12. Employment Materials

Employment materials are some of the most important, and most challenging, pieces of writing you will ever undertake. This is because of the number of contradictions involved in writing employment materials. The résumé is both a simple list of your job history, and a referendum on your qualifications; you must show your passion for the job you are applying for, but too much passion is over-the-top. Your job application (cover) letter is an evidence-backed statement of your achievements, a clear representation of your personal brand, and the first writing sample a potential employer will see. Add to that one more challenge: your materials must be concise, and yet also comprehensive. If accomplishing all these tasks at once feels daunting, you are not alone.

The aim of this chapter is to ease your mind and demystifying the job application process by giving you some core principles to follow. Whether you are applying to be an administrative assistant or an engineer, a web developer or a caregiver, many of the strategies are the same.  As you read through this chapter, keep the following principles in mind:

  • The more customized your materials are, the more successful they will be — generic materials are unlikely to capture an employer’s attention.
  • Your materials should demonstrate not why this job would benefit you, but instead how you, as a unique candidate, can benefit your potential employer.
  • Your materials should not simply list every job you’ve ever held, but emphasize transferable skills, making an argument for how your past accomplishments prepare you for the job you are applying for.

To tailor your materials to a specific audience is to work smarter, rather than harder. In fact, tailoring is one of the core principles of technical writing — a principle you read about in the audience analysis chapter of this text. Imagine yourself in the position of a hiring manager.  Would you be more likely to hire a candidate whose generic résumé looks like it has been sent to dozens of similar employers? Or would you be more likely to hire a candidate who has researched your business and understands what the job entails?


This chapter was written by Megan Savage, Portland Community College, and is licensed CC-BY 4.0.


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Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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