Category Archives: cover letter writing

Get your job search tools sharpened!

So, you have your workspace and basic job setup well in place. Now you have to start sharpening the tools at your disposal and create some structure:

Resume:

  • If you have not updated your resume and have done a good once over to make sure it is relevant, articulate and compelling… do so now!
  • Have someone you feel would be an impartial judge critique
  • Proofread it again… and again!!
  • If you are looking for positions that have distinctly different “flavors” (e.g. Manager vs. Individual Contributor) make sure you have a resume that is laser-focused on each area instead of one that shows you as more of a generalist unless it makes sense to do so (you may be targeting smaller, start-ups where a jack or jill-of-all-trades may be more desirable)
  • Same as above for cover letters, have one for each instance ready. Your process will become much more streamlined and efficient¬† if you can keep the “customization” of covers to a minimum

Job Boards:

  • Make sure your new resume and covers are synced up to your job board profiles
  • Create job agents. These are automated searches the job boards will do for you based on your desired jobs and keywords and email you on a daily or weekly basis
  • Dead horse beating time: LinkedIN is a JOB BOARD too! Get an account if you haven’t yet. If you do, get your profile updated and start connecting. I should be on their payroll!

Goal Setting:

  • Figure a reasonable amount of jobs you want to apply for per day. Don’t fire off resumes willy nilly to every job that remotely looks like a fit. Then again, make sure you are applying enough to make it a numbers game – odds go up the more places that see your resume. If you are doing 6-8 hours a day, I would set a reasonable goal of 5-6 applications a day. This will give you the proper time to research the company and role to see if it is something you truly would like to do. It also lets you craft a well thought out, brief cover letter since you already have the templates
  • Network, Network, Network! Sort of like the equivalent of Location, Location, Location in real estate. Folks, this is your quickest path to your next job. Job boards serve a purpose but they are a supplement to networking. One of the most effective tools in your “swiss army knife” is the people you know. They will know someone or someone who knows someone who needs you!
  • Follow the 50-25-1 rule. What does this cryptic sequence of digits mean? This is a good networking rule of thumb for job seekers (active or passive.) On a weekly basis, you need to do:
    • 50 Networking emails
    • 25 Network phone calls
    • 1 Face to face networking meeting (one-on-one or group), this can be an office meeting, a lunch, a dinner or quick cup of coffee at your place of choice…they all count!

I know these sound like rigorous goals. However, the more process-oriented, organized and disciplined in your job search you are, the quicker you can quit.

There is one other side benefit of all this work. Can you guess?

OK, I won’t keep you waiting. Don’t think of yourself as unemployed, think more like you are an athlete who is doing off-season training. The job seeker who maintains a work-like schedule and mindset will interview better and have a much easier transition back into the workforce. Make sense? Good!

NOW GET TO WORK!

Advertisements

Demystifying the Cover Letter

stressguy1People get so stressed about the cover letter.

  • Do I send?
  • How long should it be?
  • What should I put in it?
  • Do I put salary requirements in it?

Let’s start with the first question. Carol from North Carolina said to me: “When sending in my resume for a job, I don’t send a cover letter. It doesn’t give me any advantage in getting the interview.”

With all due respect Carol, I couldn’t disagree more. A cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on the employer – good or bad, so there is an inherent risk there. I think with a little work, it is a risk well worth taking.¬† In the Internet age, where applying for a job is almost too simple, the well written cover letter is your way of telling the prospective employer that you carefully read the job posting, understand the duties and requisite skills and can quickly make a pitch to them on why you are a good fit. What it also tells them is that you are not shooting resumes out a firehose at every posting you see and you are serious about their opportunity. So, without hesitation, send a cover letter.

Length and content of the letter is another thing that stresses people out and sometimes will cause them to just forgo one. What if it is too brief or too rambling? I have a very, very simple 3 part cover letter structure to follow:

Dear Human Resources Manager:

<Intro>

I would like to present my resume for consideration of the Lion Tamer position posted on circusjobs.com. (How many people are trying to go to this site now??)

<Sell>

I was quite excited when I read the job description. I feel I would be an excellent candidate for this position for these (3 or 4) reasons:

  • 12+ years of Lion Taming and no major “incidents”
  • Degree in Animal Behavior
  • Interned with Siegfried & Roy in college

<Close>

I would welcome the chance to further discuss my candidacy for this position in the form of a phone or in-person interview as your process dictates. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Me

Pretty easy and concise huh? The parts I highlighted in red should always be put in. It makes it quickly clear to the employer what job you want and where you found it. This is important data for employers to see where their postings are getting activity from, they will appreciate it. The “sell” is clear and to the point and won’t make their eyes glaze over. There is no need to regurgitate your resume in the cover, just the points that connect the dots to this job.

And always close it with a mention of the next steps. It shows interest and a call to action.

As far as talking money goes,¬† I can’t stress enough that you read the job description thoroughly to ascertain what they want to know from you when you apply. If it asks, you can be vague but at least give a salary range so it shows you can follow directions. A lot of times it is more than just sending your resume and cover. You have to go through their applicant tracking system rigmarole basically cutting and pasting your resume in stupid text field boxes because they didn’t buy an ATS that could do the parsing (don’t get me started!), maybe answering some gating questions, and there they may ask about salary requirements, so the point may be moot. So if they ask- tell, If they don’t – don’t.

Finally, if you are in serious job search mode (and who isn’t these days?) I would suggest a short investment of time – probably less than an hour, to write 3 or 4 cover letter templates based on the types of jobs you are looking for. For example, one for inside sales, one for outside sales/new business development, one for pre-sales, one for account management, etc. This way when you see a job you like, it is just a matter of a couple of small tweaks to personalize it and you are on your way.

Not too painful? Hopefully this took out some of the mystery and turmoil over the whole cover letter thing. Now, when you apply, you will be covered. (Awful!)