Confident Woman photo from ShutterstockWhen applying for a job today, it’s essential to appear confident in your communications with the hiring manager. Everyone knows that “looking the part” is important. That’s why job seekers wear nice clothes, style their hair professionally and obsess over the design of resumes.

But even when they’re fixating on details such as the style of bullet to use in their resume, many people overlook the quickest and easiest way to appear more confident in their job search.

Nearly every job hunt today involves written communications. Emails, resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles are all powerful tools to show hiring managers you’re qualified for a job (or not.) Many job seekers lose momentum in their job search, however, because they write their job hunt materials in the Passive Voice.

Here’s the distinction:

  • In the Active Voice, the subject of the sentence is the one doing the action.
    Example: “The SmartBrief on Leadership featured my article.”
  • In the Passive Voice, the subject of the sentence is having something done to it.  (It includes a form of the verb “to be”)
    Example: “My article was featured by the SmartBrief on Leadership.”

This might seem like  a minor difference, but it matters. In fact, neuroscientists used MRI scans of readers’ brains to discover:

…if a person reads an active verb, not only do the sections of the brain dealing with language light up, but the motor part of the brain relevant to that verb’s action also lights up. The brain responds in the exact way it would if the person had just performed that action himself. If a reader reads that a character ran or jumped, the reader’s motor cortex controlling their legs lights up.

Interestingly, the passive voice doesn’t have the same effect. Readers’ brains don’t engage when writers insert “is”, “was” “are”, etc. in front of verbs.

So if you’re looking for a job, it’s worth taking 10 minutes to read through all your written communications. Any time you find sentences written in the Passive Voice with a form of the verb “to be”, change them to Active Voice.*

This one quick change will make your writing more vivid and mentally engaging for hiring managers – and make you look like a strong, confident candidate.

*See this link to find all the forms of the verb “to be”.