“Number of applications for this position: 100+.” This is something you commonly read on popular online job portals these days. So whether you are actively looking for a job or are considering a step up in your career, the ability to sell and market yourself effectively is more important than ever in these tough economic times. Written documents like your CV or covering letter still play a crucial part in this process, because they are often the first sight a recruiter or potential employer has of you. Improving your business writing skills will significantly contribute to making yourself positively stand out from the crowd of other applicants.
What is more, social media platforms have added a whole new dimension to the range of information about you that is available to recruiters and employers. However, they offer you additional opportunities to market yourself effectively and can help to enhance your chances, provided that your profile and all activities that are linked to it such as group memberships, posts and discussions represent you in a professional way. A sloppily scribbled post or discussion comment will not show you in a good light but a well written and structured profile can be a stepping stone to new career opportunities.
So how do the general principles of good business writing apply to writing applications and to creating a professional online profile?
1. Consider what your reader requires
The purpose of your application documents and online profile is to provide an overview of your relevant qualifications and skills. Your application documents should clearly match the requirements given in the job specification, so that recruiters and potential employers can quickly check whether you ‘tick all the boxes’. Reading time for each document is limited, as it is not unusual to receive a huge number of applications.
When writing your online profile think about what key skills and qualifications are crucial for the industry or organisation you wish to work in and highlight these. A catchy summary containing relevant key terms will help to attract the right people to your profile.
2. Be clear and concise.
To cater for the specific needs of your reader, you have to master the art of short and succinct writing. Waffling and lack of focus in your covering letter and/or CV are likely to have an impact on whether your application lands on the right pile regardless of your skills and experience. It is not easy to cram a lot of relevant information into a short paragraph, but the harder you work on writing succinctly the easier and quicker it will be for your reader to grasp the relevant information. And you will also demonstrate your writing skills.
3. Put some thought into structure and layout
Structure also contributes to clarity and conciseness and the information you give about your experience, skills and qualifications needs to be connected and arranged in a logical way. You might think that the chronological order of your work experience or education dictates the structure of your CV. However, depending on the job description and employer, it does make sense to reconsider your structure. For instance, if you are applying for a job where international experience is crucial, highlight yours separately under a clear heading. This helps the reader to spot this information at one glance instead of having to skim read your whole CV.
4. Show, don’t tell
Provide evidence of your skills and give concrete examples. Use numbers and figures if you can to back up your arguments. For example, if you highlight your leadership qualities not only give the number of people in your team, but also say what they achieved under your management. Even if you cannot provide exact figures, it is still better to state that your implementation of an induction plan contributed to more effective training of new employees than simply mentioning that you implemented one. This clearly demonstrates how employers will profit from hiring you and how you can add value to their organisation.
5. Aim for perfection
Your CV and covering letter are not only a summary of your skills and qualifications, they also convey a first impression of the quality of your work. If, for example, you claim in your covering letter that you have a keen eye for detail, but have typos or punctuation mistakes in your documents, you are clearly undermining your credibility. Your application documents are your ultimate selling tool and therefore need to be impeccable. Therefore, ask someone who is proficient with grammar and punctuation to proofread your documents. A spell checker will not discover unclear formulations and you are likely to become ‘blind’ to your own mistakes after having read your own writing repeatedly.
6. Keep them up-to-date
Information stagnates quickly in the digital age. Three months may not seem like a long period of time but on a job portal a CV uploaded three months ago is likely to go unnoticed due to the huge amount of more recently uploaded applications from other job seekers. It is important not only to keep your documents themselves up to date but also to keep them fresh in the search cycle. You can keep your online profile current and up-to-date on social media platforms by posting interesting and relevant articles or by initiating and taking part in discussions. However, always remember to check what you post carefully to avoid creating a negative impression.
Never underestimate the time and effort it takes to create professional and well written application documents or maintain a dynamic online profile. However, the time and effort you spend investing in your business writing can make all the difference in helping you to land your dream job.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2013