Kyle Wiens is the CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki. Wiens caught our attention this week due to a piece he wrote which appeared on a Harvard Business Review blog. Wiens gives all potential hires a mandatory grammar test, and rejects candidates who don’t pass.
If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.
Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.
On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?
Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.
Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.
That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.
There’s been much contention and discussion about this article, but we think Wiens has a point. We pass without exception on resumes with grammatical errors on the belief that people should either have the attention to detail to check and recheck their own resume, or the self-awareness to know that they should have someone else check it. What do you think? Is Wiens on the money, or off his rocker? Also, check out our friends at Not Hiring You, for more rejected resumes.
- Grammar as Litmus Test in Hiring (readingbyeugene.com)
- Fiddling with apostrophes while the economy burns (languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu)
- Zero Tolerance can’t work for grammar (motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com)
- “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar” (thebrotha.wordpress.com)
- Poor Grammar Can Limit Job Prospects (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Sloppy is as sloppy does…(Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (davidkanigan.com)
- I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. (blogs.hbr.org)
- Harvard Business Review: I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. (techcommgeekmom.com)