How Your Writing Style Affects Your Job Search

Posted by Jessica Simko

If you read the hedline of this post and thought it was an intresting article to read. And then you started to read it and it sudenly became clear the auther doesnt appear to understand how to spell or use correct grammer, wood you read it threw till the end? They’re are many conclusions one could jump to about my expertise and personel brand just base on this 1 paragraph, isn’t their?

Okay, that might be a bit exaggerated for the average bad speller, but I have seen worse!

In today’s online world, your ability to spell and use proper grammar and punctuation plays a huge role in building your personal brand – especially if you are a job seeker. Strong writing skills are incredibly important nowadays because writing is one of the main ways we communicate with each other at work. Your writing represents you and is often your first impression to a potential employer. And let’s face it: first impressions are very hard to change!

As a job seeker, the biggest assessment of your written communication skills will typically come into play after you have sent in a resume and cover letter. Why? Most people take great care in assuring their cover letter and resume are error free. However, a surprising number of people do not. Do not be one of those people – especially when writing out a job application!

What is Your Professional Writing Style?

When hiring managers want to set up an interview with you, sometimes they will call you, but other times they might just send you an e-mail asking for some good dates and time for your interview.

I like sending e-mails. Honestly, I prefer to communicate by e-mail so I can assess a candidate’s written communication skills in “real” life. I know many people do not write their own cover letters and resumes so I’d like to see some writing that comes directly from you.

Why are writing skills important? Most office jobs, nowadays, require employees to communicate with their customers /vendors/suppliers via e-mail. Would I want to have a new employee who writes like I did in that first paragraph? What was your first impression of me when you started reading this article?

If you can’t spell or put sentences together properly, people will draw some not-so-great assumptions about you. Sadly, I know some very smart people who can’t spell or write good sentences no matter how hard they try. You must realize, though, potential employers do not know anything about you and will likely assume you do not pay attention to details, or are just lazy. This is a less-than-desirable first impression, isn’t it?

Are You Writing to Your Friend or to Your Potential Employer?

In addition to proper spelling and grammar, knowing when to be formal or informal with your writing style is key.

When I set up job interviews via e-mail, my last question to the candidate is a variation of “will 2:30 PM Friday work for you?” I typically get two different types of acceptance responses:

  1. “Dear Ms. Simko: Thank you for contacting me. Friday at 2:30 PM will work well for me. I appreciate your interest in me as a candidate and I look forward to meeting you on Friday!  Best Regards, Bob.”
  2. “Sounds great! See you then.”

Now, I am not advocating a response like #2 is always inappropriate but when you are communicating with someone for the first time, professionally, (as a job seeker and at a new job) you should always be very professional in your communications – i.e. response #1.

Response #2 won’t kill your chances of getting the job but people who use response #1 will have a definite edge over you.

Less-formal communication styles may build over time as you get to know people better and as you become familiar with what type of communication is preferred in the workplace. But until then, put your best writing style forward!

Do You Have “Writing Samples” Online?

Finally, as we often mention on this blog, employers will likely Google you to learn more about you as a job candidate. Just as important as it is to have a “clean” online appearance, you should make sure that the style of your writing is clean and appropriate as well. If you are a blogger, write published articles online, or you comment in LinkedIn groups, your great content isn’t going to make much of an impression on me if I see your writing style resembles paragraph one of this article.

What I read online from you is considered as a “writing sample” to me. Bad grammar and writing skills will cause me to lose interest in you as a candidate.

If you are not a great master of the English language, I would advise you to find someone who is and have that person Google you and look over the content you have written online. This is a great opportunity for you to gain feedback and clean up your act a bit.

For anyone who wants to improve his/her writing skills, there are many free online courses. It really is important you take some time to work on your writing skills if you are weak in this area or are unsure about when to use different communication styles. Excellent writing skills go a long way in building a strong personal brand and executing an efficient job search.

Jessica Simko, is a senior level human resources professional and a leading career brand and job search expert/strategist. She is also the founder of Career Brand Authority. Originally published on CAREEREALISM.


This entry was posted on Monday, October 10, 2011 6:00 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation