Common Mistake: Unforgivable Misspelling

With this blog entry, I’m starting a new category of tips called "common mistakes." (As with the sample quantitative questions, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for this category.) These tips will show you examples of the types of mistakes, common and uncommon, that I’ve seen job candidates commit. Well, in fact, I’ve made some of the same mistakes myself.

They say one learns best when one learns from others’ mistakes. I couldn’t agree more. I hope this new category will help you steer clear of things you shouldn’t do during the job hunting process.

Common Mistake #1: misspell the name of the recipient of your resume

Because a lot of quants are foreign-born and come from various corners of the world, many candidates have trouble spelling the names of quants they send their resumes to. Nothing can look worse to a quant or potential employer who discovers that his or her name is misspelled in the cover letter. In my book I mention one of Dale Carnegie‘s cardinal principles: a person’s name is the sweetest-sounding thing in the world to him or her. If he or she sees his or her name misspelled, a very strong sense of resentment will be aroused. As a candidate, you absolutely don’t want that to happen.

BTW, the spelling error can be a typo (especially with long names), or a transposition of the first (given) and last (family) names. For example, when I see people addressing me as "Dear Mr. Jiu Brett," I get ticked off and usually just throw the correspondence into trash (or cut off the caller if it’s a phone call).

Therefore, always double-check, triple-check the spelling of the name of the person you are writing to, both in the letter itself and on the envelope if you’re mailing it. Also, make sure you get his or her title and/or position correct.

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3 Responses to Common Mistake: Unforgivable Misspelling

  1. Wu Chao says:

    cut off the caller if it’s a phone call?? hehe, this scared me. The problem for me is that I have difficulties to pronounce others’ names correctly. Some American’s surnames are so strange such that even native American don’t know how to pronounce them.

  2. ChrisPS3 says:

    That’s not surprising, because Americans are descendants of immigrants from all over the world, including China, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Poland, Africa, Jews, etc…  My thesis advisor once told me, that if you don’t know how to pronounce someone’s name, just ask, it doesn’t hurt, and most people will be happy to tell you how to say their name right. 

  3. Brett says:

    Chris is right: if you can’t pronounce somebody’s name, just politely ask, with a smile. Almost everyone will be happy to tell you.

    BTW, a related tip is, if you see a "funny" interviewer’s name like Hooker or Coffin (real English names), do not laugh!


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