22 September 2011

First Impressions

Today is a little story about why being a good writer matters.

Bunches of people are looking for jobs in today's economy and in my job hunt, I had an amazing number of interviews. Not to sound haughty, I know I'm a good employee, but the thing that started to open doors was my first impression -- my cover letter.

For a job I thought was kind of a long-shot, the interviewer told me I got an interview because of my cover letter. It was creative and it was free of typos. In fact, he brought me in before the application period was closed, solely because of my letter. I ended up moving forward with a different organization, but I'm sure that I have a great new professional contact because of it.

My new boss mentioned that he received lots of letters for the positions that had typos and mistakes in them. I've heard the same thing from grant makers, that they get multiple proposals with mistakes in them. When they find one free of mistakes, it gets extra notice. Maybe you aren't the most qualified candidate or applicant, but a letter free of mistakes shows something that all the credentials in the world can't demonstrate -- you care about quality and spend the time to get it right.

For some people, like my mom, good grammar is as natural as breathing. I recognize I'm lucky that I inherited some of that from her, but I also know I have my problem words and constructions. When I was writing cover letters, I asked her to proof several of my letters just to make sure I was sending in a perfectly polished letter.

The statistics exist, but I've heard that in print, you get something like six seconds to make a good first impression. Don't harpoon your chances with a bad letter. Find that grammarian grandma or English major former roommate and ask for help. Offer a trade for their time -- while granny proof reads, clean something for her.

Don't let a typo stand in your way.


Lisa954 said...

I've seen exactly what you're talking about. I work in the Benefits Department of a large company in Omaha and deal with bad grammar, spelling, etc every day. This is not just from our phone agents, but also from extremely highly paid individuals. It makes me wonder sometimes. I'm one of those that sees mistakes very quickly. I don't always catch my own, so I have important things proofed. I find it incomprehensible that mistakes would be made on cover letters or formal letters to our company should be made when Word has spell and grammar check.

--tee hee--
I was just reading your posting on Netflix (which I completely agree with) and found that you used the word "principal" instead of "principle" in the fifth paragraph. oops...

Bethany K. Warner said...

Lisa --
Proof of why we all need editors.

I've been reading a blog about fundraising for work lately and have been finding at least one grammar/typo every day.

Maybe it's a good reminder for all of us that even though blogs appear instantly, we need the same level of scrutiny on them as on things that we would give print materials.