Whether it’s face-to-face or via email, communication in the workplace requires professional etiquette. This may sound like common sense, but many of us still struggle to present ourselves in the best light possible.
Read the RoomFirst and foremost, you should read the room.
Do a little research on any company you plan to apply to in order to understand the environment you could potentially work in.
Is it a corporate job with a large volume of employees where quick thinking, independence, and proficiency in specific skills will be valued above all? Or, is it a company that relies on interpersonal skills, teamwork and exceptional customer service?
Depending on the type of organization and the role you hope to have, you must adjust the way you conduct yourself in any correspondence to demonstrate that you can blend in seamlessly with that company. If you’re getting the vibe that adding a little personality would not give you a leg up, but rather distract or turn off your potential employer, just stick to your credentials and respond to the job listing (if available). Otherwise, my advice is to add a splash of individuality to help set you apart.
Sometimes your personality can be a real asset in the job search process.
Find the BalanceShowcasing your personality and passion in a cover letter can be a great way to make a first impression (for the right job), but it can be tricky to find the balance between professional and familiar discourse.
Be confident, but not cocky.
People are drawn to confidence. Employers are looking for someone driven and capable. They want to know that you can handle yourself and feel comfortable doing whatever your job demands, even in unfamiliar territory. Demonstrate your confidence and competence, but don’t be cocky. No one likes that.
There’s a line between asserting your capabilities and boasting about them.
Be friendly, but not familiar. You want to demonstrate that you’re a real person behind the text, someone co-workers and colleagues can get along with, but you don’t want to give off the impression that you don’t understand boundaries. There’s a difference between being approachable and being bold or forward.
It can be useful to approach the drafting process as if you’re writing to yourself. It takes the pressure off and helps you draw out your personality if you’re struggling. However, when doing this, you must go back and edit out any instances where you’re too familiar or comfortable.
Last note on balance, I promise... If you’re using humor, make sure it’s appropriate, relevant, and subtle. You want your potential employer to take you seriously. Humor should mostly be used to help underscore an employable trait rather than thrown in willy nilly. You also don’t want it to overpower the rest of your letter. If you choose to use humor, find little ways to incorporate it to hint at your personality, but stay focused on the task at hand: showcasing your employability.
When in doubt, leave it out.
Stay, Don’t StrayWhen corresponding with potential employers, be sure to keep your message focused and clear.
Sometimes adding an anecdote to your cover letter can be useful, either to showcase your personality or to demonstrate your experience with something (or sometimes in place of concrete experience), but it’s easy to get sidetracked or drag on when doing so.
Infusing bits of your personality and/or real life applications into your cover letters can be effective, but every word you compose should have a specific, tactile purpose for being there.
Be economic. Stay focused.
Mind Your GrammarSo you’ve sent out what you think is the perfect cover letter or email, but you keep getting rejected or ignored. What gives?
Sometimes it has nothing to do with your credentials and everything to do with your first impression. Cover letters and initial emails between you and your potential employer are like handshakes for the digital world.
You can’t take back your first impression; so make sure it’s exactly where you want it before sending.
Did you proofread carefully? Did you have another set of trusted eyes on it before sending it out? If you’re like me, you’ve accidentally sent out a less than perfect email at least once in your life.
It happens. Let’s learn from it.
Some common faux pas include grammar and spelling mistakes, poor and/or unclear sentence structure, and poor word choice. Be sure to check that you’re grammatically correct and that you sound intelligent. This doesn’t have to mean using fancy jargon. Use words that are naturally in your personal lexicon, but string them along in such a way that demonstrates confidence and intelligence.
I’m not kidding about that sentence structure, it can go a looong way.
This is why having multiple eyes on your work and reading it out loud are so important. Sometimes these little details are the root of your rejections. Find them, correct them, and flourish, my friends!
Paige is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri where she got her degree in English. She is going through the job search process just like you and writing about her findings as she goes. When she’s not blogging about the working world, she’s hanging out with her niece and daydreaming about travel.