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Determining Audience

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This handout provides information on how to tailor your employment documents to a specific audience.

In addition to following general guidelines for writing to both busy and skeptical readers, it is a good idea to determine who your particular reader is likely to be and to write specifically for that person. So, you may be asking, how do I tailor an employment document to an audience?

Determine your specific audience.

Ask, "Who am I writing to and what is their position(s) in the organization?" You can gain a surprising amount of information about your reader simply from carefully reading job ads.

John Doe is an Advertising Director at a city newspaper. This may clue you in to the fact that he is a sales-oriented individual, highly motivated, and creative.

Jane Smith is a Pharmacist. You might assume simply from the position she holds that she is very customer oriented and skilled in the area of pharmaceutical sciences.

In some cases, you may not know who to write to if a name or title is not listed in an ad. Take the time to contact the organization and ask for this specific information. However, you may at times run across a blind ad, which means that there is no contact information other than an address available. When this happens, specifically mention in your cover letter where you saw the job advertisement and tailor your document to meet the needs of the position. You may address these documents to the Human Resource Manager.

In any case, it is necessary to consider your reader, their background, and what they may expect from the employees they decide to hire.

Research and analyze the reader and the organization.

What are their objectives, values, needs, time restraints? This can be done by reading and evaluating company literature and profiles. This research will give you some background information about the organization and any current issues they are facing. When you find out what is relevant to the company, you can tailor your document accordingly.

Consider these points as guides:

  • Determine what qualifications the employer is likely to look for in a job applicant by asking yourself what qualifications you would look for if you were the employer.
  • Visit the company's website, if they have one, to become aware of current events and news releases that pertain to the company's mission, goals, and objectives.
  • Read the company's mission statement; it will illustrate the goals and objectives of the organization.

Fully research the company so you can adequately address your reader and assume a more knowledgeable base for your statements. Ultimately, if you know the company well you can make sure that you illustrate how you can meet and surpass their expectations.

You are writing a resume to apply for a customer service position at Joe's Grocery Store. On their website, the job description stated:

"Looking for a highly motivated, customer-oriented individual to work full-time at the customer service desk."

You could then tailor your objective statement to use key words that the company included in its own profile and utilize them in a way that accurately reflects their qualifications.

Objective: To obtain a customer service position at Joe's Grocery Store, where I may apply interpersonal and customer service skills, to create friendly and productive interaction between the store and its customers.

In this case, the writer used key words that the company included in its own profile and utilized them in a way that accurately reflects their qualifications.

Recognize and utilize key words

Key words are words that stand out as especially significant within the text. When you are reading job ads, key words are those words that signal what an employer considers important or essential in hiring for a position.

Consider the previous example again. On their website, the job description stated:

"Looking for a highly motivated, customer oriented individual to work full-time at the customer service desk."

The key words have been underlined. It is necessary to read for keywords, and you should keep these in mind as you research and prepare your business or employment documents.