Feature: You Are What You Write

Feature: You Are What You Write

Feature: You Are What You Write

A recent survey of human resource professionals found that over one-third have visited social networking sites to look for information about employment candidates. Personal pages and videos posted on MySpace.com, YouTube.com, FaceBook.com and similar sites are now fair game when employers conduct “background checks” on job applicants. With concerns about office security, employee theft, and malicious behavior on the rise, they want to learn as much as they can about the character of a person as well as their capabilities on-the-job.

This assessment, however, is not limited to what can be found on social networking sites. It also encompasses virtually every interaction you have with an organization online. To put it another way, your evaluation now begins with the first e-mail message you send and continues through every subsequent communication you have with the organization. From an employer’s perspective, then, you are what you write.

That view has always been true, of course. Employers have long made judgments about job applicants by evaluating their resume. On the Internet, however, it’s far easier to get trapped into careless and potentially damaging expository mistakes. What follows are three simple rules to help make sure that what you write is you at your best.

Rule #1: Be Business-Like in Employment-Related E-Mail

Always assume that any online correspondence you have with any representative of an employer is of a business nature. E-mail may have developed as a casual medium, but when you’re seeking employment, it’s a serious activity and should be treated as such.

  • If you are initiating the correspondence, err on the side of formality and begin your message with a standard business greeting and the recipient’s last name. For example, you might write “Dear Mr. Brown.”
  • If you are replying to a message from a recruiter, follow their lead in determining what greeting to use. For example, if they begin their message with an informal “Hi Joseph” or “Hello Joseph,” you may do so, as well. If they begin with the more formal “Dear Joseph” or “Dear Mr. Brown,” then you should reply using the more formal greeting.
  • You should also follow the recruiter’s lead in determining whether to use their first or last name in your greeting. If they signed off in their message with their first name, then you may use that name in your greeting. If, on the other hand, they signed off in their message with their full name or some variation of their last name (e.g., Mr. Jones, Ms. Kay), then you should use their last name in your greeting.
  • Rule #2: Watch Your Tone of Voice

    The tone of an online communication can be easily misunderstood. In fact, one study found that as many as 50% of all e-mail messages convey an unintended (and potentially harmful) tone. How does that happen?

  • A frequent source of misunderstanding is the simple choice of which case you will use in typing your message. Just as it’s impolite to shout in a conversation, it’s impolite to do the same online by over-using the upper case or capital letters in your e-mail.
  • Tone is also conveyed, although more subtly, by your word choice and syntax. Make sure you select terms and phrases that can’t be read more than one way and avoid those that could be misunderstood without some familiarity with your mannerisms and way of speaking.
  • Stay away from ambiguity. More often than not, clarity declines with the length and complexity of your sentences. So, keep it short and precise.
  • Rule #3: Represent Yourself Well in Your Writing

    Carefully compose every message and then even more carefully proofread what you’ve written.

  • Recruiters are most impressed with candidate e-mails that are articulate and to-the-point. Multi-syllable words and complex thoughts don’t influence them as much as the clearly expressed answer to a question or explanation of a point.
  • Recruiters are put off by messages that have improper or non-standard punctuation, grammatical errors, and misspellings. They believe that such miscues reflect inattention to detail and a lack of pride in one’s work. If those attributes are evident in something as important as your employment-related communications, they are also likely to occur on-the-job, and that possibility undercuts your credibility as a candidate.
  • No one believes that a resume fully conveys all of a person’s potential value to an employer. It is, however, the key to the front door. If the resume doesn’t open the door and get you invited in for an interview, you’ll never have a chance to embellish on what you’ve written.

    The same is true with your online communications. Even the briefest and seemingly insignificant e-mail between you and a recruiter becomes a part of your record. The messages you write online, however, may have an even greater impact on your evaluation by the recruiter. They are less stylized than your resume-a more candid snapshot of who you are-and thus are often considered a more reliable gauge of how you will act once employed.

    Does that make them more important than your resume? Of course not. Your resume tells a recruiter what you can do. Your online messages, however, tell them who you are. And, in today’s world of work, that information can spell the difference between a job offer and a rejection letter.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Remember what you learned in kindergarten: It’s nice to share. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    ExecuNet, an executive career management and recruiting network, released the results of its latest Recruiters Confidence Index. Based on a survey of thousands of executive recruiters, it provides a useful picture of trends in senior level employment. According to the Index, demand for executive talent, which rose to a six-year high in 2006, is still heading up. Where are the bright spots? The five career fields likely to generate the most growth are:

  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Manufacturing
  • Consumer Products.
  • Which functions are likely to see the most opportunity? According to the Index, they are:

  • Sales
  • Business Development
  • Finance
  • Operations Management
  • General Management.
  • Does this mean that your transition will be a cakewalk if your background is in one of these fields or industries. Not exactly. According to a separate poll by ExecuNet, almost three-quarters of all executives are now dissatisfied with their work. In other words, you may have a lot of company in the job market, so success will depend on your ability to be at the top of your game in your search.

    Men’s Health magazine published an article with some interesting ideas on when you should leave your job to look for something better. It’s time to hit the road, the article suggests, when:

  • You feel your work doesn’t matter;
  • The challenges you face at work fail to draw on your best skills;
  • You don’t fit in with your coworkers or the culture of your employer;
  • The same job-related issues and situations bother you over and over again;
  • You haven’t been promoted in three years.
  • While I wouldn’t quarrel with any of these criteria, I think the most important single metric for evaluating your current job is missing from the list. It’s an oft-stated bromide, but almost as always ignored. You should never stay in a job that prevents you from performing your best work in an occupation you both enjoy and excel at. It’s not the job, however, that’s often the problem. More frequently, it’s the kind of work we’ve assigned to our career. If you’re working in a field that fails to engage and challenge you and draw on your best talent, you’ll never find an employment situation that can optimize the paycheck and happiness you bring home from work. You must fix that problem first-identifying the natural talent that enables you to perform your best work-and then look for a job that employs it.

    Monster released a number of enhancements to its Web-site. Positioning itself as a “comprehensive career partner,” rather than simply a job board, the site now offers the following features:

  • A way for job seekers to compare themselves with other candidates who have applied for the same position through Monster;
  • More detailed search criteria (e.g., mileage from a specified zip code, level of education required) when probing the Monster job database; and
  • A redesigned home page that streamlines access to job search tools and services and will shortly provide a better organized career advice section.
  • These upgrades to your experience on the site illustrate one of the principal criteria you should use when evaluating which employment sites you will visit. You have over 40,000 sites from which to choose, so it’s important that you select those that are most likely to serve you best. One of the hallmarks of a well managed site is continuous improvement. A job board or career portal that’s not upgrading its services and features on an ongoing basis is falling behind the state-of-the-art. And, an employment site that’s falling behind in its field will likely cause you to fall behind in yours.

    WEDDLE’s announced a new and completely free program designed to deliver important benefits to career counselors and coaches. Called CareerReaders, it provides:

  • A subscription to WEDDLE’s recently launched e-newsletter written expressly for career counselors and coaches and designed to explore the latest trends among employers, recruiters and hiring managers;
  • An invitation to an exclusive, toll-free seminar on WEDDLE’s research into the best practices in online job search and career self-management;
  • Exclusive discounts on WEDDLE’s flagship Guides and Directory; and
  • Unlimited supplies of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Catalog for distribution to clients, so they too can take advantage of WEDDLE’s books.
  • CareerReaders is open only to practicing career counselors and coaches. To obtain additional information and sign up, please call WEDDLE’s at 203.964.1888.

    “When in doubt, consult WEDDLE’s … an industry standard.” HRWIRE

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. You’re a heating systems professional who’s looking for a position with a growing company in your field. Where could you go online to fire up your search for great employment opportunities?

  • MEPatWork.com
  • HotJobs.com
  • HVACagent.com
  • HotWorkers.com
  • 2. You’ve recently been laid off from a small, family-owned accounting firm and need to find a new job fast. If you’d now like to work for a larger firm in your field, which of the following sites would add momentum to your search without imposing a penalty?

  • JobsintheMoney.com
  • CountOnUs.com
  • CareerBank.com
  • BankingBoard.com
  • 3. You’ve just received your certification as a physician’s assistant, but are having a hard time uncovering a job in your local area. Where could you go online to find a cure for your employment ills?

  • PAworld.net
  • HealthJobsUSA.com
  • AAPA.org
  • HealthCareerWeb.com
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    IEEE Job Site

    Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers


    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: No

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Number of jobs: 10,000

    Salary levels of jobs: Up to $100K+/yr

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: Indefinitely

    Restrictions on who can post: Must be in the field

    Other services for job seekers: Links to other sites with job search/career resources

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but HotWorkers.com, a pornographic site.

    2. All but CountOnUs.com, the site of a biotech company.

    3. All of them.