Career Wisdom*

Whether you are interested in moving up into a higher grade or staying in your current position while continuing to grow, many staff ask this question: how do I manage and cultivate my career at such a large, decentralized organization?

This page will provide “Career Wisdom” in the form of advice, resources, and best practices and let you learn from Harvard staff members who are successfully managing their careers. The page will be populated with new ideas monthly, so plan to check in regularly.

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!

Your Career Questions!

Who sees my resume and cover letter first when I apply for a job at Harvard? What is the initial screening process?

This first review depends on the hiring process the individual school or unit follows, but Harvard does not use keyword or other automated screening. In some cases, a dedicated HR recruiter is the first step for applications, reviewing resumes for evidence that an applicant meets the basic qualifications and preferred additional qualifications. In other areas, all applications may go to a designated person with hiring privileges (such as a hiring manager or department/lab administrator) for review.  Regardless of who reads your application first, resumes are screened for specific evidence of the basic qualifications and preferred additional qualifications. Cover letters are read to understand more fully the candidate’s skills and interests for the specific job.

Do you have a career question? Email mycareerquestion@harvard.edu!

*Career Wisdom is a collection of tips, suggestions, experiences and knowledge from Harvard staff, who share what they’ve learned during their career journeys.