Candidate bloopers, errors and misadventures

Student e-mailing picture of Nicholas Cage in place of her resumé highlights we’re all human

Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

Am I the only person who doesn’t find the predicament of Vanessa Hojda wildly hilarious?

Hojda is the student at Toronto’s York University who erroneously sent an attachment consisting of a psychotic looking picture of Nicholas Cage in place of her resumé in an application for an administrative assistant position at the university. Supposedly the file names for her resumé and the picture of Cage were very similar.

Shortly after discovering her error, Hojda blogged about it. Within a very short period of time, the story was picked up by various news outlets and the story went viral. Apparently, she even received job offers after her story went public.

Aside from being mildly amusing, this story confirms the old proverb there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Nevertheless, I have some sympathy for Hojda (even if I don’t think her story was quite as hilarious as others seem to).

We all make mistakes, even when completing critical tasks like applying for a job. As long as such errors are relatively infrequent, what’s most important is how we deal with them.

It’s important to own up to your mistakes without trying to blame anyone else. Handling errors with tact and professionalism also helps — as well as having a dose of humility and a self-deprecating sense of humour.

In many ways Hojda did just that. However, rather than blogging about it, I believe she should have sent a followup e-mail with her resumé right away, explaining the original message included an incorrect attachment.

The comments I’ve read so far about Hojda’s situation generally either praise her for the way she handled the situation or condemn her for her lack of professionalism and attention to detail. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. While I don’t think she should have received job offers simply because of this incident, I wouldn’t condemn her or say I’d never hire her in the future.

We all make mistakes — especially when sending e-mail. How often do people send the wrong attachment, hit “reply all” by accident or simply forget to include the attachment?

Recruitment humour

As a former recruiter, I have some pretty humourous anecdotes about candidate typos, bloopers and misadventures. One of the best was the candidate whose resumé contained the following clause: “…and I kept track of these expenses by means of an Excel spreadsh*t.”

Now that’s funny.

I also had to laugh at the candidate who sent in a cover letter expressing an interest in working for CIBC and further down suggesting she might be a good fit for a position at RBC, before finally reiterating that she would be very interested in hearing back from Scotiabank.

A colleague of mine had a great story about a candidate who showed up late to an interview carrying a case of beer. She simply apologized for being late, explaining there was a long lineup at the beer store.

Some errors in judgment are inexcusable. In my opinion, the only one of the above three candidates who deserved a chance was the “spreadsh*t guy.” Clearly, this was a minor typo (even if it did result in a rather unfortunate misspelling). The rest of the resumé was pretty good, and English was obviously the candidate’s second language.

Aside from the recruitment context, I’ve seen similar errors happen within my own team, even though we generally pay pretty close attention to detail. One time when posting a news item about “night shift workers” on our home page, one of my colleagues somehow missed the “f” in the word “shift.” Since then, we’ve been saying, “shift happens” in response to such mistakes.

I also encountered a very similar situation to that experienced by Vanessa Hojda in relation to a friend of mine I once recommended for a job. Fortunately, before I forwarded her resumé to HR, I noticed she somehow had also included several attachments in her e-mail consisting of hilarious photographs of hideously dressed customers of a well-known discount retailer.

I’m not sure what caused the error, but it might have something to do with the fact my wife had originally sent both of us the pictures and our friend probably got my e-mail address from my wife’s message.

Anyway, I deleted the pictures before forwarding her resumé. Nevertheless, I’d still have no problem recommending her as it was an honest mistake. However, if I were the hiring manager or recruiter I might feel a little differently.

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, visit

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