Your writing is the first impression you make. So it’s time to polish your skills and craft write better emails and communicate better in general.
Throughout your job search, you will be composing emails and drafting cover letters. And you’ll be asked to answer questions in writing. You might even be asked to submit a proposal on how you might impact the company.
Whether you are writing a cover letter or an email, or answering qualifying question, you have one goal: showcase your communication skills.
And you must do that while expressing your interest in and qualifications for the job. Here’s how to do that better:
Edit, Edit, Edit
Seldom is your first draft the best version of your writing. Once you have the first draft done, begin the editing process. Check to make sure you’ve addressed the who, what, where, when, why and how of your request or submission.
Here’s a breakdown of what to include in your writing:
- Who you are (in one or two sentences max!)
- What you are asking for (a specific job or a networking meeting)
- When you will follow up or would like to meet
- Why you are interested in the job or why you would like to meet
- How you meet the requirements
Remember, every form of communication should be given the same meticulous attention as any other material you write. To write better, always review your work through the eyes of the reader. Does it make sense? Will the reader want to take action?
Use a Template Write Better Emails and Cover Letters
Using a template saves time, helps you structure your thoughts and can ensure you aren’t leaving out important information. It is OK to use a template as a starting point, but make sure to update it to match the company and job you are applying to.
The danger of using a template is that you may overlook customizing important parts, like the company’s or person’s name. Don’t take shortcuts, as tempting as it may be. Your cover letter must address why you want to work for that particular company. It must also include the skills and experience that match those listed in the job posting.
Use the Person’s Name
Starting any communication with “to whom it may concern” shows you haven’t taken the time to research the job.
Generally, there is enough information in the job posting to know the title the job reports to. Take the time to look at the company website or LinkedIn page. Find the name of the manager you would report to. Once you have this information, address your correspondence using the standard formal format: “Dear Mr. James Smith.” If you cannot find a person’s name, you can address the email or letter to “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Keep Your Writing Concise
Today more than ever, readers have short attention spans. So get to the point quickly and clearly. Your job search communications should have three to four short paragraphs and must fit on a single page. Even then, it is unlikely anyone will read every word. So keep your paragraphs short and easy to skim.
Referencing specific details will show the reader you have invested some time researching the company. Avoid using general statements about why you would like to work for the company. In other words, don’t just write that you like their corporate culture. Reference a specific element of the company’s culture and why that is important to you. And when you list your qualifications, connect the dots for the reader by including in your communication how your experience will benefit the company.
Capture Your Reader’s Attention
There are at least a couple of ways you can grab the reader’s attention. When sending an email, use a subject line that stands out. Or, at the very least, is different from other email subject lines sent by people requesting the same thing.
For example, if you are emailing your resume for a posted job, a common subject might be “Jane Doe Resume” or “Resume for XYZ job.” Neither of these will entice the reader. Try using something like “3 Things Your Next Marketing Manager Can Do for You” or “Here’s Why You Should Hire Jane Doe.”
Make your cover letter’s opening sentence more enticing than “Attached you will find my resume for XYZ job.” Instead, describe your success in a similar role or function or include a testimonial from a manager or customer. The idea is to provide the reader with a reason to continue reviewing what you’ve written.
Don’t let careless grammatical errors erode your professionalism. Do not allow spelling mistakes to negatively impact your candidacy for the job. Use spell check as part of the proofreading process, of course. But don’t expect it to find every error.
Some words may be spelled correctly but used incorrectly, such as you’re versus your or their, they’re or there.
You may want to use a free online editing tool like Grammarly (affiliate) to help you write better. Also, before you send your email or whatever you are writing, set it aside and review it later. This can help you review it through fresh eyes. An even better solution is to ask someone to review your writing before you release it.
Your communication skills, and specifically your writing, is often your best chance to make a goof first impression. Be sure that it reflects your education, skill, and professionalism. Write better, and separate you from all the other candidates applying for the same job.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Career Sherpa.
About the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!