I was required…


 I’m required to write this post as part of my job. How does this sound? Definitely not riveting. You’ll probably think that either I was coerced to write or that this is just something I do because I have to, not because I enjoy it.

Very often I see in application documents “In this job I was required to be organised” or “Organisational skills were vital for this job”. What does this tell me about you? Not much. Just because a job requires you to be organised that doesn’t mean you were actually organised or that you were any good at organising or that you know anything about how to do this. What the prospective employer needs to know is what you have done and achieved, what skills you have gained and how have you done so. This is attained by using active language.

Compare the next two sentences:

“In this job I was required to have good communication skills.”


“Developed good communication skills by dealing with customers’ requests and complaints. “

The first sentence talks about the job you were employed to do, not the job you have done.  It is actually more like a job description. It raises questions: did you demonstrate communication skills? How?

The second sentence tells the reader what skills where developed and also how they were achieved. It is more powerful. It makes you the actor, not the subject. Active language places you at the centre of the action: you are the one doing, developing, organising.

It is perhaps easier to write in a passive voice as it is more formal, less committed, you are not exposing yourself. However application documents (CVs, cover letters, personal statements, application forms) are about you so you must find your voice and proclaim your achievements. Use active language!

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