Am I Screwed Because of My Typo?

August 18, 2009 by  

advice-higher-me-featureQ:  I’m about to go in for a summer associate interview with a firm from Big Law.  I was excited to get it, and quickly reviewed my cover letter so I could keep my story straight.  That’s when it hit me: I had a glaring typo in my cover letter. It wasn’t in the boiler-plate portion that I used in all of them, thank goodness, but I checked my cover letters to other firms, just to be sure (they were all fine).  Still, I’m dreading going in to this interview, KNOWING that I have this terrible, gaping, glaring typo in my cover letter.

How do I deal?  Is it possible they just didn’t notice, and I should not acknowledge it?  I have visions of myself sweating bullets in the interview chair, that internal typo staring at me from the letter in the interviewer’s hand as I slowly lose my mind like the protagonist of a Poe story.  How do I keep from outing myself as an idiot who can’t even type a simple cover letter?   Even if they haven’t seen it, won’t SOMEONE notice, eventually, if they call me back for a second-round interview?  Should I mea culpa right away, and risk drawing attention to an error that might kill my chances?  I’m dreading answering a question about my “attention to detail,” and getting a follow-up: “So, then, how do you explain this typo in your cover letter?”

Could it all be a cruel hoax?  Am I the victim of a Big Law hazing?  Help!

—Victim of a Tell-Tale Typo

A:  OK, first: Calm down. It’s not like you accidentally included a picture of your genitals along with your cover letter. It’s just a typo. That said, short of…including a picture of your genitals along with your cover letter, sending off a cover letter with a glaring typo is probably the worst thing you could have done. Melodramatic? Probably. True? Unfortunately.

See, as you’ve already noticed, law firms are obsessed with the infamous “attention to detail” rap, including, yes, typos. Why are law firms so aggro about this? Are they just full of über-perfectionist, Law-Review-worshipping grammar Nazis looking to crucify those with less than razor-sharp proofreading skills? Well, yes—but more to the point, it’s because as a junior associate, the only things you’ll ever be expected to do with any sort of accuracy are hunt through data-rooms full of 400-page credit agreements for the words “change of control,” put semi-colons in the right places, and make sure the client’s name is spelled correctly on your time sheets. So, when your supervisor (or interviewer) sees that you can’t even manage to grab this low-hanging fruit, you’re pretty much written off from that point forward.

Here’s the good news, though: Big Law lawyers don’t read recruiting cover letters. The recruiting folks do—and barely, at that. The only thing anyone actually cares about is your resume. The first—and only—thing that Big Law firms look at when they first get your resume is your GPA. If it meets their cut off, they read the rest of the resume. No one really cares about the cover letter and there’s a 99.99% chance that your interviewing attorney hasn’t even seen it, much less read the damn thing.

In other words, please, for the love of God, DO NOT CALL OUT THE TYPO to your interviewer. Aside from making you look completely insane, it’ll just draw attention to something they probably would never have had a chance to notice. Now, if by some ridiculous chance someone does notice and call it out to you, own up to it without any fuss…and then run. If an interviewer is enough of a douchebag to ask you to explain a typo during an interview—instead of just asking you meaningless questions while silently writing you off like any true Big Law pro would do—you can be sure you’re dealing with a bush-league firm and you don’t want to work there anyway.

So, take a deep breath, cleanse this minor discretion from your mind, put on your best interview smile—and for Chrissakes’, make sure to hit “spell check” before you hit “print” next time, ‘k?

Good luck!

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28 Responses to “Am I Screwed Because of My Typo?”

  1. Guano on August 18th, 2009 8:42 am

    I am not clear I understand. I think the person should not tell the interviewer of the typo, but should be prepared to bear her genitels — figuratively — if the interviewer brings it up.

    After all, if her competence is an issue, should not the woman be prepared to discuss this, rather than just “run” from it?

    I would like to find a woman who is honest about these things as well as their interests, so as you American’s say, please step up to the plate and grab the low-hanging fruit.

  2. Jz. on August 18th, 2009 9:38 am

    Are you kidding??? Of course you shouldn’t tell the interviewer you have a typo in your resume!! Why would you point that out unless they bring it up?

  3. Anonymous on August 18th, 2009 10:24 am

    As someone who has sat through hours of on-campus recruiting on the other side of the desk, let me assure the “Victim” that cover letters are never seen by any interviewing lawyer. We scarcely have time to review your resume in the 30 seconds we have in between interviews.

    Plus, it’s worth noting that in schools with a lottery OCi system in particular, the majority of the interviewing students are incredibly unqualified for the position and have no shot at a callback, regardless of how many typos their materials do/don’t have, unless of course that “3.0” was supposed to read “3.8”

  4. Eileen DeBonis on August 18th, 2009 11:26 am

    I think I once had a typo on my resume, and I still got a job, so don’t worry. Of course, it may have been because the men interviewing me were focused on my legs (my best attribute), and believe me, I played them up for all they were worth at the time.

    Now that I am in my mid-thirties, I am not the girl I was at 23, when I was doing my on-campus interviews. I still work out to stay fit, but am a little heavier. Not so much that the men don’t look at me, but I admit that I am not the first girl they stare at when they come to visit the firm.

    I think that as long as you have other attributes, men will overlook the typo. However, if you are not attractive to begin with, you better do everything right.

  5. Huh? on August 18th, 2009 12:01 pm

    Why are we assuming the interviewee is female? When I read this question, I actually assumed the dumbass was a man.

  6. Guano on August 18th, 2009 2:15 pm

    I say this because only a female woman would be wringing her hands about this issue, like this one. Women are, for the most part, worryers, and no sane male would ever worry, let alone write in with such a dumb question like this one did.

    If we men didn’t need women for procreation, we would hardly need to bother with them, other than for recreational purpose. Now, you understand?

  7. Anonymous on August 18th, 2009 6:21 pm

    I think the reader meant to say “eternal typo” and not “internal typo” in his/her question, no…? No wonder there were mistakes in the cover letter.

  8. Anonymous on August 18th, 2009 11:20 pm

    I think she meant to say “infernal” typo, but then, we’ll never know.

  9. Offshore on August 18th, 2009 11:37 pm

    Ah Guano, are you serious? We understand your misogynistic views – they couldn’t be clearer. It’s your tautologies, misspelling, poor grammar and punctuation that make your comments confusing.

    Forget the typo – you’ll have bigger fish to fry in the interview …

  10. Eileen DeBonis on August 19th, 2009 6:42 am

    Guano is the type of lawyer we women hate, and see all too much of these days. Men think that because they have a law degree that they have a free pass for sex if they take us out to lunch or dinner. Well let me tell you, Guano, you will not get a night of sex for the price of a meal, just as much as I would not expect you to become my sex slave if I bought you a Veal Piccata.

    We are worth a lot more than that and the last thing I want to see is a guy like you sweating away on top of me just because you paid for my dinner.

    Also, if you were the managing partner at my firm, I would think to go elsewhere. Just because you pay our salary, it is we women that are doing the work. We EARN our pay. We bill the clients, so stop thinking we owe you sexual favors, or even some feminine attentions. We don’t.

    If we weren’t earning our keep at the firm, you would not keep us, and the clients enjoy the fact that we bring a fresh perspective to the legal issues.

    So Guano, stop thinking your poop doesn’t stink. Believe me it does. Probably worse than anyone else’s on this website.

    And that goes even more for the other stupid men on this site who think like Guano, but don’t have the balls to write it. At least Guano is not afraid to tell the world what an idiot he is.

  11. Southern Lawyer on August 19th, 2009 9:13 am

    Dude….chill the F out….it’s a typo. Bring a new cover letter to your interview. Besides no one wants to read that shit anyway…they all say the same thing. And, if it was so offensive to them you wouldnt have gotten the interview…so, either they didnt see it or they dont care…either way, you’re good.

    BFW, “included a picture of your genitals”??? That might be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen/heard…I have every intention of stealing this and passing it off as my own joke. Now, if I only I had a relevant situation to use it…hmm..

  12. Eileen DeBonis on August 19th, 2009 2:44 pm

    No one should have to show the interviewer a picture of their genitals. It’s bad enough when men expect to go there on the first date, but I will NEVER let that happen.

    Men need to respect us for our minds, and not look at us as a place to park their weenies. That is NOT what we went to law school for.

  13. El on August 20th, 2009 8:13 am

    Eileen, way to miss Southern’s, and the author’s, point. Give me a break. Its obvious that the author was using the genitals reference in a hyperbolic, funny way and your literal interpretation is just embarrassing. Stop. Please.

    Nice post, btw, Counsel. Post more often, though, pls!!

  14. Eileen DeBonis on August 20th, 2009 11:37 am

    I don’t understand your issue. Do you mean to say that you find the comment non-sexist? Because I will NEVER show my genitals to a man until we are in a committed relationship, nor do I care to see his genitals either.

  15. Guano on August 20th, 2009 2:42 pm

    Eileen, I too feel this not to be appropriate. If you are interested in a committed relationship with me, please let me know.

  16. NewSk on August 20th, 2009 4:56 pm

    I am a recent fan of this site but really have to suggest that you BAN COMMENTS going forward. This lot is just drivel.

    Keep up the good work, though. You have a very amusing coffee-break time-killer going on here. Kudos.

  17. Anonymous on August 21st, 2009 5:03 am

    NewSk, I do not agree. Through comments like this we can all learn from other lawyers, not just from the posts alone. You are always free to “avert your eyes” if you don’t like the comments. Men like women and women like men, and everything revolves around that. No one is asking you to show your gentels.

  18. Eileen DeBonis on August 21st, 2009 11:30 am

    I agree.

  19. Anonymous on August 21st, 2009 5:41 pm

    I find it ironic that the first comment (and several after) have typos.

  20. Typo Freak on August 21st, 2009 8:10 pm

    Be gentle on their genetels, please.

  21. Xuan Lin on August 22nd, 2009 5:34 pm

    Interesting to see that some people can still maintain their sense of humor in the face of an economic downturn. I believe that the economy will have an upturn by the 4th quarter, and that the President will be able to achieve some pretty good results, with the possible exception of health care. I do not want to have nationalized health care.

  22. Alex Hump on August 25th, 2009 7:08 pm

    Let us get some new material, ladies. Also, let’s also get some pretty lawyer broads on the sight. So far, all I can see are females in the physical sense only. If this sight is run by skirts, we ought to get a lighter touch.

  23. Anonymous on August 27th, 2009 4:13 pm

    I’d actually bring the new cover letter, and hand it over to them at the start of the interview, acknowleding the typo when I did so. I say that from the perspective of a partner who got stuck recruiting on campus several times over the past few years. We weren’t BigLaw, we were a Seattle firm that recruited at top schools. I read the damn letters, and cared about what they said and how they looked. I dinged peopled who had typos. I know it’s fashionable to be cynical and all that, but this year, especially, when hardly anyone’s going toget hired anyway, I think a little earnestness is going to go a long way.

  24. Joe Dick on August 27th, 2009 8:54 pm

    Yea, right. Why would you want to beat yourself with a wet noodle. Why?

  25. Anon on September 1st, 2009 11:04 am

    I am in legal recruiting at a medium-large firm and generally find that the typo acceptability is directly inverse to the impressiveness of the resume. ie, a good fraction of the partner resumes I see are replete with crappy formatting and have a typo or two, but no one cares. When it comes to law students and young associates, the bar is set much higher of course and these documents are something of a branding of their work product. That said, we will overlook a typo in a student’s resume if they are very impressive.

    (Note to all students and associates: Don’t make your cover letter a three-page regurgitation of your resume. Tell me something about yourself (in a professional manner) that might not be apparent on your resume. On the other hand, don’t get all poetic. I don’t know you that well, and don’t want to hear romantic generalities about how you have overcome unnamed obstacles, etc, etc.)

  26. Kris on February 21st, 2010 5:14 pm

    “Besides no one wants to read that shit anyway”

    God bless you, Southern Lawyer.

    I think I would forgive a single wp mistake if someone sent a letter containing one to me – not that my stuff’s littered with typos – but I do crucify myself if I send something out with a missing word, parens or comma.

    But I damn sure wouldn’t be pointing it out to anyone. If you’re in a hole, stop digging.

  27. m on April 21st, 2010 2:05 pm

    As someone who actually reads these things in a big lawfirm, I can say I spend about 60 seconds looking at resume and maybe 5 seconds skimming a cover letter before you come into my office. From there it is all based on the person, not the resume. So relax. No one cares about your cover letter.

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