These days my letter writing amounts to scribbled ‘thank you’ notes or something addressed to a customer service department, rattled off at speed.
An inevitable side effect of the immediate and addictive nature of social media and its connectivity is that the art of letter writing fades with every post, text, blog and image we send.
For most of us, losing the art of letter writing is not so catastrophic, it’s a bit like egg decorating or flower pressing. Isn’t it? When is a letter not just an old letter?
When it’s the letter of application….
Executive Director at LSC Education, Edward Clark reveals just how vital the letter of application really is. It seems that it might be more critical than we ever imagined. He provides ten useful truths for all those considering the most effective way to progress their CV to the top of the competitive pile.
- Allocate sufficient time to writing your letter. Consider your division of time when updating both your CV and writing your letter. Do not purely focus on your CV, if the letter is poor your CV might not be read.
- The letter of application reveals much more of your personality than your CV does. The tone of a person’s writing is powerful in conveying something of their personality. Beware of sharp, direct, arrogant, overly casual or desperate tones.
- In the vast majority of cases you will have a job description or person specification provided to you. It is vital to tailor your letter to respond to this. Providing examples of how your experience fits the role is very effective. Being concise and original in your writing style is also helpful. Avoid clichés or colloquialism.
- It is important to substantiate your claims, avoid statements, for instance, such as ‘I am an outstanding leader’, without giving some evidence for this. Highlight your skills with examples.
- Do your research. Indicating that you know about the school/organisation is essential and shows that you have a genuine interest. Demonstrate that you are excited about becoming part of the organisation. Use language effectively that reflects the tone used in their marketing materials.
- The visual impact of a letter can be just as powerful as the content, letters that are not formatted, are poorly laid out or with inappropriate fonts are also off-putting.
- When working in the world of education, accuracy is paramount. Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation can be surprisingly distracting and takes the focus away from your letter. Your application could be discounted if it has too many spelling mistakes.
- Please make sure that the recipient’s name, title and address details are spot on.
- Re-draft and re-draft before asking someone else to read your letter and to give you feedback.
- Close your letter appropriately. In the UK, if you know the name of the person that you are writing to use "Yours sincerely". If you do not know the name then "Yours faithfully" is the correct salutation.
So while we may think that the art of letter writing belongs to a bygone era, the skill of producing a persuasive, accurate and memorable letter of application still remains very much at the forefront of the application process.
Without doubt a carefully crafted letter could be the difference between a first stage interview and a rejection letter. It is well worth the investment of your time. Good luck.