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Choose your words carefully

Published on: 1 Feb 2016


Image: Nic McPhee (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

There are plenty of pitfalls just waiting to ensnare the unsuspecting job applicant, and while some can’t be avoided, others certainly can. Some of the avoidable ones are also those you rarely think about: spelling, grammar and punctuation.

It may seem a simple and straightforward point to make, but it’s also an important one. You can have the perfect qualifications for the job, have the perfect outfit ready to wow your potential employers and a cheeky personality perfect for engaging with them, but the first step is getting to the actual interview. 

The first impression an employer has of you as a prospective employee is the one you offer through your application. 

It’s not just your CV either – you can spend hours perfecting and tailoring it to specific job applications but you need to think about its delivery, or the vessel through which an employer will receive it.

A great example of the power your words can wield comes from a recent mistake made by a work experience applicant. While not strictly a job application, the same rules govern them to the point where they are practically indistinguishable.

The college student in question attached her CV to an email to apply for the position. The CV was perfectly written and clearly outlined the applicant’s experience and education, giving a very good impression of its owner.

However, the email that contained it seemed more of a joke – it was almost as if the two pieces of writing were the work of two different people. Grammar, spelling and punctuation had all been thrown out the window, which was bad enough, but to make things worse the email was also rude and demanding. 

Any credibility the CV carried was easily dismissed because of the way it had been presented.

This applicant was not successful and never will be while employing such tactics. Perhaps a well-mannered, wonderfully written email or cover letter would have succeeded where this one failed, perhaps not, but the point is this: do not underestimate the power of a well-written job application.

Here are some tips to help you avoid similar mistakes: 

  • Don’t rush your application, whether it’s for your dream job or one you don’t really want but certainly need. Take them time to read, re-read and then re-read again everything you are presenting to an employer.
  • Decide how much time you want to spend formulating this application, and then double it. Use the extra time to do some research, proof read or simply sit and think about what you want to say.
  • Don’t be shy about asking for help. Get a second opinion on the email, cover letter, CV or application form you’re sending to your prospective employer. It may seem like a boring task to them, or even embarrassing to you, but it will help you write an honest and polite application that will stand up to the scrutiny of others.
  • Be polite. Over anything, just be polite. Those reading your application are taking time out of their busy day to do so. Treat them with respect.

Always remember, the image you present through any communication, whether it be in person, on the phone or via the written word can make or break your application. Act on this accordingly.