Talent Acquisition Fast Facts – Poor Writing, Compromised Brand

Each day, HR professionals, recruitment teams and organizational leaders craft job descriptions, business proposal content, research studies and marketing materials; send countless emails to candidates, clients and consumers; and contribute via social networks and other platforms in support of employer brand.

Shoddy, mistake-filled writing can make your products—and, in turn, the expertise of your professionals—appear inept and inferior. For example, hastily drafted, ambiguous job descriptions with jargon-filled phrasing like penetrate the market and blue-sky thinking, or misspellings such as Resauce SpecialistLeed Engineer, or perhaps even Hiring Manger.

Your words are your frontline, and grammatical deficiencies can dramatically alter your ability to recruit the right talent, market your organization and effectively engage candidates, customers and employees. In short, mistakes can significantly harm your employer brand.

Without further ado, this week’s edition of Talent Acquisition Fast Facts on the consequences of poor business writing:

According to a study conducted by Monster, 75% of surveyed job seekers say they frequently see “grammatical issues and jargon” in job advertisements and on company websites.

  • 57% say this turns them away from a applying for a role.

40% of job seekers report regularly seeing job titles they simply don’t understand—this not only confuses candidates but limits employers’ SEO capabilities.

64% of respondents say they will not apply for a job if they can’t understand the position title.

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In 2013, Disruptive Communications took a poll of 1,000 consumers, asking what would most likely damage their opinion of a brand on social media; “Poor spelling or grammar” was the number one answer at 42.5%.

We make 11 major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting, according to research conducted by New York University; although the study is based on face-to-face contact, nonverbal cues have more than four times the impact on first impressions than anything that is said—which includes contact via email, social media, website visits and others.

Consulting firm PowerSuasion recently reviewed 3,000 emails and found 15% “lacked a main idea or clear instructions for the reader,” with 16% having to be re-worked.

  • PowerSuasion also found that, for a company with 10 employees making $30,000/year and who sent an average of 30 emails each per day, the cost of bad business writing is approximately $126,000/year ($12,600/employee) and 21 weeks in lost productivity.

According to a 2008 study conducted by International Data Corporation, businesses in the U.S. and United Kingdom were losing an estimated $37 billion per year as a result of “employee misunderstanding”—specifically, “actions or errors of omission by employees who have misunderstood or misinterpreted company policies, business processes, job functions or a combination of the three.”

Consequences are not limited to employers, of course, as recruiters surveyed by BeHire say they toss a candidate’s resume in the garbage if they come across a single spelling or grammatical mistake.

Proofreading software service, Grammarly, recently evaluated the spelling, punctuation and grammar of three of the world’s biggest brand competitions—specifically to see how the content on each organizations’ LinkedIn pages compared to the competitor:

  • Coca-Cola had 0.9 writing mistakes/100 words, compared to Pepsi’s 3.6 writing mistakes/100 words.

  • Google had 1.1 errors/100 words, compared to Facebook's 4.3 errors/100 words.

  • Ford had 0.5 errors/100 words, compared to GM's 1.3 errors/100 words

Although no definitive conclusions can be drawn from this study, the rapid rise of social media has shown how consumers, investors and competitors do not hesitate to judge companies based on sloppy writing, poor communication and other egregious errors. Do you believe writing mistakes truly detract from brand image and/or recruiting capabilities, or is this idea overblown? As an employer, employee or job seeker, what are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to writing mistakes?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!