Idea in short

Effective job applications always contain some combination of story and data. Application documents must contain just the right amount of information. But, how do we know what that just right amount is? The AIM framework helps you identify who your audience is, know your intent, and then craft your message. Such a structured framework will build better narratives and better achieve your mission of landing your job.

Job applications require clear communication. Though clear communication does not guarantee application success, unclear communication certainly ensures failiure. Therefore, effective communication can influence and inspire recruiters’ action, shape outcomes, and produce results. In How Leaders Communicate EffectivelyJ.D. Schramm, Lecturer in Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, presents the AIM Framework comprising of three powerful communications insights.

The AIM Framework

Schramm outlines a simple framework for preparing for communications of all kinds, including job applications. The AIM Framework poses three broad questions:

  • Who is my Audience?
  • What is my Intent?
  • What is my Message?

AIM Framework

This reflective exercise is a great way to pause and consider what you really want to say. By defining what you would like to accomplish across the domains of audience, intention, and message, you will be in a much better position for competences to be understood by recruiters as intended.

Audience

Most times, you cannot communicate with recruiters face-to-face. You are limited to a phone calls, emails or Applicant Tracking Systems to submit your job applications. As businesses move further away from face-to-face communication, you lose two critical communication elements – body language and tone of voice. These two entities vastly influence how messages are conveyed and understood than the actual content (i.e. the words). This dilemma creates the need for you to understand your audience as completely as possible to craft a message that really resonates. By deeply understanding your audience, you can speak to them in a powerful, personal way through your application documents. As you prepare you message, answer questions like –

  • What inspires them to action?
  • Where do they gather?
  • What resources do they rely on?
  • What sources of news do they read?
  • Who are their peer groups and influencers?

Take a moment to consider who is in your audience.

  • Are they new-hires or veterans?
  • Senior management or the executive board?
  • Women or men? Both?
  • Other?

During our workshops, we ask our clients to write their agenda. Next, we ask them to write a second agenda from their audience’s point of view. Then, we have them throw out that first agenda and begin again from the second one. This is what we mean by truly considering the others’ points of view.

Intent

Your intent is never simply to inform. If you’re just doing that, then you might as well simply put your information in an email and hit the send button. This is what we call the fire-and-forget approach and is a sure fire way to never hear back from recruiters. Instead, you should try to motivate or inspire recruiters to take some sort of action. At any rate, clearly define your goals. Too often, we see this aspect overlooked. Or, our clients define goals that are either, too broad, or ill-defined. At the least, you should try to answer the questions:

  • What is it exactly that you want your audience to do with your application?
  • Do you want them to schedule a telephone interview?

Be very specific.

Message

Only after you have deliberated the earlier points should you craft your message. Like intent, this must be clear too. Write it down. One sentence! Here’s the definition I learned from several client engagements. A message is

brief, memorable, repeatable, emotional and data-backed

But it’s not only the data. While supportive, data dumps are dry and boring. Instead, your message should be a compelling call to action. It should coherently portray your intent / motivation! Don’t assume your audience just gets it.

Consider All Three Elements of Communication

There are three elements to communications . Schramm describes these elements as visual, vocal, and verbal. All three of the aspects of communication should work in harmony through your application documents. The more synchronised the elements are, the more effective will your communication be. Be mindful of how well you synchronize the three elements of  communication to deliver a compelling message. The higher the stakes of the communication, the more important this becomes.

Summary

Applying AIM and customising your job applications will take time. But I promise, it is worth it. By applying the framework and synchronising the communication aspects, the quality of narratives in your application documents will be better aligned with the expected outcomes.