With unemployment at all-time highs and a lot of competition for available jobs, job seekers need all of the advantages they can get in that arena.
Sure, your education and professional experience paint a pretty good picture of the employee that you may one day be, but the way that you communicate—both in writing and in speaking—could say more about you than what is on that resume! Whether or not you agree with it, the fact is that you are judged by how you have arranged those words on the paper, and how you speak them on the phone and in person. That judgment could result in a missed opportunity to show off those credentials! If your English and grammar are anything less than great, your resume and cover letter—no matter how jam-packed they are with stellar experience and schooling—could end up in the trash. If you don’t believe that, and would like to hear from some of the people who are hiring out there, read on.
Barbara McLeroy, HR Manager of Geneva-Liberty Steel, says, “I don’t want a potential customer to be thinking about someone’s poor grammar rather than listening to how our company can service their needs. Poor grammar is distracting! If I have received a resume that is poorly written, has bad punctuation, bad grammar or misspellings, I don’t have the incentive to go further than the shredder with that communication.” HR Consultant, Lauren Engle, says, “It is incredibly important to be able to communicate, verbally and written, with clarity and correct grammar. “ She says that applicants with very poor written communication “will typically be screened out in the beginning of the process.” Rose Griffith, SPHR and Principle of GrifWorks, agrees: “Yes, there is too much poor writing being submitted for job applications. These people were automatically discounted for the positions for which they applied. Hands down. It is absolutely a deal breaker. Clear communications are essential.”
Barb has been in a hiring role for the last twenty years and feels “that the problem has gotten worse because more and more people are relying on Spell Check. It doesn’t always work. I think the rise of electronic conversation has left many people unable to communicate clearly.” Rose, though a huge fan of email, thinks that the quality of communication began its decline with email and has increased with text messaging. “Too many people think the world has gone casual; truly, it has not, especially if your employer is interacting with European companies.” Interestingly, Lauren Engle has seen a different trend. She has noticed that with the tightening of the job market over the past few years, the level of communication “among new grads has gotten better. I know that they realize the competition is tight, and the colleges are teaching them better etiquette and communication skills so that they have better placement numbers.”
On a lighter note, Barb McLeroy says that recently she received a phone call from a job applicant who was looking for “Miss Leroy”. In addition to clear communication and accurate grammar, be sure that you have the correct name of the person that you are addressing!
Chances are that you have had some professional assistance with creating your resume. Your cover letter is generally your own creation! At the very minimum, have someone review it before you send it. Sometimes when we are so close to what we are writing, we might overlook something so small as a misused word or an incorrectly placed apostrophe.
If your English and grammar skills could use a little polishing, you might consider a little brush-up before sending your next cover letter and resume. There are plenty of online resources and tutorials out there to help you. Here are some that you might consider: Grammar Girl: grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/, The Tongue Untied: www.grammaruntied.com. The Purdue OWL: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/.And, for some quick tips on everyday grammar blunders, visit www.thegrammarnerd.com. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Job & Career Education Center (JCEC) offers a variety of materials to guide job and college searches, prepare for entrance exams, write resumes and improve communication skills: http://www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/jcec/
The bottom line is that the experts agree: good communication and grammar skills are essential in the job search. Having less than that can get your resume into the trash can before it is even read. We can’t all be experts at everything, so, if you think that your grammar and communications are less than stellar, consult some of the resources in this article. Be sure that the image that you project is truly professional and grammatically accurate and leaves no room for negative judgment!