Minding your p’s and q’s (April 2018)

Modern communications – often via text or other phone messaging – can be very informal, ignoring conventional spelling, grammar, punctuation and letter writing standards. If you’re looking for a job, don’t let the ease of sending a quick note result in letting your standards drop. Your reputation starts with your first communication.As the Harvard Human Resources webmaster, I receive dozens of emails every week from job candidates seeking assistance with the application process or following up on applications, and it’s distressing to see eager job applicants using poor, or hurried, writing that very well may affect their candidacy.

It’s critical that applicants understand that every communication may become a part of a candidate’s profile. This is true, whether you are an internal or external applicant.

  • Always use an opening and closing salutation. “Dear HR webmaster”, “Dear Human Resources” or “Dear Harvard” is fine. “Hi” – or nothing – isn’t.
  • Always proofread and check your spelling. If spelling isn’t your strong point, have someone else proofread for you.
  • Use periods, commas, and paragraphs.
  • Do not use text language. Use “because” not “cuz”, “please” not “plz”, “you” not “u”. (I’ve really seen this!)

And if you’re upset – maybe you’re having trouble using the Career application portal or you’ve received an email that you’re not being considered for a job you’ve applied for – wait to write an email. We understand you may be frustrated, but it won’t do your job search any good if you send an angry email.

Thank you. And good luck!