During my school days, in my Dutch, French, German and English classes, we were taught an exact formula for letters. A letter to a pen pal would be slightly different from a letter for a job application, but there was always a recipe to follow. Any deviation from that would lead to doom. These days I write emails, but only after staring at the screen for minutes. Once the beginning is made a few rewrites follow.
In the early days of email I still followed the letter formula, but those days have long gone. Emailing friends or acquaintances is still relatively easy, but what do we write when we write to an unknown recipient? It seems like especially job applications cause me trouble. A future boss does not necessarily want a formal letter anymore these days. So the writing of a letter begins with trying to get into your future boss’ head.
What kind of company am I writing to? What kind of image does the company have? Is it a long term, casual or fixed period type of job? Am I expected to show enthusiasm, skills, experience or professionalism. What does my future boss want me to be? And, since time is precious, is the letter even as important as it used to be? Should a letter be shorter these days? Should you show who you are in one paragraph? One that makes you stand out from the other applicants in the pile?
Morals, habits, visions… things change. Culture changes. I have applied to job advertisements that consisted of one sentence only. My reply could only be brief. Generally though, my correspondence is shorter and more informal. I try to say more with less words, whether that’s in an email, on Facebook or via a text message. The formats have been dropped and the road is open to creativity. I guess I am just waiting for the moment we all start incorporating emoticons in our job applications. 😀