Applying for a Job in Business English: How to Become an Irresistible Candidate
The “magic” formula has always been the same:
1. Learn the right skills
2. Put together a good CV
3. Apply for your dream job
Most of us have tried all three steps without actually getting that dream job.
Are we doing something wrong?
The truth is, most of us know the formula, but we don’t apply it correctly.
Either we’re using the wrong language, we’re focusing on the wrong things or we’re just not sure what type of communication will impress our potential employers.
In this post, I’ll teach you how to apply for a job in an English-speaking environment, and make sure you shine. I’ll guide you through each step of the job application and interview process with the right business English vocabulary to set yourself apart.
Cool Resources to Help You with Your Job Applications
Here are some resources I’ve found that’ll help develop your business English when it comes to job applications.
- For basic job-related information and questions: Listen to the “English for Job Interview” audio lessons from BusinessEnglishPod. They cover essential language knowledge for job applications and interviews.
- For interviews and resume writing: This series of online courses from the University of Maryland will teach you all about advanced interview techniques and writing winning cover letters and resumes.
Applying for a Job in Business English: Perfect Your Application and Interview
Okay, so here’s the secret.
Most of us have a lot of skills, but maybe they aren’t all the “right” ones for the job.
For instance, if you’re applying for an editor position at an academic publishing house, simply writing that you’re skilled in “writing and editing” won’t do it. You have to demonstrate that you’re skilled in the specific requirements for that position, such as copyediting, proofreading, research and academic writing.
Your CV should reflect your work experiences in that field (an internship in a publishing/media house) or closely related to that field (peer-reviewing papers, working on a journal, etc.)—not the creative writing competitions that you’ve won.
And when you’re filling out that job application, you have to effectively communicate that you’re the best person for the job—and why.
This is how you do all that.
Organize a Strong Cover Letter
A cover letter is basically a document (almost always sent over email) where you introduce yourself and convince the employer that they should hire you. In fact, your employer will probably look at the cover letter before checking out your CV and work samples. That doesn’t mean you’ll copy-paste your CV into the body of the email.
Instead, try something like this:
- Introduce yourself and your relevant background in a sentence or two.
- Give a brief summary of relevant work experience and your personal strengths.
- Sign off on a positive note about what this particular job or company means to you.
The skeleton of the cover letter might look something like this:
- I’m Ramesh Patel, a software engineer. Your company recently put out a call for app developers to work on a project and I’m sure I’d be a worthy addition to the team.
- After graduating with my B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur, I’ve worked for five years with Company A, where I was part of a team that designed a successful fitness app on Android and iOS platforms. I specialize in app development and ethical hacking.
- I’m excited by your company’s recent innovations and would welcome the opportunity to bring my skills to your team.
Of course, you’d have to add other bits and flesh out the points, but this is a basic structure you could follow.
For full cover letter examples, the English-language job site Monster has dozens organized by industry.
Focus On Your Unique Strengths
Avoid using general English adjectives here, like “hardworking” or “punctual.” If you didn’t have those qualities, you wouldn’t be applying for the job in the first place. Instead, focus on using specific language to describe what you can offer to the company.
This could involve any of the following:
- The specific skills you’ve mastered or are certified in
- Relevant software you know how to use
- Relevant internships and awards
- Even the languages you know (apart from business English, which is a must)
Here are some unique, positive words and phrases you can use to set yourself apart from the other candidates, depending on your personal background:
- Self-taught (shows that you’re driven and a fast learner; puts a positive spin on any formal education you might be missing)
- Advanced user of [software/program]
- Years/decades of experience in…
- Demonstrated proficiency in [software/program/skill/language]
- Certified in…
Similarly, you can keep your CV short and sweet. In fact, very few employers will read every word in every CV they receive. More likely, they’ll skim through your CV looking for the most important details.
You can help them by providing only the most relevant and valuable information. Be succinct but not curt.
For example, you don’t have to mention all the places you’ve ever worked. Instead, put in the most recent and the most important ones. Similarly, if you’re applying for a writing job and you’ve won lots of awards for your writing work, you don’t have to list them all. The most prestigious (not necessarily the most recent) awards will do.
Check your grammar and spelling more than once. As a business English learner yourself, you must realize the damage small mistakes can do.
So, after you finish writing a cover letter or filling out a job application, read it at least two to three times and see if the commas are in place and if there’s room for improvement. Not only will this demonstrate your knowledge of English, but it’ll also show that you’re a careful, detail-oriented person.
Grammarly is a helpful tool that’ll actually check your English writing for you. It’s like a supercharged spell checker. Not only will it point out your mistakes in spelling, grammar and formatting, it’ll even explain the corrections for you—so you’re less likely the make the same mistakes in the future.
Always Use Positive Language
Make sure the business English vocabulary you’re using is positive and optimistic, even in areas where you’re not the strongest candidate.
For instance, let’s say you’re applying as a PR representative for an agency, but you don’t have any internship experience in the field. Don’t say something like, “I know I don’t have any internships or certificates for my PR skills, but I can assure you that I’ll be a good fit for the job.”
Instead, just focus on what makes you a good candidate. You can say something like, “Throughout my college life, I’ve extensively promoted the events organized by our Drama Club, including selling tickets, managing their social media pages and reaching out to likely sponsors. I’ve also been involved with different NGOs in different capacities which gave me observational experience in how to create and market a brand image.”
Be Interested in Solutions, Not Problems
In certain job interviews, like for engineering or technology positions, recruiters might ask you trick questions or present you with an impossible problem and ask you to solve it.
You may know that the problem is impossible to solve, but don’t make the mistake of pointing that out. Instead, be creative and resourceful and come up with the closest possible solution that you can.
Demonstrating that you’re a problem-solver instead of a complainer will get you a long way.
Remember to Say “Thank You”
Don’t forget to thank your interviewer within 24 hours after your interview. A quick thank-you email is all it takes, showing your appreciation for the time your interviewer spent with you.
You can also follow-up with your interviewer if you don’t hear back after a while. The wait time varies from context to context, but from my personal experience, I’d say give it two weeks.
You can send them a polite email along the lines of, “Hello, I emailed a few weeks ago about a job opening but received no response. If you could kindly update me regarding the status of my application, I’d be very grateful.” You can also add one or two lines reiterating your interest in the position and what you enjoyed learning about in your interview.
Don’t let the competition get you down. Knowing business English well will help a lot. Focus on your skills and what you’re great at, and put in your best effort always. Don’t recycle the same CV or copy-paste cover letters for different jobs. Figure out what the job wants and what you can offer if selected, and express that in succinct and effective business English. Following these simple rules is sure to maximize your chances of securing your dream job!
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.