Correction to This Article
This article about striking the proper tone in communicating with potential employers misspelled the last name of Rob Hellmann, a vice president of the Five O'Clock Club and associate director of its career coaches' guild.

When applying 4 a job, watch ur tone

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By Vickie Elmer
Sunday, April 4, 2010

U don't want to sound 2 formal or 2 dull when you apply for the ID-l cr8v job.

So you write your cover letter like a text message, then follow up with a text to a hiring manager, whose contact information you dug up to show your resourcefulness and persistence.

That approach may work wonders. More likely, though, it could blast your résumé into Neverland.

Striking the right tone in job search communications gets complicated in the era of Facebook and text messaging. The ideal approach is to sound confident and professional, but not stiff or stuffy.

"You can be professional and not be uptight," said Rob Lockard, who volunteers as a vice president of the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area and is looking for work. "Keeping a professional tone is always positive."

In the same way that you drag out your suit for a job interview, you should pull out your polished, grammatically correct sentences for cover letters and follow-up e-mails.

"Even though the world is becoming more casual, the hiring process is not," said Patrice Rice, owner of the Annapolis-based Patrice & Associates, a recruiting firm for hospitality and restaurant businesses.

A few organizations and sectors may appreciate text shorthand or slang or at least accept it. But it may not be easy to tell which ones they are.

So skip the slang and spell check your e-mail or letter before sending it, Rice said. "That correspondence is going to be viewed just as critically as [applicants'] appearance, the interview, their résumé."

"Most résumés are very poorly written," she said. Don't just slap a résumé together, she said. Think through your accomplishments and explain why you're a good manager or graphic artist or policy analyst.

Rob Hellman, a Five O'Clock Club vice president and associate director of its career coaches' guild, tells job seekers that their central message must answer employers' question: "How can you help me?"

"Don't put anything in that's going to distract from that message," said Hellman, a New York City career coach since 2003. "You can put yourself in your writing. What you're passionate about, what you want to do, will make it a stronger case." And, he said, "don't defer to e-mail all the time."

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