15 July 2015
Author: The ExecuSearch Group
When composing any kind of job-related correspondence—emails, thank-you notes, applications—it’s important to view your work from an employer’s shoes. How are you representing yourself? If you were the employer reviewing these materials, what would your first impression of the candidate be? Unfortunately, many job seekers don’t take this kind of objective view to their own work, which can often reflect poorly on them. In most cases, grammar is an often-overlooked factor that many may not realize is sabotaging their job search. From ensuring your resume uses consistent punctuation to reviewing your emails for any common blunders, be sure to take an extra careful approach to all job search-related materials in the future. Here are some common slip ups many job seekers miss that, rest assured, employers do not. Confusion of Two Similar Words The English language can be tricky. Many of us speak more than we read or write, so it can be easy to overlook words that sound the same but have different meanings and uses (these are called “homonyms”). Familiarize yourself with the following so you never confuse them in a professional correspondence or document again: Then/Than. “Then” refers to transition of time—for example, “let’s exchange numbers, then meet up around noon.” “Than” is used to make comparisons, such as “I’m on a bit of a time restriction, so I’d prefer to grab coffee rather than go to lunch.” Its/It’s. The use of the apostrophe in these two words often confuses many. Though many possessives use an apostrophe, “Its” is the exception; “it’s” doesn’t show ownership, but is instead a contraction of “it” and “is.” For example: “Our interview is next week. It’s coming up quick!” and “Outlook makes scheduling meetings easy with its interactive calendar.” Affect/Effect. This is a common one misused on resumes. “Affect” is a verb, whereas “effect” is a noun. A resume entry regarding your impact on a company’s sales, for example, could read “Had a positive effect on sales with a 32% increase in my sector” or “Positively affected sales with a 32% increase in my sector.” Both mean the same thing, but the sentence structure dictates which word is correct. Improper Punctuation Proper punctuation may seem insignificant until you consider how strongly it affects the meaning and flow of a sentence. You may understand what you’re saying when writing, but if a hiring manager has to do a double-take and dissect your application to understand it, that only takes away from valuable time that could be spent reviewing your credentials—not to mention it may affect how professional you appear. Be sure you understand the basics of punctuation and stay consistent. For example, whether or not you’re prone to using the oxford comma (or the comma after the last entry in a list, such as the final comma in “red, white, and blue”), be sure to stick with that format throughout your resume, email, or application. In addition, be sure to keep other punctuation—like a period or lack thereof at the end of a bullet point—consistent as well. If you don’t stick with the same style, your documents can look messy and poorly formatted; furthermore, it may seem like you didn’t take the time to proofread your work, even if you did. When you land your next position, don’t stop there! Proper use of grammar can help you write with confidence and authority, which is a valuable skill that extends far beyond the job search phase of your career. Colleagues are more likely to take your requests seriously if they’re well-written, and your supervisor will surely appreciate the professionalism.