message on LinkedIn with your name and recent organization automatically pasted in, I don’t even respond.

    If they’ve put a bit of effort in, I paste a stock message politely explaining I’m not interest right now.

    If your area relies on having good relationships with recruiters or you don’t get as many random messages, feel free to be more patient with them

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      LinkedIn actually has stock messages you can now click on if someone has sent you an InMail, it’s quite a time-saver if you’re a candidate that gets a lot of InMails (I unfortunately get bombarded with a ton of SEO ones and I take 15 minutes each week to go through and click ‘not interested’ on all of them so the person at least gets their InMail credit back.)

        1. Cute Li'l UFO*

          Yes, that was a new one for me. I had one message come through that asked me to click “not interested” to get the credit back. I’m thankful for the stock messages and I don’t seem to get quite as bulldozed by really poor matches any more–the good old spaghetti on the wall trick.

  32. FD*

    #1- I actually think the real question you’re struggling with is, “How do I assess a candidate for a job I may not know much about with very little to go on.”

    I can see how that would be very difficult! I would have a hard time knowing what to look for if you gave me a pile of resumes for welders. Apart from maybe “Have they had jobs where they welded?” and “How long did they stay,” what would you look for?

    This might be a time when your best bet is to talk to some welders and ask them. Find out if there are common things to look for in the people who tend to do really well, and see if there’s some way to screen for that. But with this kind of job, I could see you having to interview or skills test a high percentage of people because a resume may not give you that much info about whether a person is going to be good at the job or not.

    1. quill*

      Also I’d loop in a trusted foreman / supervisor for hiring, if they’re available. You need someone conversant with the skills and safety regulations you’ll need to really judge if someone is capable.

  33. Skippy*

    LW4: I’ve been laid off twice in my career. The first time it was a complete surprise; the second time, I knew it was coming. Needless to say, the second layoff was so much easier: by the time they called me in for the mysterious end-of-day meeting, I knew I was on the chopping block and I had already started moving on from that workplace both emotionally and practically.

    Based on what you describe if I were you I’d start preparing to leave. Get your resume in order. Start reaching out to your network. Identify possible references. Gather whatever work samples you can within the parameters of your NDA. Take a good look at your finances and your insurance options. You may or not be laid off, but it’s always good to have options — and post-layoff companies are not always the most pleasant places to work.

  34. Salad Daisy*

    #4 As far as I know, in the US legally they are required to pay you for any accrued vacation time. Not sick time or holiday time or anything else.

    1. Reba*

      That’s not correct! This varies state by state (there is no national law on this matter). Few states fully require payout, only about a dozen, although many states have laws that say basically that if it is the employer’s policy to pay out, they should honor it.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Also, company policy may vary, so check your employee handbook. Even if it’s not a state requirement, your company may still pay it out. (Doubtful, but it happens, so it’s worth checking.)

    2. Bagpuss*

      If it is company policy, is there not an argument that it is part of your agreed remuneration, and that if they change the policy you should still be entitled to anything you have a accrued up to the point you are notified of the policy change?

      Otherwise, how is it any different to retroactively reducing someone’s salary and saying (in effect) on 28th of the month “I know we agreed to pay you $750 a week, but our policy is now only to pay $500 a week, so we are only paying you $2,000 for the last 4 weeks, not $3,000” ?

      But if it is legal, then I agree with those saying to take the vacation now, since otherwise you are going to lose it.

      1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        Pay cuts can’t be retroactive, it’s just part of contract law.

        PTO isn’t considered pay in many US jurisdictions, so crappy employers may be allowed to cap it, cut it, confiscate it, refuse to pay it out, etc.

        I wonder what happens if they give you a pay cut on your last day or second to last day, even when they’re required to pay it out, can they cut you to minimum wage and then that’s your current rate of pay and what they pay the PTO out as?

  35. Markus*

    “Attention to detail” is something very different in welding and other trades. Don’t judge an elephant by its ability to climb a tree.

    I recently co-designed a course in oxyacetylenefhkufdssbnji@@$, I can’t even pronounce it right. The welding consultants had an incredibly different view of attention to detail!

    Don’t melt my face, for one….

  36. RagingADHD*

    Some of the worst spellers I’ve ever seen have been attorneys. Some of the sloppiest typists have been professional writers. They don’t need those skills, because they have admins and editors/proofreaders.

    In a context like this, typos don’t indicate a lack of education so much as a lack of support staff. Which certainly should not be disqualifying in a job like you’re hiring for.

  37. SentientAmoeba*

    LW 1 I Hire for both blue collar and white collar jobs and as far as resumes, the bar is much lower for blue collar workers. They are not likely to be using professional communication and correspondence as a daily part of the job, so they are less likely to have polished resumes. I can guarantee that blue collar workers are also required to pay attention to detail in their jobs, but more in a hands on way than an office worker. e.g. a welder needs to ensure that the materials and temperatures are correct based on the type of work, location and intended use. That’s the detail that identifies whether or not they are good at their job, not a couple typos on their resume.

  38. straws*

    My ex’s brother is an incredible, very skilled electrician. He had me review his resume once and I learned that he didn’t know how to spell electrician. It was spelled 3 different ways on his resume, none of which were correct. So, absolutely no correlation, although I did make him fix it!

    1. duck*

      Isn’t that the weird thing about the perfect resume crowd? I mean, who wrote it?

      All a perfectly constructed resume shows is that you have a perfect resume. You could have purchased it. Your sister could have written it. Strangers online could have workshopped it with you.

      I find it bizarre so many hiring people on there talk about excellently written resumes like it matters. I guess it matters if you count being cluey enough to obtain such a document? To be aware it needs to be good. But it doesn’t actually tell you anything about their ability with a document. If writing really matters you’d have to do a test they couldn’t cheat on.

      There’s rampant cheating in the world. Elite kids have coaches to get them into colleges and write the essays. You can buy papers to submit to class. Someone else can write your resume. We put an awful lot of emphasis on things that are super easily faked for not much money either.

      1. RagingADHD*

        To a certain degree, anyone is going to be better off without minor errors in their resume, because they are mental speedbumps for the person reviewing. You want a reader to just absorb the information and consider the content. Typos jar them into thinking about the presentation, which will always cause them to have second thoughts.

        In a tight job market where one resume has errors amd others don’t, those second thoughts are a disadvantage, especially if the reviewer isn’t really conscious of them. But when employers are struggling to fill roles, and it’s common to see the same type of errors for certain roles, it doesn’t matter.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        With, resumes, if someone else helped the applicant with it, I don’t consider it “faked”

        If it’s well put together, I consider that the candidate recognized a well done resume would give them an edge in getting a job, and made the effort to put one together. It doesn’t matter to me if they wrote it themselves, had a friend help them, had a recruiter/placement org polish it or crowdsourced edits. Because unless the job is crafting resumes it doesn’t matter if they did it themselves. And unless the job requires excellent written/visual communication skills, I don’t demand a super-well formatted, clearly organized resume.

        As long as the *work* on the resume is relevant and truthful, I don’t care who did
        the *work on the resume*

        All that said, the standards for what I’m looking for on a resume vary dramatically depending on the position I’m recruiting for.
        I made a job offer yesterday to someone whose resume was not well organized or easy to read and took a bit to decipher. But the job is for a manufacturing assembly position where her skills and experience with wiring, assembly, understanding schematics are what count, and her work history and interviews demonstrate she’s likely a good fit.

  39. anonymous73*

    #4 – you can ask but don’t expect the truth. If there are lay-offs coming, they may not be allowed to tell you anything about it. If you have access to secure data, you could potentially sabotage things if you were told ahead of time. I’ve been laid off 3 times. The first time we were told ahead of time because the area of the business I was in was going away completely. The second time I was told, allowed to grab my purse, and escorted out of the building. And this last time, my boss actually gave me a heads up because we were looking into renovating our kitchen.

    With everything you’ve described, I would recommend starting your job search. It may be unnecessary if your job is saved, but it’s better to be prepared.

  40. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP1 – if you want attention to detail from welders and electricians, ask for photographs of their work. And in the interview, ask them to tell you step by step how they would, eg, prep two pieces of steel for welding, or what steps they’d take to run a new 240V line.

    But are you sure about what kind of attention to detail you want? Neatness of the finished product is not necessarily an indication of quality. Other types of “attention to detail” that can’t be seen visually at a glance include things like checking the local building code for deviations from industry standards, ensuring that permits are pulled, testing all the GFI outlets before buttoning up the circuit, ensuring that loads are balanced across the 2 or 3 phases on the distribution panel.

    (That assumes, of course, that you know enough about welding and electrical work to be able to tell you if they’re on top of their game or not; if you’re just a resume screener, your clients need to give you some guidance on interpreting)

  41. Just Another Zebra*

    #1 – I’ve worked with plumbers for 5 years, so I understand balking at poor grammar/ spelling. It sometimes makes my job (I have to order their job materials) more complicated if the have wonky handwriting, or things are spelled incorrectly. But I really haven’t found any correlation between that and their craftmanship. I have a tech with sloppy writing who is beyond excellent, and one with perfect penmanship who is less than stellar.

    What I HAVE found to be indicative of their work is how they maintain the appearance of themselves and their trucks. I’m not looking for perfect grooming, but shirts and pants free of holes that look like they’ve been laundered, and a truck that is organized and neat.

  42. Sky*

    #1 – Spot on advice from Alison here. I’m in a position where I hire frequently but also I’ve wondered this with my son his writing and grammar skills leave a lot to be desired but the young man is crazy talented in the trades – all of them. After truly diving into the trades, it’s important to look at the skill the person brings to the table.

  43. Sleet Feet*

    #1 My mom was a chef and general manager. So like welders she had a highly techicalskillset that she learned through wnotatching and practicing not reading and study. She thought you spelled girl grl.

    She could be the only cook at a packed and crowded resort and keep all 4 courses flowing without a hitch. About the only thing she couldn’t do was talk to customers who wanted to compliment the chef because she was literally operating a 5 cook kitchen by herself.

    1. Sleet Feet*

      Ha love that this is dotted with typos. Sorry I’m on my phone and for some reason only when I comment on this site it registers a lot of typos!

  44. El l*

    LW 1:
    Yeah, hiring trades and discounting them on spelling and grammar… is like hiring for a professor job and asking your candidates to cook.

    Not really the skill you’re looking for.

    (Attention to detail, or not)

  45. Black Horse Dancing*

    I’m a good writer, communicate well, and my handwriting is crap. Always has been. Even in grade school, this was my one needs improvement grade. I just can’t write nicely. Usually I write fast and furious. But my handwriting is not my writing skill–it’s my handwriting.

  46. HitchHikersGuideResearcher*

    A colleague of mine is a 3D artist / video game designer and her work requires very high levels of attention to detail.

    She’s also working in her 2nd language (UK firm, but she’s Dutch) and *very* dyslexic so her spelling is all over the place and her grammar isn’t natural.

    But she certainly has excellent attention to detail and produces very fine work. (She does get someone to check over any text she puts in though.)

  47. Pikachu*

    #1 – I hire truck drivers. Quite a few don’t have computers. Some don’t even have email addresses. But they know everything they need to know to be on the road safely. That’s what we hire for. Whether they use the correct their/they’re/there is pretty irrelevant to their ability to safely haul tens of thousands of pounds of sometimes hazardous goods hundreds of miles without injuring or killing themselves or any other drivers on the road.

    Many trade jobs are dangerous. In my opinion, when jobs are dangerous, skills are more important than anything else.

  48. ElleKay*

    #3. You said you’re the newest team member. I’d bet that there didn’t used to be set goals and it was becoming a problem. Your boss may not (feel like he can) go back and require set goals for employees hired without them but I would not be surprised if this is the direction they want all new hires to move in.

  49. Not a Blossom*

    I understand that not everyone has the same language skills, but everyone has access to spell check, so the spelling errors would probably bother me.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      It depends. In English, there are a lot of words that spellcheck isn’t going to catch: flower/flour for example.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m a Special Ed teacher. I know students who turn off spellcheck because seeing every third word underlined with red squiggles sends them into an anxiety spiral. If their spelling is so bad that none of the ‘suggestions’ are close, then spellcheck is a hindrance, not a help.

  50. Bookworm*

    #2: Good luck! I can relate. I had a job that was looking to return after Labor Day earlier this year and while the RTO wasn’t *the* reason, it might have been if timing had a been a little different.

    Hope they don’t make you go!

  51. RC Rascal*

    #3: There are some managers who believe in assigning wildly unrealistic goals. They believe it motivates employees, and that if they assign reasonable goals the employee will meet the goal and then not do anything beyond that. Most of these managers believe that employees are intrinsically lazy and will only work if forced to.

    I worked for one of these guys at the beginning of my career. He was a real horses’ patootie.

  52. katkat*

    I started my current Job about 3 months ago. My manger gave me a goal in numbers, but said that first three months I was not expected to meet the goals. Then all of a sudden, she started to give me higher numbers and tried to pressure me into meeting those. I tried to be very polite and made sure I had understood the previous agreenment and asked what had changed. She didn’t give me am explanation. Then I asked for guidance on how to meet the new standards, since I was just learning the job. She got upset and just said that its difficult for everyone and I just need to figure it out…

    I talked to a senior colleague/freelancer and she was horrified about the goals manager had set me! She walked me through some steps to try to combat my workload. But she also talked to my manager about it and within two hours, manager called me and gave me the original goals and reminded that I don’t have to meet them yet…

    I know my manager is new to her job. So I figure she just doesn’t know what to expect from my position. And maybe she has been given opposing figures from above. I also have learned that she isn’t very good at making decisions, so she is probably relying too much into what others are saying and not questoning things herself…

  53. quill*

    #1 I’ve worked in labs on and off and my handwriting legibility was actually a job relevant skill there (due to needing to review lab notebooks.) But in the gap between needing to take notes in high school and using a lab notebook every day? My handwriting deteriorated fast. I’d imagine that it’s much the same if you finish a trade school and then only need to write out grocery lists and the numbers of people who leave you voicemail for years.

  54. Uranus Wars*

    #1…my brother and my dad are both considered top welders in our state and our sought out regularly and have been for YEARS. Neither can spell or write well, but are articulate speakers…& after trade school written grammar never mattered. Please do not use this as a measuring stick for non-writing types of positions.

  55. Jessica*

    LW1: Think about your real business needs when hiring people in the skilled trades. Someone above mentioned filling out a safety incident report, which was a great example. How much do you need them to communicate with customers/end-users?

    I manage a university department and deal with a lot of people from Facilities over various things. Being able to show up and fix the problem is for sure #1, but #2 is being willing and able to communicate with users about what’s going on, and since people have varied schedules, that does indeed mean they might need to email me and say “I fixed the thing/I came by and couldn’t fix the thing but I ordered the new part it needs and will be back Thursday/whatever the situation is.” As long as I can make out what they’re trying to tell me, I don’t care if that email is polished and has perfect spelling and grammar. I care that they knew how to fix the thing and they’re keeping me adequately informed about it.

  56. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP #1: I work in property management and I hire for maintenance people. I can write a nicely formatted, spell-checked resume and cover letter. What I absolutely can’t do is fix an air conditioner, replace a toilet, install drywall, or fix an electrical issue without killing myself or setting something on fire. As long as they can do those things and they have the most basic computer skills to respond to emails and check online work orders, that’s what matters. Most of us aren’t good at everything, so just focus on what they actually need to know to do the job. Unless they’re in a managerial position, those typos and formatting errors won’t be an issue because they’re not related to the skills they’ll be using every day.

  57. Mayflower*

    OP #1. Does sloppy writing indicate a lack of attention to detail?

    I kinda disagree with the answer here. White collar professionals tend to have certain assumptions about blue collar work, such as “blue collar work is physical so soft skills are not needed”. It seems intuitive but it’s rarely true! I have some rental properties so I regularly hire trades people such as electricians – and I’ve paid dearly for poor communication from my service providers. I am not saying grammar/spelling should be the main factor but it does signal a general “with-it-ness” of the candidate. I network a fair amount with fellow landlords and we all talk about how initial commnunication is a major clue, and should always be one of the key factors in screening tenants and service providers.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      And this comes to the point: Is their writing intelligible? Are they communicating ideas well, even if there are spelling & punctuation errors? If it’s just so bad that you can’t figure out what they’re trying to say, that’s one thing. But if it’s a few homophone errors and some comma splices, I’d try to overlook it.

  58. Retired(but not really)*

    Regarding attention to detail as being related to writing ability and grammar/spelling-that is something that may not have much or any correlation. If writing is the primary focus of the job, then this may well be totally relevant. However if the job involves other skills that are the primary focus, then your focus needs to be on how the person performs on those skills.
    I know several people who do not perform well on certain types of tests but are quite proficient at the jobs they do. I also know people who can ace just about any “multiple choice” test or they can “bs” an essay on just about any subject but might not be attentive to actual details of what they need to watch for in a particular job setting.

    As the person checking qualifications, your focus needs to be on the things specific to the job in question.

  59. First time listener, long time caller*

    There’s nothing in OP2’s letter that suggests Bob is actually pressuring or pushing anyone to meet the 2 teapot goal. Literally the only thing she has him saying is reminding her of that goal. That is not what pressuring means, unless he’s doing it constantly, but I assume she would have said that. Clearly, Bob is a person who believes it’s okay to have unattainable goals and that you get good output by reaching for them. I don’t love that management style, and that’s probably OP’s real issue because it does not require pressure, which isn’t present in this situation.

  60. Huh*

    OP2, I feel your pain. I resigned from Old Job earlier this year due to this exact issue. I have a new job and they are thankfully 100% on board with WFH for the foreseeable future. I’ve been told that this attitude came about when there was an enormous pushback from staff over a previous stupid “everyone back to the office!”, despite huge case numbers and an inability for anyone to access the vaccine at the time.

    Good luck!

  61. Jennifer Juniper*

    #1: Interesting! I thought the LW was talking about sloppy penmanship. Mine is awful because my coordination is awful.

  62. jojo*

    LW1- it sounds like most of the resumes you are reading are for male dominated fields. (welding…) Often men are good at reading and writing. some have undiagnosed dyslexia or ADD, ADHD. they are often not good spellers, from my observation. (I have two sons and three brothers, plus i work in a male dominated field). as long as they are not putting in for an office were spelling makes a difference I would pay more attention to the hands on experience.

  63. Betsy S*

    I have a dear friend who runs a construction company. He prints like a young grade-schooler, mixed upper and lower case and smudged pencil, and his spelling is not much better. He is a slow talker and had some sort of learning disability that was never properly diagnosed (partially because this wasn’t so much of a thing back then) and he was shunted into the very slow classes at school.
    But, he is SUPER INTELLIGENT. It sometimes takes him a while to get an idea initially, because he’s also a slow listener, but when he gets his mind around a problem, he will come up with brilliant ideas – and not just in his particular areas of expertise. In his specialty area, he’s gifted at solving spatial and mechanical problems. He’s a fanatically hard worker and always conscious about safety rules – but willing to push, within safety limits.
    He’s not the person you want doing the written communication or billing, but ask him to tell you some stories about things he’s accomplished.

  64. Gina*


    I work in the office of a construction company. Specifically one of my biggest job duties is the collection, collation and accuracy check of the job reports each week. These reports specify what was done on the job that week. Which employees were present doing that work. Which subcontractors were on the jobsite that week and what work they did and how many employees they had there.

    Most of it looks like chicken scratch. The spelling. OMG! Our supers know our other employees. They’ve worked together for years. They spell their names wrong each week. Sometimes they spell it wrong in different ways each week. They are terrible at remembering dates because they frequently cannot get the dates correct on the reports. The reports are preprinted with boxes to fill out. They just write across the whole form. And each one makes me want to rip my hair out in their own specific way.

    But they build beautiful buildings.

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