It matters how you say it

This is the season of updating resumes, navigating job interviews, and writing personal essays as part of the scholarship application process. One of the characteristics these three activities have in common is this: it matters how you say things.

Why is that? Shouldn't the content of your message stand alone? Isn't the particular style or phrasing with which you express that content merely window dressing? Nope. For hiring managers, scholarship committee members, and most of the human beings on this particular planet, the little details of your style and phrasing will add up to a sense of who you are, our window into how you think.

Here's an example: pretend you're a hiring manager conducting an interview, and you ask an applicant, "What kind of managerial style works well for you?" In our hypothetical scene, let's imagine that the applicant says, "Well, I hate to be micromanaged." That might be a pretty common answer to that question, but it's terribly phrased. It takes a positive question (What works for you?) and turns it into a negative answer (Here's what doesn't work). Further, it creates an impression that you don't like for your work to be reviewed at all, that you resent supervision. How much is anyone going to want to be your boss if that's the impression you're making?

With a little thinking about how your phrasing will be perceived by others, that sentiment can be expressed in a way that creates a much more favorable impression. For example: "What kind of managerial style works for you?" "I like to be able to earn trust by doing good work." What a difference!

Whether it's for interviews, resumes, or essays as part of a scholarship application, remember that words aren't neutral freight cars that carry meanings from point to point. For your readers and listeners, they create a sense of who you are.

Speaking of writing essays for scholarships, AIE has a page on the scholarship application process, with suggested essay topics, ways to boost your chances, and tips for getting organized.