Professional and Technical Writing/Career
Résumés and cover letters are the two most common types of documents written in the business world that show off a candidates related work experiences, skills, and qualifications. When writing either of these documents, the reader-centered approach is very useful because it keeps the reader and what the reader is looking for in mind at all times. A writer using the reader-centered approach must constantly think about these three elements:
- The reader's characteristics, goals, expectations, situation, and any other factors that will shape their response to what is said
- The creation of a usable and persuasive communication to the reader
- A focus on how the reader will respond moment by moment while reading the document
It is very important to adopt the reader-centered approach and focus on what the reader wants and why. They are the ones who will be offering the position, so these career documents need to be tailored to their liking.
One characteristic about the document that favors the reader is usability. The reader needs to be able to navigate the document quickly and with little effort, understand the needed information easily, and get a sense of who you are.
The document also needs to be persuasive. A résumé and cover letter need to persuade the reader and show that you are the best candidate for the job. By grabbing their attention and showing them in the most attractive and persuasive way will help you to stand out in their minds and get you closer to the job.
When writing either a résumé or cover letter, the reader must always be in mind because they are the ones you want to impress.
Reader-Centered Approach to Writing a Résumé
When writing a résumé, you must always keep in mind what the employer is looking for in a prospective employee, and the easiest way to accomplish this is by thinking about your readers. Try to answer these questions:
- What will they be looking for?
- How will they look for this information?
- How will they use it when they find it?
- What are their attitudes about the subject?
- What do you want their attitudes and thoughts to be when they have finished reading it?
In order to use the reader-centered approach, you must know who your reader is. Use resources such as current employees, websites, newspapers, magazines and books to learn more information about the company in which you are applying to. This is a very important step in writing a résumé, and doing research on your reader will only aid you in writing one that is more reader-centered. This will also prepare you for a potential interview. You always want to know about the company you are applying for so if any questions or opinions are asked you have the necessary knowledge to answer them correctly.
Once you identify who you are writing to, it is time to determine what qualifications the reader is looking for. Qualifications usually include technical expertise, supporting abilities, and favorable job qualities. You may find out what qualifications are necessary for the job by talking with someone who holds that particular job title. Make lists to brainstorm possible contents of your résumé. List your accomplishments, areas of knowledge, and related work experiences. After talking to someone who holds the position you are applying for, you can then return to your lists and find the items that best fit the position.
Your résumé is a document designed to persuade an employer that you possess the necessary job skills to work at the organization, and you want to provide plenty of examples that show you are the best candidate for the job. Promote "YOU"!
See Also: Resumes and CVs
Reader-Centered Approach to Writing a Cover Letter 
A cover letter is an important career document because it allows you to go further into detail about your related work experiences and why you want to work for that specific company. If an employer is reading your cover letter, it means that the reader found your résumé usable and persuasive. It also shows that they found you to be a qualified candidate and want to know more about what you can do for them. It is important to write with a reader-centered approach and to make your cover letter even more usable and persuasive than your résumé. The usability of the cover letter should be based off of the following questions:
- Why do you want to work for me instead of someone else?
- How will you contribute to my organization's success?
- Will you work well with my other employees and the persons with whom we do business?
The persuasive objectives of your cover letter should respond to the employer's questions listed above in ways that make the employer want to hire you. Your cover letter should show enthusiasm, creativity, commitment, and other characteristics that employers value but cannot be communicated easily in your résumé.
A cover letter is a persuasive letter that is achieved by grabbing the reader's attention. Cover letters should state why an applicant wants to work for an employer and address how the applicant will contribute to the success of the organization. The applicant should answer this question in the cover letter: "What am I able to do for this employer or organization?" This is the time to tell the employer how you stand out compared to others seeking that position. You should also show that you have knowledge about the company or position you are applying to show that you are already interested and committed to the mission statement.
A cover letter will project your personality to the organization that you are applying to. The tone of your letter is important as it indicates your personality. If you know the kind of people that the organization employs, it will help you to set the tone for your cover letter. While some employers want to hire enthusiastic, hard-working employees, other employers may look specifically for critical, confident, or good-tempered employees. How well you know your reader is critical to writing a cover letter with a reader-centered approach.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
- As always, with professional writing, you should be concise. Be careful to avoid "wordiness" and "extra fluff"
- Address a specific person with your cover letter
- The first paragraph of your cover letter should show your interest in the position, your familiarity of it, and the company
- Put qualifications in the second or third paragraph of the cover letter
- Only list university education on your résumé unless aspects of high school are exceptional
- Include city and state for schools, companies, and organizations on your résumé
- On your résumé, begin every bullet point with an action verb
This section explains in greater detail what résumés are, different types of résumés, and how to create your résumé.
This section discusses the functions of a cover letter and how to create one.