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In Job Applications Every Word Counts

24 February 2018

That person reading your job application is fickle and easily spooked.  They are fearful of making a mistake so unconsciously will err on the side of conservatism as they make an assessment of you. 

To make an initial impression of you often all they have to go on are the words you have written. 

Make every word count.

Here are some general guidelines to think about:

  • Be honest, sincere, genuine and heartfelt.
  • Give concrete, specific examples.
  • Be concise and economical with your language.
  • Be inclusive rather than discriminatory (gender; race; ability; orientation; religion/belief; age; marital status).
  • Use current rather than archaic language (I hereby acknowledge; I was abroad; I commend you), but stay formal rather than colloquial (I’d love to, you’ll want to; etc.; i.e.).
  • Avoid acronyms and jargon as these can make people feel confused or stupid if they don’t know them.
  • Keep your terminology consistent (program, project, job, assignment)
  • Avoid being apologetic or defensive (I hope you find it satisfactory; I humbly submit).
  • Look out for bias (he/she; leader/follower; manager/worker; IT guys).
  • Pull out your last job application and give it a review. 

Start by searching for the following words/phrases to see which ones could be replaced:

Absolutely, actually, apparently, as it were, basically, certainly, clearly, definitely, essentially, frankly, fundamentally, generally, highly, literally, merely, naturally, obviously, quite, really, simply, to be honest, very, virtually, with all due respect.

Then double check for confusable words that may have slipped in:

Affect/effect, lead/led; principal/principle; stationary/stationery; adverse/averse; advice/advise; allude/elude; appraise/apprise; assume/presume; cereal/serial; cue/queue; desert/dessert; discreet/discrete; flare/flare; flaw/floor; formally/formerly; foreword/forward; hear/here; instance/instant; manner/manor; meat/meet; pair/pear; peace/piece; precede/proceed; sort/sought; sole/soul; tack/tact; tended/tendered; vain/vein; want/wont; wreak/wreck

Finally, challenge yourself to reduce the writing length by at least a quarter.

Every commentator on writing says the same thing.  The best writers are the best editors.  Give yourself plenty of time to edit your next job application so every word counts.  Allow the reader of your job application to feel they are being held safely by you, that they can trust you, and believe you.

As always wishing you a flourishing career.


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