Next week, I start a new internship, which I am thoroughly excited about. This has got me thinking back to that time of hunting through job posts and filling out applications. I’ve been reflecting a bit on what it takes to stand out from the crowd. I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to do this is by showcasing exceptional writing skills. So much of the application and even interview processes are dependent on your ability to write! I even had an interview that required a writing exercise to be completed prior to the face-to-face interview. This is good news for us writer folk since we get plenty of practice doing this on a regular basis. However, you may find that writing in a professional sphere is very different than creative writing and writing for fun. This isn’t to say that creative writing cannot be a profession! In fact, I hope to make one out of it someday. Rather, I am referring to the technical writing required by resumes and for most professional positions. In light of all the time I spent writing for job applications, I thought I’d lay out some quick tips for writing for this type of audience. These tips are very general guidelines, however, it is important, of course, to tailor all of these suggestions to the specific job that you are applying for. Which leads me to No. 1.
№ 1: Follow any and all given instructions EXACTLY!
It is important to read directions carefully. This is a test, and it’s a very easy one to pass. Don’t neglect the paragraphs that instruct what to hand in, when to do it, how it should be done, where it should go, and who it should go to. In short, READ EVERYTHING!
№ 2: Use concise language.
This can be especially hard for those of us who write fiction because we always want to paint pictures and craft beautiful passages. These are some of the techniques we use to make our readers remember our work. Most employers, however, don’t care about your ability to wordsmith. They want your ideas, and they want them quickly. Odds are they are looking through a ton of applications and they want to move through them in an efficient manner. They will look at your application for a brief moment and decide if you are either a “YES” or a “NO”. Your flowery language, metaphors, and philosophical digressions will fast track you to the “NO” pile because they simply don’t have time for it.
№ 3: Research, Research, Research
Employers want to see that you are interested in THEIR company. If you are sending a generic cover letter to 15 different employers, they’re going to recognize that you are just interested in A job, not THE job. Look up the company’s mission statement, their values, projects that they work on, and write in your letter of interest why those things appeal to you. This is going to make you stand out and will show them that you are a good fit for their offices (or factory or team or whatever it is you would be joining).
№ 4: Speling and grammar is of the utmost importance.
Remember that “NO” pile we were talking about a minute ago? Here’s another way to land yourself there with little to no effort. Even the slightest grammar or spelling errors can be a major turn-off for employers. This is often seen as a direct reflection of your intelligence and anytime you show a flaw, they will take notice. In addition, this is a very easy way for employers to sort through the numerous applications they receive. They’ve got to weed people out somehow, and this is often an easy place for them to start. In order to combat this, I would recommend letting a number of people read your materials before you submit them. Also, one of the absolute best ways to gauge whether wording or grammar is correct is to read aloud what you’ve written. I do this with emails, essays, and, yes, job applications. Almost every single time I catch something that I hadn’t seen when reading in my head.
№ 5: Your writing is judged during every… single… interaction.
Every email, phone call, and in person exchange is a representation of your ability to structure your thoughts, and communicate with others. How do you think it comes off when you’re on the phone scheduling an interview, and you say, “Sorry, Wednesday ain’t gonna work for me.” Now I know this is an extreme example, but you would be surprised at how many people, especially those my age (college students) use such informal language during these interactions. Remember that all of those tips above apply to each interaction you have. Don’t ramble on about why you can’t schedule an interview for a particular day. They don’t care that you have a dentist appointment or that your car is in the shop. They want to know when you’re available, and that is all. Your email with the spelling mistake equates to overall carelessness. Think about it; wouldn’t you judge a company if they had misspellings and grammar mistakes in their emails or advertisements? Would it make you think less of them? I know I certainly judge a company on its ability to correspond adequately with potential employees and customers. Those who are lazy during those touch points are probably lazy during business transactions also.
So there you have it, my 5 quick tips for landing that job and using your writing to help!