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Job Postings - Getting What You Want

While most of Mr. Spolsky's comments on resumes were well taken, I might add another which is:

"Considering and abiding by the cultural norms of the country in which the job is being offered."

Of course, this goes two ways. Although much of what Mr. Spolsky is seeing (as I have seen) in resumes and coverletters is carelessness with the English, some of this is due to variations in English grammar and punctuation used in _American_ English, and that which is used in British (UK, India, Australia, New Zealand) etc., and the sub-cultural variants therein.

I don't have to remind someone as culturally versed as Mr. Spolsky that American English speakers/writers are in the minority world-wide; but at the very least I would offer the suggestion that you update your job requirements to require "...Excellent command of written and spoken _American_ English".

At least this way subsequent ranting that targets a specific group of people will look slightly more justified, and slightly less culturally insensetive.

Joel P.
Monday, January 26, 2004

Strongly agree to the preceding posting. I expect employers not to be too picky about grammer variants and resume/cover letter format.

Eric
Monday, January 26, 2004

Ok, I'm going to call you on this.  Exactly which of the points Joel makes about grammar are different in non-American forms of English?  I'll repeat them here for you:

- There is always exactly one space and it's always after the comma and never before it.
- The personal pronoun "I" is always capitalized.
- All sentences must end in a period.
- Not considered polite to open letters to a Mr. Joel Spolsky by writing "Dear Spolsky."

Joel's examples tend towards American English, but the problems he pointed out are pretty broadly frowned upon.  Of course, I'm interested in knowing which of these upsets your cultural sensitivities.

Steve Monk
Monday, January 26, 2004

I'll second the "call":

I have two resumes to reflect the two versions of English: American and everywhere else. It really isn't hard; and MS Word will highlight the differences for you.

Jeff Watkins
Monday, January 26, 2004

At the same time, most of the communications that a hiree will have are with Americans, or people living in the US. As a representative of Fogcreek (Fog Creek?), is it too much to ask that the hiree be capable of common US grammatical practices?

If people don't put their best foot forward in a CV, there's no way they'll do it after they've got the job.

Nigel
Monday, January 26, 2004

I have a degree in English from a reputable British University. I can see nothing that Joel objects to that is acceptable in British English.

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 26, 2004

Didn't Hemingway or Shaw or someone used to do the odd punctuation thing?


Monday, January 26, 2004

Were Hemingway or Shaw applying to programmer jobs?

Kyralessa
Monday, January 26, 2004

I think you might be thinking of Charles Dickens, who wrote run-on sentances.  Some of his paragraphs (big ones at that) were only one sentance long.

Though, I haven't read Great Expectations in about 10 years...

Andrew Hurst
Monday, January 26, 2004

s/sentance/sentence/g;  # whups.  guess I didn't get the job.

Andrew Hurst
Monday, January 26, 2004

The specific line in Mr. Spolsky's rant I had intended to address was "Attention, the entire population of India: whenever you have a comma, there is always exactly one space and it's always after the comma and never before it. Thank you."

While I wasn't born in India and certainly haven't traveled through the entire sub-continent of India, I have been in half a dozen cities there over a period of three weeks and I recall seeing such variants in printed material I encountered. I'll search through my photos and see if I can find a picture to post as an example.

I regret not focusing my point of contention more narrowly since in not doing so, I was essentially guilty of something similar to what I took issue with in the original article: the blanket nature of the above-quoted statement which still seems rude and overly general at best.

Joel P.
Monday, January 26, 2004

I think it might be reasonable when applying to a job in the U.S. that you write in a manner acceptable in the U.S.  Certainly none of your co-workers or customers are going to give a rat's backside what flies in India.  What they're going to notice is that an unassimilated foreigner has been foisted off on them.  They'll resent it, and things will go poorly.  This will be bad for everybody, especially the unassimilated foreigner.  It might be a good idea not to put the person in that position.

Clay Dowling
Monday, January 26, 2004

If I was hiring (I'm in the US) and I saw a coverletter that had british spellings, it wouldn't bother me the least. But then again, I've worked with tons of brits and would recognize the difference between britishisms and errors.

Errors on the other hand would be a significant negative on the possibility of an interview.

pdq
Monday, January 26, 2004

"Attention, the entire population of India: whenever you have a comma, there is always exactly one space and it's always after the comma and never before it. Thank you."


Really, entire population of India suck in English, there English is very poor, but who would make these American CEOs understand that they would get such a bad English in India!

By the way, why don't Americans (with there much better English) apply for jobs in India?

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

Raj,
I presume the grammatical errors in the last comment were deliberate?

John
Monday, January 26, 2004

What eroors?

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

No seriously, I am really bad when it comes to use proper grammer, but why are you guys bothering anyway, now
http://www.yourjobisgoingtoindia.com

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

Raj the fetid troll asked:

"By the way, why don't Americans (with there much better English) apply for jobs in India? "

Because India doesn't have a H1-B program for Americans and other non-Indians like America has for foreigners.

George
Monday, January 26, 2004

> the fetid troll

Is that English? I told you my English is poor, can you be simpler?

> Because India doesn't have a H1-B program for Americans and other non-Indians like America has for foreigners.

Thats because Americans are welcome anytime, just try!

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

Wrong again, "Raj". 

John Simmons
Monday, January 26, 2004

Raj,

American Software programmers are some of the most broad minded and informed people when it comes to other cultures. Yes, George is right in saying that Indian labo(u)r laws are a lot more protective when compared to american laws. Also we have to thank THE Raj (pun intended ;-) ) for our perfect English speaking skills!

A note to American Programmers : If genome research picks up in America tomorrow, all us Indians/Chinese would be getting our *third* masters degree in Genomics :-p.  There are some Indians whose English speaking skills are really good and some whose skills will never be perfect. Don't judge people based on the way they dress up / talk. Its as silly as comparing cocks.  A good number of us are geeks too and just want to have fun! 

Thanks,
Sriram

PS. Can none of you spell 'grammAr' right?

Sriram
Monday, January 26, 2004

When applying for a job where strong english language skills are explicitly listed in the requirements, grammar and spelling errors in the cover letter and resume are completely intolerable.

Would you expect to get a job as a web designer if you sent your resume in broken HTML?

Richard P
Monday, January 26, 2004

The statement targetted at Indian's though, or so i presume, in good intention tends to go down badly. Would a small mistake such as the wrong placing of a "space" be so catastrophic that it would really piss someone(Joel) off so bad that he does not desist from a jab below the belt!

  ... wonder if a jew had made the same mistake, would he start his "How to write resume's" to whole of ISRAEL??

Dear Mr. Spolsky, pity a little work related stress managed to get to you!

Sachin Gopalakrishnan
Monday, January 26, 2004

> American Software programmers are some of the most broad minded and informed people when it comes to other cultures.

You mean they have oblong or recantagle shape minds, unlike Indians! :-)

> Yes, George is right in saying that ...

Yeah, Customer (especially an American one) is always right!


> A note to American Programmers : If genome research picks up in America tomorrow, all us Indians/Chinese would be getting our *third* masters degree in Genomics :-p. 

I guess what you are saying is that American parents should start encoraging their kids to major in Genomics! :-)


> There are some Indians whose English speaking skills are really good and some whose skills will never be perfect.

Oh come one, most of the Indians are poor at English, they don't know a squat, its ONLY because of cheap labor (or is it labour) the get American jobs.

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

yes, better major in genomics so that you can fart around with perl scripts along with the hundreds of thousands of other re-trained biologists and programmers.

genomics == the HTML programming of biology.


Monday, January 26, 2004

Mr. Spolsky would look at all the commas and spaces, but miss the sentence and its meaning in doing so!

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

"The statement targetted at Indian's though, or so i presume, in good intention tends to go down badly. Would a small mistake such as the wrong placing of a "space" be so catastrophic that it would really piss someone(Joel) off so bad that he does not desist from a jab below the belt!

  ... wonder if a jew had made the same mistake, would he start his "How to write resume's" to whole of ISRAEL??

Dear Mr. Spolsky, pity a little work related stress managed to get to you!"


You are just too ironic to be real.

Kyralessa
Monday, January 26, 2004

Well, I thing most of the things Joel mentioned are reasonable and pretty much common sense. Its sheer carelessness to leave spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical errors which can be corrected easily with a little effort.

Having said that, I don't think its fair to point finger at one particular community - its just too insulting. I am sure not all resumes from American candidates are error free. Even if the ratio of errors in Indian resumes vs all others is against Indians, the comment is not justified. Rather, it would have been better to make a comment conveying that for whom English is not the native language, spend a little extra time making your resume spell good.

(Yeah, I am an Indian and please, don't pull me over errors in my post).

VikasRana
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The comment is a specific one; it appears that misspacing of commas is so common among Indians that the OP thought it was a legitimate regional variety.

Non-Indians don't make that mistake so often, so why include them.

Indians are notorious for missing out the definite and indefinite articles. Spaniards, French and Germans don't do that so you wouldn't need to overgeneralize.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Stephen, Stephen, Stephen ...

> it appears that misspacing of commas is so common among Indians that the OP thought it was a legitimate regional variety.

OP is not thinking!

"legitimate regional variety" - what kind of crap is that? how many Indian resumes are there in market at any given point in time and out of that how many freakin Indian resumes you or anybody have seen? If somebody thinks that they have seen enough to give stupid statement like "misspacing of commas is so common among Indians", don't hire that person!

> Non-Indians don't make that mistake so often, so why include them.

Some more bullcrap, hunh ...

Non-Indian = Everybody on freakin earth minus Indians.

Do you really think you have seen THAT MANY resumes.

> Indians are notorious for missing out the definite and indefinite articles.

Oh boy, you don't stop do you? You must be a known racist Mr. Jones!!! Say no more.

Raj Aryan
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I think all these hatred towards Indians is because simple American when he/she is laid off thinks: "see I just lost my job to India" ... in fact they didn't, they lost it the top management, who are so messed up when it comes to handling their own busniess and people!!!

Raj Aryan
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"Were Hemingway or Shaw applying to programmer jobs?"

I'd rather work with either of those two than most programers. In fact they'd probably get more done than a lot of programmers that I know, even in their current state.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"how many Indian resumes are there in market at any given point in time"

"> Indians are notorious for missing out the definite and indefinite articles.

Oh boy, you don't stop do you?"

Hmmmm...


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"I think you might be thinking of Charles Dickens"

I wasn't. In fact I hadn't thought of him until you brought him up. You might still be correct, however, even if I know that I still think it is H or S (I am considering particularly the spaces before commas "thing").

My point, anyway, was just to observe that someone who would fail Joel's cover letter test for not writing "correct" English has written numerous rather well received works of literature.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

By the way, I should have pointed out that I don't like spaces before commas either. It looks really weird.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

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