Keeping your tone in check is a lot harder to do than you may first think – especially when applying for roles over email. What may read as confident to you, may translate to being arrogant and unpalatable to the recipient. And that’s really not what you want to put across when that recipient, more often than not, has the keys to what you want in their hands – a job.

So, before you press send, take a moment to go over these steps and give yourself the best chance of securing that role without offending anyone in the process.

Get someone else to read your application

This may seem like an embarrassing step – who likes people reading a body of work that’s all about you? – but it’s crucial. By having an outsider read your message, you can get an unbiased review.

When you’re speaking to someone for the first time, you don’t want to be too forward or aggressive in your tone – instead, by keeping the content polite and open by asking questions of the receiver, you’re more likely to get their interest than a blunt and cock-sure anonymous email would.

And, if the proof-reader finds something they aren’t quite sure of in your message…

Take their advice

…and strip it out. If something doesn’t make sense to them and they already know you, what hope do you have of someone completely detached from you reading it with absolute clarity? Keep points concise, and leave the message open-ended with a clear prompt for further discussion.

Be to the point. An email needs no more than a brief summary of you and your experience – save the minute details for a face-to-face meeting instead. Give yourself something to talk about in the future, and don’t go into ultimate detail in the first instance – it’s overwhelming and unnecessary.

Stay honest and humble

Don’t get scared of imposter syndrome (you really have achieved these qualifications), but stay honest and humble with what you write. It’s all too easy to embellish here and there to make something sound a little more impressive or attractive, but it’s a slippery slope, and one you should avoid before you come unstuck.

Make reference to your skills and your triumphs – they’re the whole reason you’re writing this application, and why you suit the job description – but keep it grounded. Remember your audience: if it’s a recruiter, consider how many times they will have read the exact same message. Be proud of your achievements, and highlight them where they’re due.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your weaknesses

This may sound odd – surely you want to keep failures quiet and just talk about your achievements? – but it’s the key to remaining humble and genuine. The tried-and-tested interview question ‘What would you say is your biggest weakness?’ is there for a reason. And, as US News says, ‘Interviewers don’t expect you to be perfect’.

It’s true that we all come with flaws, but being able to identify them and openly admit to areas of weakness is an attractive quality. It shows that you aren’t over-confident in what you can do, that you know your limits, don’t put your head in the sand and can admit when something hasn’t quite played out the way it should have.

This shows humility, and a want to change and develop. No-one gets anywhere by standing still, but by taking accountability of your actions you can show that you want to better yourself. It’s authentic, endearing, and a sure-fire way to avoid coming across as cocky.