Written by Ulla Oppermann Blankholm, Blankholm Kommunikation
During her 8 years at Holm Kommunikation, Pia Hammershøy Splittorff has read numerous applications from people who are “passionate about communication” and “write flawlessly” who should be among the people expressing themselves the best. Sadly, the applications made the same mistakes over and over again.
“It is most often rookie mistakes I see in the applications: Errors, exaggerations, clichés and excessive words. People still send applications with spelling and copy/paste errors, and some get lost in the same old phrases and chit chat. When I was once working for a bureau, I received an application from a newly graduated candidate who used half the application telling me about the importance of communication to Danish companies” Pia Hammershøy Splittorff says. Today she is the Vice President for Global PR & Communication for Georg Jensen.
According to Pia Hammershøy Splittorff, it was a waste of words, really, as she already knew the importance of communication. Rather, she would have liked to read about which companies the graduate would have liked to work for or which communication disciplines she thought was interesting.
Do not copy the company values
Pia Hammershøy Splittorff thinks you should avoid copying from the company’s homepage because it is a misunderstood way of using space in your application. If it says on the homepage that the company has a “the client is always right” policy, it is a bad idea – and way too transparent – to write “I believe the client is always right”. Instead, use this knowledge to describe how you have worked in regards to this mantra.
“Do not use too many labels like “dynamic”, “sharp”, and “team player” to describe yourself. A good rule of thumb is still “don’t tell it, show it”. Drop the bad clichés. There are simply too many applicants who are “passionate” about this or that, good at “multi-tasking”, or “hoping to elaborate on their application in an interview” Pia Hammershøy Splittorff says.
Do not get overly creative
In your attempt to avoid clichés, do not go to the opposite extreme and become too creative. Some people do so by writing e.g. a themed application using only circus-lingo or, as Pia Hammershøy Splittorff mentions, a hunting theme: “I want to start my job hunt with a half year internship… and I have my canon loaded with strong analytical and methodical competencies… I am aiming for an internship at Holm Kommunikation and am looking forward to hearing from you”.
Pia Hammershøy Splittorff admits that it also comes down to taste but that themes can easily seem a bit strained.
She also thinks you should avoid exaggerations in your application, especially as a newly graduated applicant, as you might be up against a strong and much more experienced field of applicants and therefore have a tendency to exaggerate and boost your cv. She stresses that all people should avoid exaggerations.
Also, be careful with references – for instance if you know someone in the company you are applying to.
“It can be fine but should be used carefully. Introductions such as “I have been referred by XX” do not give an impression of a person who actively and from a place of interest in the company is applying for the job” Pia Hammershøy Splittorff says. Instead, she says, you can mention your reference later on, e.g. by writing that this person has told a lot of good things about the company.
Applying for a job is a difficult discipline
Though it is easy to point out what you should not write in an application, Pia Hammershøy Splittorff thinks it is important to mention that it is actually difficult to write a good application – even for skilled and experienced copywriters.
“For newly graduated candidates, it can be difficult and somewhat of a nightmare to apply for jobs because they do not have a lot of experience and content to put in their text. Therefore, a lot of them take to using the same old clichés, phrases, and traditional ways of composing an application; it is a crutch to lean on” says Pia Hammershøy Splittorff and continues:
“It takes a lot of effort and many headaches to separate yourself from the clichés, and putting into words who you are and what your personality is like can be a challenge and is something most people do not have great experience in doing. It is actually only in a job interview that you need to do this. The clichés are the easy solution but not the ideal one”.
You risk sending a signal of not trying hard enough
According to Pia Hammershøy Splittorff, the problem with cliché-filled applications is that most employers - especially in the communication industry – would love to see something well written and original when they open your application.
“They want to experience who the person behind the application is and which skills he/she possesses. You need to speak to their curiosity and make yourself memorable so the employer will remember you in the pile of maybe several hundred other candidates” she says.
This calls for a selective mind when it comes to your text which should only take up about one page. However, if your page is filled with errors and empty phrases, you most likely will not be called for an interview. Sending an error and cliché filled application will, to most employers, show an applicant who has not tried hard enough, and according to Pia Hammershøy Splittorff that is the worst signal you can send.