Career Explorations

When It Counts…Neat Handwriting Makes A Difference

By: Jeffrey Grant, Career Expert

Just a few months ago I was screening through a heap of employment applications for an administrative assistant position. As I was looking through this pile I found myself focusing on the handwriting of each applicant. I couldn’t help it. The more and more I looked at these applications, the more I realized how important it is to have neat handwriting. When I got down to the last group of applications that were similar in experience and skill, neat handwriting took the front seat. It’s the moment no applicant would ever imagine happening: having your application not considered because of messy handwriting.

Steve Graham, a professor at Vanderbilt University who studies handwriting acquisition, says that “teachers form judgments, positive or negative, about the literary value of text based on its overall legibility.” Graham’s studies show that “[w]hen teachers rate multiple versions of the same paper differing only in terms of legibility, they assign higher grades to neatly written versions of the paper than the same versions with poorer penmanship.” This truth is not only found in education. It also applies in the application process. When tough decisions have to be made in the screening process, handwriting is used as criteria to weed out candidates if necessary.

For example, I had to screen through hundreds of applications for a Commercial Driver a few weeks ago. Of all the applicants, only one had a typed application. This applicant truly stood out from the rest, caught my attention and the attention of our staff. Even though he had exceptional experience and skill, he saved our team the effort of looking for his application. Let’s just say he will be starting work this week!  In“Secrets That No Employer Will Tell You” it is noted that 35% of any first impression is your appearance. Therefore the appearance of your handwriting is a key weighted factor in your application being noticed instantly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that neat handwriting is everything, but I do know that when it counts… it makes a difference.

Here are 4 ways to help you enhance the appearance of your application.

  1. If you have bad handwriting, fill out your application by typing your information. If the employment application is a PDF file, go to have it converted for free, and then type it out.
  2. Always fill out paper applications twice. The first time should be your rough copy and then you should neatly copy everything on to the second application to ensure nothing is missed, you have no mistakes, and your handwriting is neat.
  3. Have a friend proof read and give their opinion of your application prior to submitting it.
  4. Most important slow down! Take your time. If you want the position you will be as neat as possible. Whoever fills out the most applications in shortest amount of time seldom wins the race.

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