It’s a given that you do need to be polite when writing to recruiters. However, overdoing it may result in an employment pitch that sounds excessively simpering or reserved.
What’s a happy medium, then? Well, the key is to balance any hard, go-getting evidence about what you have to offer with soft words that woo the employer.
In other words, just like flirting with that attractive guy or girl in the corner of your class whom you’d like to know better!
Promote yourself assertively, not aggressively
Let’s imagine it’s that lull in between class, and you decide to walk up to that special someone sitting in the corner of the lecture theatre.
You say “Hi”, make small talk... and then launch straight into a riveting story about how you body-slammed another player on the field while you were playing hockey and bruised his or her ribs in the process.
Don’t expect to get a phone number after that!
What does this have to do with your employment pitch? Many graduates tend to use SHOUTY, ACTION-ORIENTED language, because they think it impresses recruiters.
The problem is that to a prospective employer, writing like that is about as effective as trying to land yourself a date with a story about bulldozing into someone on the hockey field.
Consider this particular excerpt from a cover letter that’s just a little bit too “in-your-face”:
I further demonstrated my ability to increase profits through my role as president of the university hockey club. I beat down soft drinks suppliers, slashing the amount that we paid them, and sold their value drinks as mixers at high margins. I also introduced high-impact promotions and a loyalty card for our club members, which made our profits soar.
Although this candidate has done the right thing by showing an employer they’ve done something interesting while in a position of responsibility, he or she has committed a number of cardinal employment pitch sins:
- They’ve effectively confessed to cheating their peers by up-selling cheap energy drinks. Skimming money off of your own club members is not a good way to demonstrate leadership abilities!
- This excerpt makes it sound like this candidate has arm-twisted a sponsor into selling products below the standard price. Remember: employers want individuals who can negotiate, and talking about abusing your suppliers does not show that you can meet that need!
- The candidate starts off using good, assertive verbs (e.g. “demonstrated”) and then quickly regresses into using “sensational” verbs that seem to come straight from the pages of The New Paper. Sure, their readers might be titillated by how a certain someone was “BEAT DOWN and SLASHED outside a nightclub”, but recruiters are far less appreciative of such recycling bin fodder.
Recruiter, be my Valentine!
The key to making yourself seem appealing to recruiters is to be subtle yet truthful. Anyone can write that they want to work for a successful employer – that’s easy praise.
But if you want to use flattery – be very careful about this if you do – only do so as part of letting the employer know that you’ve done your research and can appreciate why they’re successful.
So how do you write to an employer in a way that’s a teensy bit flirtatious (without being too embarrassing or inappropriate) and still get away with it?
Consider our crush in the corner – if you just walk right up and start showering them with praise, you’ll seem insincere at best... and worst, just plain creepy!
Why not show your crush (and by extension, recruiter!) that you can be a good partner by:
- Taking an interest in what they do
- Noticing and pointing out the nice things about them (in moderation, of course)
- Exploring common interests
- Mirroring their expectations without coming across as slavish
- Showing how reliable you can be, but hinting at something about you that’s just a little bit special
What you can’t go wrong with is writing about what you like about the employer based on your research or knowledge, and then explaining how you can contribute to their development.
Don’t write that you have “heard something” about that employer, though – that just makes it sound like gossip!
In addition, all of the evidence you have that shows you’re the right match should be stated quite simply, with the bare minimum of puffery.
Here are other dos and don’ts to get recruiters (or your crush) interested:
Applications or résumés that are too long and tatty-looking create an impolite impression. Keep them tidy, short, and simple. (The same goes for what you wear around your crush, too!)
Getting your facts wrong about your dream employer is just like forgetting your significant other’s birthday – it never ends well.
A haphazardly-written cover letter with bad grammar is as bad as showing up for a date with breakfast on your shirt, or not holding the door open for a lady!
Don’t lie, exaggerate, or talk up your achievements to employers, just as you shouldn’t pretend to be someone you’re not in front of your crush!
A roll-call of achievements is great, but don’t be brash about it. Your crush wouldn’t like hearing you rattle off non-stop about how awesome you are either.
“I did this. And then I did that. And then I did this. And then...” Vary your style or your recruiter will nod off, along with your date!
Everyone has a story to tell and has had a bit of success, so be confident about what you’ve got! No one likes working with a self-deprecating doormat, just like no one wants to date someone who’s always putting themselves down.
If all is said and done, and the interview (or the first date) doesn’t work out, don’t keep pestering the recruiter for a second chance. Doing that will only get you blacklisted... or “un-friended” on Facebook!
Recruiters and organisations are like that dreamy classmate in the corner – they enjoy knowing that they somehow stand out to you.
If you genuinely believe something about the job role or organisation seems exciting and appealing to you, then put it down in writing when you apply. Just be sure you’re able to back up your enthusiasm if you’re called in for the interview!
After all, a successful flirt ends much the same way as a stellar job application – with a phone call asking if the two of you can get to know each other better!