Archive for December, 2014

RELAX: How to Communicate Effectively

By Austin Grillo

Its five minutes before that big presentation. Your heart is racing. Your hands start to sweat. What if the audience thinks you’re stupid? You’re debating leaving the room and going home where nobody can see you.

You’re having classic symptoms of Glossophobia the fear of public speaking.  You and 75% of all Americans feel the same way. How can you stop these nerves from overtaking your ability to speak?

I too used to get unnecessarily nervous about presentations and interviews. By learning to rehearse often, show emotion, loosen up, understand the audience, and gain experience, I have vastly improved my presentation and interviewing skills, and you can, too. The mnemonic device R.E.L.A.X. will help calm your nerves so you can give a stand-out performance.

R – Rehearse

As you’ve heard since you were a child, practice makes perfect.  The first step to performing well in all walks of life is preparation. Also, the best way to eliminate nerves is to know your material. Be sure to rehearse before the presentation or interview until you know the material better than the back of your hand.  Some people are under the impression that by “winging it” they can give a great presentation.  From personal experience, I know that rehearsing sufficiently is the only way to succeed in a presentation setting, and by “winging it,” you are only setting yourself up for failure. NO MATTER how nervous you may be, if you’re an expert on the topic of your presentation, you will get your point across successfully.

E – Emotion

If you are authentically passionate about your topic, you will succeed.  By showing passion, the audience will respect what you are saying, and you will feel confident about what you have to say.  Showing that you truly care about what you are saying will bring about a positive energy that will translate to the audience and make for a great presentation. Though preparation is essential, when you are passionate about your presentation, you will be able to improvise and add details.  Bill Clinton, one of the greatest presenters of all time, doubled the number of words in his 2012 Democratic National Convention speech with improvisation because of his intense passion. Clinton’s passion is what makes him such a great communicator, and you should try to emulate his passion to succeed.

L – Loosen Up

When presenters are nervous they tend to speak too quickly and jumble words together.  When you stumble over your words, the audience will pick up on your anxiety.  If you too get anxious, remember to speak in a deliberate, relaxed voice.  Many presenters think that pauses are awkward and take away from the presentation, but calculated causes are essential for effective delivery.  I used to talk too quickly and stumble over words until I made a conscious effort to relax and slow my speech to the right tempo.  By slowing the tempo, I improved my presentation skills drastically.  Not only will stating your words deliberately make you appear more confident, but you’ll have more time to think about what you are going to say next. Lastly, speaking deliberately will cut down your use of filler words such as “um” or “like.”

A – Audience

The audience wants you to do well. The reason they are listening to your presentation is because they want to hear what you have to say. A great way to get over the nerves of public speaking is to connect with the audience. By making the presentation more conversational and less formal, the pressure in the room dissipates. Often, storytelling makes you sound more conversational. Telling a story does not require much effort.  In the end, the audience will more likely remember the story you told than the facts and figures in your presentation.Connecting with the audience in this way will decrease anxiety and make for a better presentation.

X – Experience

Just like practicing a presentation will improve your ability to talk about that topic; speaker
gaining experience by doing many presentations will make you a better presenter. By presenting often, you will gain confidence and have fewer anxious thoughts beforehand. By giving more and more presentations, you’ll learn what you need to do to deliver a successful presentation.

By remembering to R.E.L.A.X., you will be well-equipped to give a great presentation or interview.  Now go out there and own that audience!


December 5, 2014 at 8:51 am 1 comment

Lessons from Warren Buffett: Three Steps for Adding More Personality to Your Business Writing

By Abigail Barnhill

Has writing with incredible concision limited your ability to show personality in business writing? Business WritingThis limitation exists for many people. Business writing demands straightforward, clear, concise, and grammatically pristine writing. At times differentiating your voice from all the other business voices can be hard. This differentiation is even harder if you want to ensure the appropriate degree of formality. You can spice up your business writing to make it unique and still adhere to business-writing standards. I recommend a three-step method to achieve the most personable business writing: transparency, diverse word choice, and structural variety.

Be Transparent
What does it mean to be transparent? Transparency in writing involves openness, honesty, and responsibility. Regardless of the situation, someone writes each piece of writinga business person, an executive, an applicant, etc. Writing is a very human way of communication, so let parts of your humanity shine through in the form of honesty. For example, Warren Buffett, in his letter to shareholders from 1983 utilizes transparency to help explain his thinking. Below is an excerpt:

“My own thinking has changed drastically from 35 years ago when I was taught to favor tangible assets and to shun businesses whose value depended largely upon economic Goodwill.”

Buffett is known for his superb writing skills. Part of this skill is being open and honest at the appropriate moments—moments in which it enhances your message and adds credibility. In the above excerpt, he states “my own thinking has drastically changed,” which adds an ideal amount of personality. Moreover, this statement makes the writing relatable because the reader can understand that Buffett too is a business person who makes mistakes but also learns from them.

Developing transparency may take you a while. Practice is essential to mastering this skill. Start by reviewing your own writing and looking for places to where you could be more straightforward and honest. Try to give the reader a better understanding of your methods of thinking about the given topic. After some practice, you’ll find it easier to express your actual line of thought while writing.

Diversify Your Vocabulary
How can you enhance your vocabulary without using flowery language? It’s simple. Strong adjectives and verbs don’t have to be superfluous, unclear, or jargon-based. Many of us feel obligated in business writing to keep the language as clear and simple as possible. While this practice is necessary, you may also miss out on opportunities to express personality through vocabulary.Warren Image

To start, make a list of some of your favorite words that you like to incorporate into your writing. You could search through many lists of powerful words online. Choose words that not only help you express yourself better, but also words that continue to provide clarity in your writing. Again, Warren Buffett is a great example of how to use a variety of strong words that break often monotonous word choice.  He picks words like entice, shun, incur, dismiss, and many more. These verbs are not only concise, but they are also active verbs that keep readers engaged.

The key is to remember to add words that enhance and clarify your writing rather than cluttering it. With practice, mixing up your vocabulary will become more natural.

Add Structural Variety
How do you show personality through structure? Just choose your favorite structural elements and use them. Decide how to structure your writing in ways that best fit your unique way of thinking. Possible structural elements to consider are headings, bullets, sentence length, paragraph length, spacing, and punctuation.

The best place to start is to figure out your preferred structural elements. You may find that parentheses are most helpful in clarifying your thoughts, or that you prefer large, bold headings. These details can be small ways to express yourself in writing and perhaps distinguish your writing from the writing of others. Customizing the structure of your writing without sacrificing formality is fairly easy.

Over time, you will become practiced at creating any piece of writing to best depict your thinking. By being transparent, using diverse words, and generating unique structure, you will be able to express your personality without informality or cluttered writing.

If you’re interesting in learning more about voice in business writing, click here to read an article that describes the positive attributes of Warren Buffett’s writing.

December 4, 2014 at 8:44 am 2 comments

Watch What You Don’t Say

By Carly Duvall

According James Pennebaker’s research, women use an average of 16,215 words per day whereas men use an average of 15,669. Given the sheer number of words we use, you might think that nothing else could be done to ensure clear communication. However, especially in a business setting, we need be careful about not only which words we choose to say but also mindful of what we don’t say.

Watching what we don’t say? That’s right. Over half of all human communication is nonverbal, which means we send out more information with our gestures, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and style of dress than we do with the actual words we use (Figure 1).nonverbal In addition to nonverbals being a huge part of how we communicate, research shows that when someone sends out conflicting verbal and nonverbal messages, the listener will almost always believe the nonverbal message over the verbal one. Darlene Price, author of Well Said!, says some studies show nonverbal communication can have between a 65% to 93% greater impact than actual spoken words.

Given the importance of nonverbal communication, people need to step back and evaluate their nonverbals to ensure that they are communicating exactly what they mean. Becoming aware of and improving nonverbal communication will help in countless circumstances in the business setting: during interviews, meetings, and presentations and when establishing strong client relationships. Two easy ways to improve nonverbal communication and display more confidence in the work place are through practicing good eye contact and using effective gestures.

Practicing Good Eye Contact. Utilizing effective eye contact throughout a conversation or presentation is an easy way to improve your nonverbal communication. In many cultures, eye contact signifies confidence, as you are actively engaging with others rather than being submissive and looking at the ground or at your notes. Whether you are the speaker or listener, eye contact is an important part of a conversation as it lets the other person know that you are paying attention and acknowledging what he or she is saying.

Be mindful of your eye contact, however, as it can create some unintended negative effects. If, for example, you are giving a presentation and focus in on one person, you may come off as intimidating and make the person you are fixated upon feel very uncomfortable. Whether you are maintaining eye contact in a conversation with one person or several others, be sure to act as naturally as possible. Don’t be afraid to blink or look away every once in awhile, as you don’t want anyone to feel like he or she is being stared at.

Using Effective Gestures. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” contains some truth. As previously stated, research shows that when someone sends out conflicting verbal and nonverbal messages, the listener will almost always believe the nonverbal one. This finding indicates the power or “volume” of our nonverbals. Given that your body sends off thousands of messages through its conscious and subconscious gestures every day, becoming aware of these gestures and working to master them is another way that you can improve your nonverbal communication.

One effective way to use gestures is as a visual aid to underscore what you are verbally saying. For example, you can use your hands to signal something going from beginning to end, or you can use them to help punctuate a point, adding emphasis to your spoken words. However, be careful that your gestures aren’t distracting. Excessively using your hands or fidgeting can make you appear overly nervous or divert people’s attention from what you’re saying.

All in all, considering that over half of human communication is nonverbal, remember to watch not only what people are saying verbally but also what they aren’t saying – or what they’re saying nonverbally. Practicing good eye contact and using effective gestures are just two ways to improve your nonverbal communication. To learn more techniques for improving your nonverbal communication, check out Jacquelyn Smith’s “10 Nonverbal Cues that Convey Confidence at Work.”

December 3, 2014 at 8:45 am 4 comments

Be a Communication Ninja

By Aimee Xu

Ah, dealing with people. The bane of my existence. However, I understand communication is an important skill to have so I set out to learn how to do it best. One of the most useful books I have ever read is How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Since its publication in 1936, it has been one of the best-selling self-help books ever published with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. Self-help is not my preferred genre of books, but this book really changed the way I think about social interactions. I am able to get the most out of my relationships and make new ones easier with the simple tips in this book.

Although many of the tips in the book are very obvious (smile when you meet someone, remember their names, etc.), Mr. Carnegie presents the ideas with analogies of and quotes by well-respected people who really resonated me. The best place to learn is in the first section of the book “Fundamental Techniques in Handling People” because this section describes how to navigate social interactions more effectively.

Principle 1: Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain 

This principle is definitely something easier said than done. Mr. Carnegie, an avid fan of Abraham Lincoln, frequently refers to Lincoln for stories on how to deal with people. In the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade refused to listen to Lincoln’s order to attack General Lee, and Lee ended up getting away. This battle could have ended the Civil War right then and there, but Meade erred. Any regular person would have called up Meade and let him have a piece of his mind, but Lincoln was not a regular person. Lincoln wrote an angry letter to Meade but never sent it. If he had sent the letter, he might have felt better temporarily, but he would have alienated an important ally. When I feel myself swell up with anger at someone else, I think of the ultimate communication ninja and ask “What would Lincoln do?”

Principle 2: Give honest and sincere appreciation 

Everyone thinks he or she is the center of the universe. The secret to dealing with people is to indulge people in that fantasy. Sigmund Freud refers to this concept as “the desire to be great.” By giving people sincere appreciation for the work they do, you can motivate people to do better I remember when I was younger and my mom would ask me to do the dishes. It’s such a simple task, but I abhorred it. She would lecture and plead, but I would either refuse or very reluctantly do it. One day, instead of the usual scolding, she asked me, “Would you mind doing the dishes tonight? You clean them better than your sister.” Boom. I never had to be asked to do the dishes again. I did the dishes with joy in my heart thinking I was chosen for this task due to my amazing skills at dish washing. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but my mom is a communication ninja.

Principle 3: Arouse in the other person an eager want

People are generally selfish and to get something you want, you need to convince someone of the benefits to him or her. Understanding the position of your intended audience is first and foremost and in trying to convince them to do better. Once again, I am reminded of my mom and the way she dealt with me growing up. Like most elementary school children, I did not like going to school and would often cast off my homework in lieu of more entertaining endeavors. Instead of spankings or scolding, my mom would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would reply with whatever career I fancied at the time. She would say, “The only way you can achieve that dream is by doing this homework. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck washing dishes in a restaurant forever.” This statement left me nothing to say, and I would obediently finish my homework. She knew I wanted more out of life and showed me that the way to get there is through school. Once again, she is a communication ninja.

If you want people to like you: don’t criticize, be appreciative, and think of their needs. These three simple principles have helped me be less emotional when in a tense social situation and to get along with almost anyone. Hopefully these tips will save you from personal embarrassment or help you get the most out of your relationships!

December 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm 4 comments

The Stain of Fraud: Time to Communicate a New Story

By Ryan Trocinski

I have not known the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill without the stain of academic dishonesty. From the first day I stepped on campus in 2012, my classmates and I have carried the shame of 18 years of fraud. We have watched the countless questions and accusations fired at our student-athletes, most of whom enrolled after the paper classes ended. We have endured the mocking jeers of others who assume that every class at Carolina is a joke. Instead of the university we applied to, a university we believed was defined by academic rigor and growth, we have been laughed at and ridiculed by people all over the world.

The truth? We deserve it. We screwed up. Our university, my university, took the “Carolina Way” and dragged the once world-respected code of ethics through the mud.

To be clear, I had nothing to do with the paper classes. They began before I was born. To be honest, I even grew up a Duke fan. Somehow though, in spite of all the negativity swirling around this university, something about this place still draws me in. As I reflect on the past three years while I write this post, I realize more and more that I am above all proud to be a part of this university; I am proud to be a Tarheel.

In a world of NCAA violations, cover-ups, and athletics-first universities, I am proud to be a part of a university that is leading the way in opening ourselves up to independent investigation. I am proud that my school has taken unprecedented steps to expose ourselves so that we may learn and improve. I am proud that the Wainstein report exonerated both Roy Williams and Larry Fedora, and I am proud that over 800 student athletes who bleed Carolina blue on their field and in the classroom represent this university. Most of all, though, I am proud to walk through this campus each day surrounded by some of the brightest students, faculty, and staff in the entire world. What makes this school special – and what remains special despite our failings – is that we are a people and a community not defined by failure, but by the incredible impact we have on this world. UNC alumni are working all over the world, and we are changing the world in ways big and small.

We have submitted ourselves to public judgment through the Wainstein report, and the outcry is that we are a school and an athletic program built on dishonesty. In a reminder that I hope you do not need, this university is not defined by academic fraud. Instead, the people and a common desire to turn an incredible education into meaningful impact define this university. UNC has taken every step possible to eradicate any and all academic impropriety from Carolina, and perhaps it is time for us — as current students, as alumni, as faculty, and as a university — to stand together with the simple message that we will not be defined by failure but by growth. That although the Carolina Way is tarnished, UNC will be leading the way into new measures of ensuring academic honesty. Perhaps it is time to remember what made this place so special in the first place.

We have an opportunity to remind the world that we are still extraordinary, still different, but in an entirely new way. We have a chance to prove our commitment to academic excellence and the growth of individuals and this university. The reaction to the Wainstein report is defining us as a broken and battered institution, rather than as a university that has led the way for 225 years and will continue to lead the way into a new future. As a university, we have an opportunity to redefine what it means to be a student-athlete. Let us step forward as the new leaders in academia regarding the fight to maintain academic honesty and integrity. Let us remember the leadership and excellence that defined the University of North Carolina for more than 200 years.

Our approach must be fourfold. First, academic oversight must be firmly in place and layered through the efforts of Chancellor Folt, Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, the UNC faculty, and all of the coaches here at Carolina. Second, we must commit to continue to study what went wrong, not just here, but in college athletic programs all over the country as we strive to become the leader in academic reform and purity once more. Third, we must communicate our findings to other universities across the United States. Universities are failing to monitor student-athletes all over the country, and UNC has the resources, desire, and leadership ability necessary to step into a role at the forefront of the fight against dishonesty in college athletics. Finally, the University of North Carolina must begin to communicate our renewed commitment to academic excellence. Public perception of UNC and continued media coverage has revolved around the Wainstein report since its release, and it is long past time to begin to change this negative publicity with facts. We can be a university that leads college athletics into an era of academic honesty. We can return to the true University of North Carolina — a university forged and tempered through countless years and trials from the past but emerging as a leader of today and tomorrow. In short, we can again be the Carolina I applied to: a school defined by its people, its growth, and its impact all over the world.

The best part? We get to choose. We get to choose the message we want to send. We get to choose the kind of university we want to be. We get to choose not to be consumed by what was done in our past but rather by what we will do today and tomorrow.

My name is Ryan Trocinski, and I am proud to be a Tarheel.

December 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm 2 comments

A Tour Through the Art of Persuasion

By Andrea Gawkins

Do you want to persuade your boss to use your ideas? Do you want to persuade your parents to buy you a new phone? Do you want to master the art of persuasion? If you answered “yes” to the first two questions, then you must say “yes” to the third. Using impactful persuasive techniques can help you become an effective writer and presenter. It definitely helps me as an Undergraduate Business Ambassador as I conduct tours and persuade prospective students. Thanks to the seven logically persuasive tools provided by the Kenan-Flagler Business Communication Center, we get insight into how good business writers like Warren Buffet persuade with: statistics, history, analogy, example, comparison or contrast, consequences, and authority. I’ve described my Undergraduate Business Ambassador experience to demonstrate the benefits of using these seven persuasive tools.

Statistics. Use numbers! Adding quantitative data to your writing and presentations adds realism for the audience. After reading or hearing many words, your readers or listeners will remember a spark of numbers. Most importantly, presenting statistical data raises your credibility through the primary or secondary research you conduct. Take advantage of statistics you discover as you prepare your paper or presentation. As stated in the Kenan-Flagler Business School Business Writing Conventions and Expectations, about “70 percent of the population values quantifiable data as their way to understand their environment.”

Did you know the Kenan-Flagler Business School is ranked as a top-10 undergraduate business program in Bloomberg Business Week? As I give tours to prospective students and families, I always include our current rankings to emphasize our prestigious program. We take pride in all of our rankings, which also includes the MBA and Masters of Accounting results, since they show that the Kenan-Flagler Business School offers the best of the best in more than just one program. 

History. Some people believe history will repeat itself, which explains the significance of adding historical facts to a persuasive argument. Writing or speaking about previous events and their subsequent consequences can connect others with the current issue you address. Your audience will consider the historical fact you just presented and what might happen in the future — which aids your persuasive pitch. The art of persuading others is so powerful that teaching persuasive strategies started centuries ago with Aristotle in ancient Greece — signifying its importance.

Let’s look at the name “Kenan-Flagler” and discuss the two individuals responsible for the prestigious program we know today. I’ll bet you didn’t know Henry Morrison Flagler partnered with John D. Rockefeller to found the Standard Oil Company. Also, Mary Lily Kenan’s great-great-grandfather, James Kenan, helped construct Old East, the beautiful building on North Campus. Using our founders’ histories in my tours helps to show that the rich roots of our business school date back many years. 

Analogy. Mastering effective persuasion is as difficult as completing endless amounts of chores; however, once you do so, the result is quite enjoyable. Using analogies can help your audience relate to your topic — especially if the subject is complex. Additionally, if you are presenting on two topics that differ, try an analogy to help your audience understand the occasional similarities your topics share.

Using an analogy during a tour comes in handy when describing the undergraduate business school’s application process. The application process to become a Tar Heel is to swimming as the application to become a Business Administration major is to completing a triathlon. The UNC application might require many essays and letters of recommendation, but in order to receive acceptance into Kenan-Flagler, one must show college leadership and academic excellence. Hence, a triathlon is harder than just swimming a few laps. A student must show he or she is a well-rounded college student who really wants acceptance to the Kenan-Flagler Business School.  

Example. Saying “for example” occurs quite often in conversations. Explaining with examples enables you to illustrate your persuasive methods, and this approach helps your audience understand when this topic or event might actually happen. For example, if you are presenting about ways to create an appealing PowerPoint, use your own PowerPoint as an example to show the various visually attractive techniques Microsoft offers.

As a current student in the business school, prospective students and parents want to hear specific examples about Kenan-Flagler’s engaging professors and professional career focus. A typical example I use is the Capital Markets Lab, which demonstrates students are able to transfer textbook knowledge to reality. To show our diversity, I explain Café McColl’s atmosphere, which bustles with diverse people from all walks of life. I hope my tour group can see the reasons we enjoy attending this business school.

Comparison or Contrast. Using Venn diagrams in school helps easily illustrate the similarities and differences between topics. Take this same approach when discussing items from the same class as you attempt to persuade your audience. As you convince people your paper or presentation is effective, try comparing a previous successful project that used the same organization. If you are helping people with their persuasive writing and believe their approach is poor, mention others who used that same structure that failed to persuade their audience.

I use a comparing and contrasting technique on a tour when I am asked why I chose to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and why I majored in Business Administration. Just as I did when deciding on where to go to college, I compare and contrast the Business Administration major to others. Business is very different from the science and medical majors. The prerequisite classes are more focused on math such as accounting in Business 101. Additionally, business differs from economics because you must apply to become a Business Administration major. However, they might seem similar since both focus on the economy. I verbally construct a Venn diagram of the Business Administration major versus other majors. This technique helps persuade those students who are still unsure because they might not know the exact differences between the Economics and Business Administration degrees.  

Consequences. If you do not use these seven persuasive tools, you will not capture your audience’s attention, which will greatly affect your outcomes. Using consequences in your writing or speech shows the audience what will or will not happen if they do or do not take your message seriously.

As an Undergraduate Business Ambassador who is representing our business school, I will not talk poorly of other degrees or business schools. However, discussing job placement and campus recruiting can fit into this consequences section. As a professional school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Kenan-Flagler Business School focuses on high-job placement with more than 90% of our students employed following graduation. Not all departments can boast this percentage. As you can imagine, discussing this topic usually persuades parents very easily.

Authority. Some of the most powerful speakers in the world use these same seven tools to persuade their audience to follow them. Martin Luther King, Jr., is one authority who motivated his audience during his “I Have a Dream Speech” by describing the positive opportunities that would come with ending segregation. When you cite a famous speaker or writer, you strengthen your credibility.

Occasionally, I will mention a well-known alumnus of Kenan-Flagler Business School to either relate with my tour group or show what our business degree can help them accomplish. Mentioning Hugh McColl, Jr., who completed his B.S.B.A. in 1957 and served as the chairman and CEO of Bank of America Corporation can illustrate the long-lasting quality of education you receive from the Kenan-Flagler Business School.Jeff Saturday To discuss someone more relatable, I talk about Jeff Saturday, former Indiana Colts Center (pictured on the left), who combined his 1997 B.S.B.A. with football to become a quality leader on the field.

These seven tools help me give the best tours and persuade prospective students to further pursue admission to the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Therefore, you should use these seven persuasive tools to strengthen your arguments in both written and verbal forms. Next time you prepare to persuade your audience, try using some statistics, historical facts, analogies, examples, comparisons or contrasts, potential positive or negative consequences, and an authority. I guarantee you will achieve your desired results.

December 1, 2014 at 3:44 pm 4 comments

Make Your Cover Letter Stick Out From the Rest

By Dylan Rosenberg

Have you ever been asked to write a cover letter for a summer internship or job opportunity and felt lost, struggling with where to start? That was definitely me before I learned how to make mine stick out from the crowds’. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Writing a cover letter to a potential employer is no different, and using a structure that’s simple makes this process more effective. Learning how to organize a cover letter and what to include made me feel more at ease. Often times, I find it frustrating when people give you advice that is hard to make actionable, or put to use. These concrete strategies can help you improve your cover letters so that you stand out from the rest.

Practice Document Design. William Baker said it best when he created the acronym HATS to help writers remember document design techniques that improve your writing. The techniques involve using varied and strategic uses of: Cover letters

  • Headings
  • Art
  • Typography
  • Spacing

My heading Practice Document Design tells you, the readers, what you’re about to read and prepares you to switch gears for what I’m writing next. Headings guide your reader and exemplify one of the four main components of document design. Strategically spacing your paragraphs for clarity or bolding certain words for emphasis (typography) can make a huge impact, too. The way we read and process information is greatly influenced by paragraph structure, not solely the content itself. An example would be reading a chapter in a book without a title vs. reading that same chapter, knowing what its title is and what information might be covered. By practicing document design in your cover letter, you enable your reader to understand your main points, most likely skills and experiences, thereby increasing your relevance as a candidate. Strategic document design is critical to crafting a distinctive cover letter.

Make a connection. This heading may sound like just another lofty piece of advice that is hard to actually act on. You can make a connection that’s easy to reproduce in your own writing. Talking about your accomplishments is one thing, but exceptional cover letters share experiences applicants had interacting with the company or speaking with its employees to really understand what the company is all about. For example, you can reach out to individuals working for the company through LinkedIn and ask them specific questions you have. I have found that reaching out to alumni from your own school is most effective; however, even people whom you’ve never met are often receptive to speaking with you about interest in their company or firm. Then, you’re ready to write about that interaction in the cover letter. An example might look something like this:

Ex: I admire the people at McKinsey. When connecting with McKinsey consultants from both the New York and San Francisco offices, I found their insights and advice really helped me understand why McKinsey is different  — it starts with the people.

Invite Action. You can have the best cover letter, with flawless document design and personal connections galore, but if you don’t ask for the opportunity you’re applying for, chances are you’re not getting it. The most important component in concluding a cover letter is to have a call-to-action for your reader (potential employer).

Ex: “I look forward to interviewing with you on-campus.” Or: “I hope you give me the opportunity to interview.”

You can also invite action from employers by asking for an informational interview, so you can learn about the company one-on-one. This action shows that you have a genuine interest in the firm, beyond wanting to interview.

Putting it all together: Writing a cover letter involves more than just telling me why you’re good for the job. By organizing your cover letter with intentional document design, making a personal connection to the company, and inviting action as you conclude the letter, you greatly increase your chances of writing a memorable cover letter.

December 1, 2014 at 9:17 am 7 comments