I love words.  I am one of those people who hears a new word, looks it up and uses it three times so it becomes part of my spoken and written vocabulary.  There is a name for that but i need to look up that word. :)


Words can and do sell.  One does not have to be a world class journalist to write a cover letter for a resume that inspires your client to want to know more or bring that candidate in or do a phone interview.  Every candidate has "a story".  When i present a candidate resume via email, i tell their story.  I bring them to life in writing because i learned a long time ago that most people respond to written things and learn better by reading and rereading than they do by listening.  I can sell a candidate on the phone and say all the same things, and do, but i have found that when my client can read a presentation and has a "word picture" of my candidate they often respond more quickly than a fast pitch on the phone.


My feeling about this was confirmed this week when i received a note back from the SVP of a client i am working with now who is in a hiring blitz.  No time for phone conversations.  The note said, "Good job on the written presentations that you are sending us, my guys and i find ourselves paying more attention to what you are telling us about the candidates than we do to the resumes, keep them coming."


Recruiters seem to struggle with writing, not sure why.  Many times i receive a resume from another recruiter who simply takes the job description and does a laundry list of some of the requirements puts them on the left and a few words from the candidate's resume on the right.  Then will put a one liner that says, "Communication skills 7/10.

Tells me nothing about the candidate.  Does the 7 out of 10 on communication mean he speaks and writes well , uses plain english to present an idea or does it mean 7 times out of ten he won't stutter?  What is his personality like is he a high energy, hit the ground every three feet running or is he a laid back, soft spoken fellow with a delightful british accent.  Tell your candidate's story with words that draw a picture, it works.


The other place recruiters fail to use the right words to get the right results is in ads.  I just had a funny one myself.  I am working with a client building a sophisticated, high energy , customer service group.  The job title is Customer Service coordinator.  I have never worked a specific customer service position so i flopped it on a job board ,ad title just the way the company wrote it.  Sweet Jesus, save me from the thundering herd of babysitters, fast food folks, call center job hoppers and anyone who ever took a phone call anywhere.  I was ready to hang garlic on my monitor and find a silver bullet.  I changed the title.  It now says, "Commercial Accounts Coordinator" on one ad and "Corporate Accounts Coordinator" on another.  The flood of wrong level candidates stopped the minute i changed the title.  The job description is exactly the same only the name was changed to protect a recruiter from being trampled to death by people who only read two words "customer service".

The same thing happened last week on another spot.  A client called.  they had been trying to fill a position for a trainer since November and were not getting the candidates they needed.  I got the job description, the title was "Employee Instructor".  Hmmm.  Changed that one to "Corporate Trainer - HR".  It took one hour for a candidate with a masters degree in psych and four years of training experience to respond.  She was interviewed 10 days ago offer made 4 days later, started last Tuesday.  I also have five or six top flight HR executives who are very placeable in the future. 

 The power of words both good and bad is an awesome thing.

Views: 1182

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on May 3, 2012 at 9:26pm

Such an important message, Sandra! People constantly give me grief for being such a stickler for semantics, as if the actual "meaning" of a word should be adjusted to fit any convenient interpretation someone decides makes sense for their purposes. 

While I have no formal education or training or anything else officially related to the communication category, for as long as I remember I've had some element of that in my professional life. I'm certainly no expert and I DO make my share of mistakes, but usually they are related to tired eyes and fingers incorrectly typing what they think the brain was thinking. 

I agree that it is extremely important in the employment realm to use appropriate language and demonstrate written communication competence. And, I do hold recruiters, human resources, trainers, etc., to a higher standard. Sheesh! If ever there was a case to build credibility, this is group that NEEDS to bring the skill set up to demonstrate basic English comprehension.

Your example of simple wording changes in job titles and posting content is excellent. It's disturbing how haphazardly most job ads appear to be put together. Pathetic, really that just a bit of effort could make a HUGE impact in candidate quality, not to mention the reputation of the hiring party. 

I remember one time I was scrolling through an online job board alert that come through my private email one evening and I spotted a posting from my own company at that time. The recruiting team reported to me and I was mortified to see the company name misspelled on an ad that one of them posted.

Another (lazy) person on that team barely understood the concept of cut and paste, but that was about as much effort as they put into any online post. Anytime I questioned why they titled or worded something a certain way, they looked puzzled and said that was what the HM provided. Oh, great! Just take it at face value and don't bother proofreading or editing anything that could possibly improve the content or results! 

Maybe it's just me, but I cringe every time I see a recruiter or anyone else posting a "permanent" job. When did any such thing ever exist? Same goes for "illegal" interview questions. There ARE laws against discrimination, but it would be practically impossible for law to be written to cover every possible iteration of these allegedly "illegal" questions. Who exactly does one call to get someone hauled away in handcuffs when they've asked an "unfortunate" interview question? 

When evaluating resumes, cover letters, online profiles, etc., I also tend to expect minimal, if any, errors. Again, I've had people tell me I shouldn't be so stringent on those, but if that is their "best" impression and it has language problems, I can only imagine what might happen when they are communicating something that has less importance than their professional reputation or ability to earn a living. 

Job seekers always ask me if they "have to" use a cover letter and I usually say... FACT: Many/most recruiters don't read CLs. FACT: If you are applying for a position that involves any level (whatsoever) of business communication (practically every professional job) someone like ME (there are exceptions) will likely expect to see how well you write. AND your CL is an effective way to prove your skills - if well done, it doesn't hurt in the etiquette department either. Worst case scenario, your spectacular CL will not be read. BUT what is the harm in having it handy and including in the event that it might provide that extra layer of differentiation? 

The other issue I've experienced multiple times in the workplace is the challenges certain individuals face when it comes time for them to move ahead in their career and they are prevented from doing so due to communication deficiencies. Or, even worse when those issues are revealed after promotion beyond their abilities and they end up having poor performance reviews due to lack of effectiveness in that area. 

So, based on all of that I feel justified in expecting people to have it together with their business communication proficiency. 

BTW -- my apologies for any typos on my RBC posts. This format don't make it easy to see much and I ain't too bothered that the grammar police might find me out :) 

Your fellow word-nerd... KB @TalentTalks 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 3, 2012 at 9:59pm

I love "word-nerd"  agree with everything you have stated.  Far more good cover letters have helped get someone an interview than those ignored that didn't do any damage.  All of us posting on social media don't put as much stock in the "fast fingered flub up" or the he ain't got none grammar mistake when it's dash and flash.  But a business email even from one peer to another full of the same and somebody's stock goes down.

I have had physicians rejected from difficult to find searchs because they had a mis spelled word on their CV when English is not their first language.

I also think we have a generation of barbarians coming up who will have a difficult time spelling their own name due to texting and accepting the thought.  The horrors of autocorrect are a whole nother subject.


By the by, there aren't really any illegal questions it's what one does or does not do with the answers that makes it an offense.  When some indignant candidate spouts off that someone "can't ask them that".  I splain that anybody can ask them anything, go ahead and answer it then if you don't get the job you may have an interesting EEOC complaint.  Rather than risk that scene we came up with the "don't ask, don't tell".  That has really worked out well for everybody hasn't it?

Comment by Suresh on May 4, 2012 at 1:52pm

Sandra, that is some valuable insight. You should be charging a fee for this kind of info.

(The best of all, you don't have a bunch of links to your blog or website included in the info)



Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 4, 2012 at 6:32pm

Thanks Suresh.  I think us mossybacked old recruiters have a responsibility to share the stuff we have learned with our younger peers or actually anybody who might get something out of something that we have experienced that might help them help their clients or candidates.


I write here to interact with this group.  I have this great blog page attached to my website.  Guess what is on it.  Nothing, zip , nada.  Someday i may actually write something on it.  I am not promoting myself, my company, my website, my services or any other goofy thing when i write on RBC.  I am pretty sick of the people who do cast about looking for something to write about on any site so they can generate traffic to their web site.  I think that's "Squawking and hawking" AKA looking for a place for free advertising.  Social media for me is social.  Period.  I will let the nerds who couldn't make it in recruiting have the honor of charging a fee for what they should give away.  :)  thanks for noticing.

Comment by Suzanne Levison on May 4, 2012 at 6:53pm

Amen on the previous post comment, Sandra. Enjoyed the topic~True R Words were never spoken!

Comment by Christopher Perez on May 4, 2012 at 7:17pm

This resonated with me big time, Sandra. I know there is a contingent of folks who say that if you're not on the phone you're not doing recruiting right. The phone is certainly a critical tool, but so is the written word if you have the chops to use it to good effect. I love writing the story and painting the word picture that positions a candidate in a hiring manager's mind. You alluded to this when you shared your client's feedback, but my goal is also to make the resume superfluous to their decision to meet the candidate. It's one of my favorites aspects of this business.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!


Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 4, 2012 at 8:10pm

Cinco de Mayo is in full tilt boogie in this part of the world.  Cerveza and pinatas everyplace.  And the Derby is tomorrow.  Only in Texas do you wear a sombrero una dia , drink beer with the mariaches and knock the hell out of a pinata on a city street then the next put on a silk dress, four inch heels,  a big picture hat and go to a Kentucky Derby party , stand by the pool under a tree and sip mint julips.

You got the "picture", i got the chops.  :)


@Suzanne, pox vobiscum, thanks , words is good if we make em' werk fer us.


Comment by Peter on May 8, 2012 at 1:33pm

Good stuff, Sandra!  The ability to use words to help a client "make the leap" is a powerful one, indeed!  Well written!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 8, 2012 at 2:53pm

Thanks Peter.  If people would learn to make their cover letters tell their story they would get a lot more attention from recruiters also.  The written word can be very powerful or very misunderstood.  I write my client cover letters then read them outloud to see how they sound before i send them.


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