OK, I spend most of my time playing with words, writing and editing, and much of the hiring (and firing) I've done over the years has had to do with people who also were paid to write and edit. So, this piece by Kyle Wiens on the role of good grammar for job applicants immediately struck a chord with me. I've had applicants for copy editing jobs who couldn't proofread to save their souls (or get the job). I can't count the number of resumes I've read with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, including resumes submitted by graduates from well-regarded universities. But, before I fall into a rant, what if anything does this have to do with hiring people for non-writing jobs like, say, building cabinets?
Wiens answers that question this way: "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."
Well, that might be true, but I've also met some really talented woodworkers who might be able to handcut dovetails blindfolded, but they would be hard pressed to put a coherent sentence together. Ever wonder how "reader written" woodworking magazines find so many great authors who are also talented woodworkers? Speaking as a former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, I can tell you the dirty little secret is they don't. But they do find great editors who can take shop scratchings and turn them into good prose.
When it comes to hiring people for the shop, I think I would still pause if I saw lots of mistakes on a resume. A conscientious and detail-oriented person would at least know they needed to have their resume proofread if their own grammar skills weren't up to snuff. (Or even if they were: It's awfully hard to proofread your own writing.) But, if I knew a job was going to have little to do with writing and communicating, I might hire someone who showed more talent with handwork than paperwork. Of course, if that rare commodity of the talented craftsman with excellent grammar and writing skills happens by, I'd hire that person for my shop in a heartbeat.