While mastering the industry-specific skills of your trade can certainly play a major role in landing your dream job, being able to effectively communicate with an employer is, arguably so, even more critical to your success as a job seeker. Regardless of how talented you may be at your trade, if you’re unable to communicate what value you can add to a business effectively and impactfully, you’ll likely find very few job offers coming your way. After all, an employer simply bases his or her hiring decision on what you communicate to them. Displaying professional communication etiquette very early on in the interview and hiring process is absolutely critical to making a lasting and positive first impression.
So, what are some guidelines to follow when communicating with a potential employer?
Here are the seven golden rules of communication etiquette for job seekers to follow:
- Keep it Honest – Honesty and openness are perhaps some of the most basic but essential components of good communication. Sure, including a few fabricated lines about how you graduated at the top of your class with honors may sound impressive in your cover letter, but it only takes one dishonest detail to spoil your chances with a future employer and lose their trust forever. Make sure your resume/CV is up-to-date, accurate, and error-free before sending it in to an employer. Be especially forthcoming early on in the process when it comes to your education, current employment status, and certifications. Even if you’ve been unemployed for a while or are lacking in experience, being honest and upfront with a hiring manager or recruiter communicates your trustworthiness and helps prevent any future misunderstandings. If a hiring manager can’t trust you during the screening and interview process, they’re certainly not going to trust you as their employee.
- Always Us Speel Chek – And not just the one built into your word processing program. Have a friend or professional acquaintance review your resume, CV, and cover letter for both spelling and grammatical errors. Being able to express yourself eloquently and intelligently through written mediums is essential, since this is most likely how you will initially establish contact with your potential employer. Always take a few extra moments to proof read any email or letter your interviewer will read. If your written communication is unprofessional and full of misspellings, grammar mistakes, slang terms, or formatting that is distracting, it will diminish the employer’s perception of you before you ever walk through the door.
- Respond in a Timely Manner – Part of professional communication etiquette is maintaining timely responses. Being prompt in your responses shows enthusiasm and communicates your interest in the position. If you’re going on vacation or will be difficult to reach for a period of time, be sure to communicate this beforehand with the manager or recruiter. Dropping off the map unexpectedly in the midst of the hiring process can result in missed opportunities, as employers are more likely to go with an eager candidate than one who’s passive in their responses.
- Don’t Overdo it on the Follow-Up – Showing enthusiasm and interest in a position is key to landing an opportunity. However, excessive follow-up and “reaching out” can be both annoying and detrimental to your chances of establishing a good relationship with an employer. If a recruiter or manager provides a specific timeline of when they will be in touch with you, always adhere to that schedule. If you are called in for an interview, follow-up your meeting by sending a simple thank you note to the person you met with within 24 hours of your interview. Use the thank you note as an opportunity to express appreciation and excitement for their consideration of you for their open position. Remember, keep the thank you note short and simple and don’t overdo it. A limousine full of “thank you” balloons and presents for the entire staff, while perhaps impressive, may come across as a bit desperate and give off the wrong impression.
- Mind Your Manners – Chances are most of us grew up amidst constant reminders to add “please” and “thank you” to our childhood vocabularies. As it turns out, those very same words can have a phenomenally positive impact on employers in adulthood as well. When communicating with a potential employer, make a special effort to always express gratitude for his or her time. Doing so communicates your respect for them on both a professional and personal level, which is a great way to make a positive impression before ever meeting them in person. However, don’t limit your courtesy to just the hiring manager. If called in for an interview, be sure to express that same level of respect and gratitude to everyone you meet – front office staff, assistants, and even custodial staff can sometimes have powerful influence over your chances of landing the job, even if you only meet them for a moment. Plus, making sure all communication with everyone you come into contact with stays friendly, polite, and courteous is a great way to develop a professional demeanor that translates into a positive view of your overall character as both an individual and job candidate.
- Don’t Be a Robot – In all correspondence with a potential employer, be sure to keep conversation professional, but not at the expense of being personable and friendly. If your emails come across as generic, cold, and impersonal, don’t expect to get a response back anytime soon, or at least with much fervency from the employer. Remember, the hiring manager is looking to hire a person, not a robot. The difference between the two is personality. As such, be sure to strike a good balance of friendliness, gratitude, and excitement in each of your messages. While it may seem trivial, if an employer doesn’t like you on a personal level, they likely won’t hire you regardless of how qualified you are for the position.
- Respect the Employer’s Communication Preferences – As an applicant, attempting to “skip” the chain of command by bypassing a human resources manager to talk directly with the final decision-maker rarely works out in the candidate’s favor. Respecting the employer’s processes for communication and following instructions lays solid groundwork for your candidacy. If an employer instructs you to submit your resume/CV through a web portal, for instance, don’t email it to them as an attachment instead. Pay attention to how your potential employer requests to communicate with you and be respectful in adhering to the timeline they present to you once the interviewing process begins. If you don’t hear anything back by the time they specified, it’s OK to check in and see how things are going at that time.
Developing good communication etiquette as a job seeker can certainly take a bit of finesse to master, but can also serve as an incredibly powerful factor in helping you make a great first impression, get the interview, and land the job you’ve always wanted.