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Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

7 Ways You Try Too Hard in Job Applications


how to write a job application

Remember photo albums?

Nope, not Snapfish. I mean actual albums with a cover, binding and plastic sleeves for physical photographs.

No recollection? I’m not surprised.

Our lives are 100% digital today and, while it’s convenient to store photos online, many of us yearn for something more tangible.

Something…real.

The limits of a digital life: memories shouldn’t just exist on memory cards.

That’s why Printstagram popped up, so we can bring Instagram photos to life as posters, magnets, sticker books and other hands-on products.

Then in early October I read an article from the Associated Press about a rise in 3-D portraits. It seems 2-D pictures are passe’. We need photos we can touch and feel.

From the article:

“Overloaded with digital photos, statues may be moving in to fulfill our desire for portraits that stand out.”

Hmm, stand out. Interesting word choice. We try so hard to impress — especially in job applications — and all it does it make us less real to the reader.

When you apply for jobs, are you guilty of these seven writing habits?

1. You use big words to appear intellectual look smart

Try too hard: I wish to inquire about the possibility of your company expanding in the near future.

Simple translation: I’m curious to know if your company is hiring.

Try too hardMy experience thus far has proven that I have a distinguished track record.

Simple translation: I have a proven track record, and here’s why.

The test: If it’s a line you would never say in conversation, don’t write it in a job application.

More “try too hard” examples here.

2. You rely on adjectives instead of stories

In a cover letter, you tell people you’re “energetic, focused and determined.”

That’s not real. It’s more like pleading for people to believe you. What proof do they have?

How about a story to show how you’re energetic, focused and determined? Like this one.

That’s real.

3. You sound like everyone else

Every time you write a line like “I am uniquely qualified for this position,” delete it immediately and replace with specific details on why you’re uniquely qualified.

“I spent the last two years as the assistant director of development for the United Way of Greater Cleveland, and the job has prepared me for [name of company]. For instance, at the United Way I…”

Everyone says they’re “uniquely qualified.” But you’re not like everyone…right? I didn’t think so.

4. One word: utilize

Classic “I’m smart look at me” word we utilize use in writing but rarely if ever in a conversation.

5. You never ask for help or to be taught

Especially recent grads. I read a cover letter in which a 22 year old called herself a marketing “guru.” Well, let me just show you to your new corner office as company CEO.

The irony is employers would much rather hire someone who is raw but willing to be molded.

Matthew Ross is a perfect example — learn from him.

6. Two words: such as

Again, “such as” is a phrase we utilize use to elevate our writing and ‘wow’ people. It doesn’t.

Want to look poised and mature? Let your guard down, and be human. An easy way — use “like” instead of “such as.”

7. You forget it’s OK to be vulnerable

No one is perfect. So don’t act like it.

Instead, show how the challenges in your life/career have fueled you and led to success.

Bosses have read enough applications where people use fancy words to sound like anyone but themselves.

Next time around? Be that 3-D portrait.

Be real.

 

What’s the toughest part of a job application for you?

Share below!

 

Featured: Pedro Ribeiro Simões (Flickr)

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