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Better Written Job Applications

2 September 2019

You don’t need me to tell you that when you write a job application it is an important piece of writing.  As such it needs to be an example of your best writing.  You need to ensure it is not weakened by poor word use and poor sentence structure.  I have written previously about the content that goes into your job application, here now are 10 tips on actually doing the writing.  

1.    Just write, don’t edit as you go, just get your words out on paper.  Experience has taught me that if you don’t write a thought as it enters your head it will be lost.  It may be that you don’t use the thought in the end, but better to capture it on a side document than be left scrambling to remember what it was.

2.    After you have your initial ideas down edit, edit again, and edit again.  The best writers are the best editors so make sure you leave yourself time in your writing schedule to do at least two edits.

3.    Get someone who is good at proofreading to go over the document again. This person does not need to edit your writing they simply need to look for typos and sentences that don’t make sense. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are saying that when we re-read it makes total sense to us, but is actually gibberish.  Your proofreader can read for meaning and typos.

4.    Go through and deliberately try to make all your sentences shorter.  I bet at least half of them can be, and shorter sentences are much easier to read.  (Oops, let me rephrase: I bet at least half of them can be.  Shorter sentences are infinitely easier to read).

5.    Double-check any sentences where more than two occurrences of the word ‘and’ exist. These are the sentences where you will confuse and lose your reader.

6.    Use the readability statistics function in programs such as Word to check for passive sentences and adjust where necessary so you come across with a stronger ‘voice’.

7.    Put yourself into a good mood for writing.  Be warm, well hydrated, comfortable and undistracted by any forms of media or friends, family or work colleagues as you write.

8.    Don’t write where you work.  It will impede your creativity and make your writing sound too ‘business’ like.  We want your writing to come across as genuine and authentic.  Yes, it still needs to be a professional piece of writing, but formality is not what we want.

9.    Don’t write when you are tired.  Your exhaustion will come out in the tone of your writing.

10. Have a framework to structure your writing.  In my new book In the Loop I expand on the YESMe job application framework and explain the psychology behind why it works for the employer, and why it works for you.

The person reading your job application is fickle and easily spooked.  They are fearful of making the wrong choice so they go looking for any clue in your writing that might alert them to the possibility of making a mistake with you.  This means you need to be all over spelling, sentence structure, and on top of any unintended discrimination in your language.  

Read your final application looking at it for phrases that are exclusive rather than inclusive of minority groups such as references to age, religion/beliefs, gender, race, ability and marital status.  These can come out in biased language such as he/she, leader/follower, manager/worker, IT guys.   Also check for commonly confused word spellings such as those I present in this article.

Finally, challenge yourself to reduce your writing by at least a quarter.  Most people tend to be verbose and include many more words than needed to convey their message. 

Use the quality of your writing to let the reader (that is, the employer) feel safe with you.  Allow them to feel they can trust you and believe in you.

As always wishing you a flourishing career.


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