In honor of National Grammar Day on Sunday, today’s newsletter is focusing on written communication skills!
Good grammar probably won’t get you a job, but it could cost you one.
Before you get to the interview stage of a job search, your candidacy will be judged almost entirely on how you present yourself in writing — whether it’s your cover letter, resume, or LinkedIn profile. Recruiters don’t skim these documents looking for the best writer in an applicant pool (save for writing jobs), but too many mistakes can be a red flag. They can suggest a lack of interest in the job, poor attention to detail, or, worse, the absence of basic communication skills.
Editing your written materials will ensure employers focus on your skills and experience. Below are some grammatical and stylistic suggestions for cover letters, resumes, and LinkedIn, along with some general tips.
Structure your ideas. In my experience reviewing cover letters, many are bogged down by a lack of cohesion. Unrelated ideas are jammed into the same paragraph, claims aren’t directly supported, etc.
When writing a cover letter, use the first paragraph to iterate your interest in the position, then outline the three things that best qualify you for the job. These qualifications will be the basis for your three body paragraphs. For those, begin by reasserting the specific strength/qualification, then follow with a couple sentences substantiating the claim (i.e., “Through involvement with student groups, I’ve developed particularly strong leadership skills. As a senior, I was an officer for the Informatics Undergraduate Association, where I was responsible for…). Last, use the concluding paragraph to bring back all three strengths and say why, together, they make you the best candidate for the job.
This is essentially just the five-paragraph essay template, something taught in middle school. It’s simple, but tells the employer than you can communicate your thoughts clearly. Continue reading