Formal or Familiar: Which Communication Style Should Candidates Use?

See Pricing Plans Start Free Trial

by Nanci Lamborn – BrightMove Recruiting Software

There is no denying that corporate America has grown more casual. From informal dress codes to casual Friday, what used to be a commonly “Buttoned Up” society has now gone button-down, button-fly and button-less. (And if you missed the “casual day” commercial by Careerbuilder during that Big-Football-Bowl-Game-ala-Super, check it out here — but fair warning, skivvies factor!

Amidst the dressing down trend, I am noticing a similar shift in how candidates approach their employment inquiries with an informality and a familiarity of speech that I usually reserve for my friends and family. It’s true that this communication method in and of itself isn’t inherently bad. Who wouldn’t prefer to read an opening line of “Hey there!” over “Dearest Fine Gentlemen to Whom This Enquiry be Addressed?” And in all fairness to a decent percentage of fresh-faced applicants, their generation was simply not raised with the same propensity towards propriety.

Many recruiters that I know, leaning heavily towards informality themselves, think nothing of a “Hey there!” initial greeting from a candidate. But the fact the we often think nothing of it may actually be part of the problem; another part of the problem is the underlying assumption by the candidate that I will accede to their informality. Well, Hey there, Candidate: I don’t.

The casual greeting is obviously not the entire issue, because it raises an underlying question. Specifically, does this candidate possess the knowledge, intelligence, and diplomatic business acumen to produce professional, respectful, and yes, sometimes formal, communication when necessary in the course of my business? It goes back to that first impression Best-Foot-Forward concept. If “Hey there!” is supposed to impress as their best, what is their everyday going to sound like?

Take “Rob”, a former employee for example, a young ladder-climber who in an email written to a profitable customer regarding a pressing need for some documentation actually wrote, “CAN YA FEEL MY URGENCY!?” (and yes, this was in 28 point bold type CAPS for emphasis). Or take “Jill”, who while requesting explanation from corporate for a confusing topic wrote, “Tell me wat D Real Dealz B” complete with cute emoticon for visual impact. And although I cannot say for certain since I refused to interview this candidate, given her introductory email to me which said, “how r u? saw ur ad, see att. lemme no! thx”, I bet she would have given Rob and Jill a run for their informal money. (For more fun examples like these from candidates, visit

Thankfully I do still see candidates with the good sense to realize that they really do get just one chance to make that first professional impression. And That B D Real Deal.

Nanci Laborn

Leave a Comment