You’re trying to portray your significant expertise, so in your résumé and cover letter you throw in a few specialized words so they know you know the lingo. But this might not be the best thing to do.
Here’s the problem: You don’t know that every reader will understand what you’re saying. You might even be going through a recruiting agency that doesn’t know much more than what was put in the job posting. If you throw in some big words, they might assume that you have a big ego, you feel like you need to impress people with your magnificence.
On the other hand, if you “dumb it down,” there’s every chance that the reader might think you’re under-qualified. If you don’t know the terminology, then you probably don’t have the necessary knowledge either.
What to do?
One answer is to target different levels of readers with your information. Let’s say that you’ve had some deep experience with designing three-inch left-handed titanium worm gears. Unless you’re talking with someone who can fully appreciate the intricacies involved, you’ll need to simplify it. For someone you meet at a party, your focus is on “mechanical parts that are used in all kinds of neat machines.” For a cover letter to an engineering company, it might be “deep experience designing gear and cam systems using specialized materials.” When you get down into the guts of your résumé, where you’re listing projects and awards, you’ll mention the particular deep expertise.
If someone wants to know that you have depth, they’ll be looking for examples like that.
The other mistake I see all the time is that people think other employers use the same common language that they’re used to. Here’s an example: When you deliver something for that person who’s spending money, are they called a customer, a client, a patient, or constituent? My particular business delivers specialized services to clients with whom I have a close relationship, so if you start calling them my “customers,” it feels like you’re disregarding the importance of that relationship.
That’s a red flag, because it means you probably don’t understand what’s important to my business.
When you’re applying for a job, how do you figure this out? There are three great sources to pull from:
- The job posting and all supporting information.
- The employer’s website and brochures.
- General expectations of that particular industry.
When you have the opportunity, talk with a friend or associate who’s close to the employer you’re trying to connect with. They’ll help you pick up some subtle distinctions and suggest words or phrases that can grab peoples’ attention.
Here’s some other terms that you might want to look for:
- The employer as a whole: company, organization, agency, …
- The group you’re talking with: division, group, organization, team, …
- People who do the work: employees, associates, partners, workers, …
- Top-down direction: goals, assignment, mission, tasks, …
- Decision-makers: managers, leaders, supervisors, heads, …
- Success results in: rewards, incentives, recognition, spiffs, …
You may find that several of these terms are in use and have specifically different meanings. If that’s the case, you could well confuse people by using the wrong one. They might assume that you’re familiar with their environment, but aren’t qualified, because you’re making mistakes in key terms.
This isn’t about puffing up your communications by using words that you don’t really understand. If that’s the case, you’ll be discovered as soon as someone starts asking questions. Instead, this helps you to accurately translate what’s in your head into someone else’s.
THAT will make a much better impression!
by Carl Dierschow