WHY A COVER LETTER?

Cover Letter3I recently looked for a new supervisor-level hire for my school, and I got over 100 résumés indicating a great deal of interest, but I was shocked to see that over 90% did not have a cover letter, and some cover letters were addressed to a wrong person.

People often complain that they never hear back from the companies they apply to, and this may be one of the reasons why.

A cover letter is like a sales proposal; it’s an opportunity for you to pitch your services and to connect your “unique value proposition” to the needs of a company. It’s also a piece of personal marketing – you never know who will read it, and where that person will work next – your paths may converge in the future and it’s worth an investment to make a good impression now. Even if your résumé is not an exact match for the job, it’s a chance to convince someone you’re worth looking at regardless.

Like any well-constructed, well thought-out sales proposal, it has to have certain elements to be effective. I have read many poor cover letters over the years – letters that were vague, generic, and full of clichés, or that failed to connect the dots in a way that is convincing or at least intriguing. Like clients feel with ineffective sales proposals, when reading a poorly written cover letter it’s hard not to think “Why should I care? How are you going to help the company get where we need to go?” Cover letters are about you, but it’s about you only in relation to the needs of the company that is hiring, and it’s up to you to build that positioning framework.

Demonstrate passion or interest in what the company is all aboutCover Letter

Share what attracts you to the company and why you would love to join the team – show that this is not just “another job application” for you and that you relate, or care, for the mission and vision, or services or products the company is delivering.

Demonstrate specific knowledge of the company

It’s easy to do the research today on the company, leadership, employees, strategy, success or challenges, and the competition. Demonstrate that you have done some research and try to connect your background, attitude, or skill-set with where the company needs to go or the challenges it needs to address. You need to position yourself as a person who will add value to the future success of the team – this should be in the opening paragraph. With the increasing competition company X is facing, my track record in operating in a fiercely competitive environment while at Y will strengthen the team’s ability to compete successfully. “My collaborative leadership style as demonstrated through X will help you build a culture of collaboration which is one of your stated goals for the upcoming year”. Make that connection!

Make specific links between role requirements and your experience.

After the broader positioning, it is so very important to go a bit deeper and connect your background, skills, knowledge, and attitude with specific requirements of the role that would have been stated in a job posting. If there are too many, choose a couple and focus on them. If your résumé is not perfect for the job, draw from academic, personal or extra-curricular and volunteering experiences. The key here is to assert that you are a match for what’s required.

Cover Letter4Finish with confidence.

It’s good to summarize your unique value proposition at the end – to reinforce a key point of what you bring to the table.

It is essential to finish with confident and specific “next step” statement. You should express certainty and confidence with your last sentence – “I look forward to discussing how my skill set is relevant in an interview…”

Naturally, make sure there are no grammar mistakes – one thing that I see so often is confusion between “its” and “it’s” – it’s worth having someone look at your letter and copyedit it.

Keep it brief.

Finally – a cover letter shouldn’t be longer than a page. It’s hard to write succinctly and articulate your key points in a few paragraphs, but it’s worth taking the time to do it.

Good luck!!!

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE ACCEPTING A JOB

business-deal-israel-dealbook-2011-m-35249aMany job seekers are inclined to jump at the first job offer that comes their way. But what if it isn’t exactly the type of position you wanted? Should you still take it?

While those who have experienced a long-term job search probably feel as though they should take what they can get, there are other options. When you encounter offers you don’t completely love, you must ask yourself if you will accept the job offer, attempt to negotiate or wait for a better opportunity to come along.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some things I recommend consider before accepting a job offer you aren’t completely in love with:

1- Are serious goals being sacrificed? One of the most important questions you should ask yourself is if you would make any serious sacrifices in your career when accepting the job offer. Would you need to relocate to a new city or work more hours than you’d prefer? You should take a moment to compare your career goals to the job offer and see where they overlap. As long as the job keeps you moving forward in your career, then maybe the offer isn’t so bad after all.

2- Is there an opportunity to expand your skills and experience? Almost every job presents the opportunity to learn something new. When thinking about the job offer, take a look at the different responsibilities that come with the position, as well as opportunities to learn. Will the position require you to learn a new skill or program? Will there be opportunities to attend workshops or conferences? Sometimes, these types of learning experiences turn into perks that could have a positive impact on your career.

happy man3- Does it meet most needs? If you’re having a difficult time deciding on a job offer, you should make a list of your needs — everything from lifestyle needs to career goals. If the only thing you don’t love about the offer is the vacation package, maybe the offer isn’t so bad. However, if you need to have a benefits package that supports your family and the job offer doesn’t include that, or if you have a strong desire for a promotion and you don’t think that’s likely, then maybe you should try to negotiate the offer.

4- Imagine working for the company: If you can see yourself working in the office and with the people, it’s probably a good sign the company could be a good fit. Even if the salary isn’t as high as you had hoped, you could be accepting a job offer that provides a great company culture and an overall positive experience. Remember, not every job is about making the big Abucks — it should also be about finding happiness where you work.

5- Could this job be a stepping stone to a better opportunity? Throughout your career, you’ll likely find that some jobs can help you discover better opportunities. It’s OK if not every job you ever have is your dream job. Although you should be working toward your career goals, there will be times when you need to work a particular job in order to achieve your next goal. Every type of experience you gain gives you the opportunity to shape your career path.

Seekers who do decide to accept the position shouldn’t forget about negotiating.

You can always negotiate an offer if you aren’t completely satisfied, but overall, you should weigh the costs and benefits of the position. And remember: Your career goals and values should always come first.

FIVE EXPERT TIPS FOR FOLLOWING UP AFTER A JOB INTERVIEW

job interviewThe big job interview you’ve been prepping for and stressing over for days or weeks is over, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief — except now comes the hard part: Waiting to hear back.

You’re excited about the opportunity, and you want to do everything in your power to present yourself as the perfect candidate for the job; one way to increase your odds of landing the gig is to follow up in a professional manner.

Landing your dream job requires a degree of finesse, from the initial email or phone conversation to negotiating salary and signing on the dotted line. In the post-interview aftermath, you want to appear interested without crossing the line and coming across as a pest. You want to be memorable in the right way; so what does this entail?

Below, recruiting experts share their insights on the dos and don’ts when following up after a job interview:

1. Yes, You Should Follow Up

Following up is critical in showing your continued interest in a job opportunity, says Allyson Willoughby, senior vice president of people at Glassdoor, a job and career site where employees anonymously post the pros and cons of their companies, positions and salaries.

Willoughby cautions candidates against becoming a burden to the hiring manager — she stresses the importance of politeness. “You don’t want to pester until you get an answer, but rather keep yourself in [the hiring team’s] minds as they make the decision,” she says. “A great approach is to ask about their timeline for making a hiring decision before you leave the interview. This will help you to properly time your follow-up attempts. In addition, a quick ‘thank you’ [email] is always a nice touch.”

Another way to stand out in your follow-up communications is to mention recent news about the company to show that you’re keeping the job opportunity top-of-mind. This tidbit could be in regards to a blog post, industry news or something related to the job you interviewed for — it goes without saying that the news should be positive in nature; don’t send over a note with a mention of a company scandal.

2. Communicate in a Timely, Professional Manner

Nathan Mirizio, content marketing writer at The Resumator, a recruiting software company, agrees that there’s nothing wrong with sending a gracious thank-you message, unless the recruiter explicitly states no follow-ups or replies.

Mirizio suggests using the last form of communication that you had with a recruiter as the best medium for following up (i.e. phone, email, text, mail, etc.). “Go with that medium, or follow whatever instructions have been given to you. Email is always a safe bet, but always contact recruiters through their business accounts. Personal email accounts and phone numbers are for personal friends, and trying to reach [hiring managers] at home can be an awfully quick turnoff.”

3. Tastefully Follow Up When You Haven’t Heard Backinterview prep1

In a situation in which the company says they will make a decision next week, and a week goes by without any word after you’ve sent an initial follow-up note, Willoughby says that it’s okay to send one more polite inquiry.

“If you’re following up multiple times after each interview, that’s likely not appreciated,” she says. “However, if the company has given you a set time frame and exceeded it by longer than a week, a well-written follow-up note is reasonable. It should be concise and friendly. Don’t necessarily remind them that they haven’t gotten back to you, but rather use the time frame provided as the reason for your follow up.” Willoughby suggests wording your message along the lines of, “I know you mentioned you were hoping to make a final hiring decision by the end of the month, and I wanted to follow up and see where you are in that process.”

4. Learn When to Move On

If you’ve been waiting patiently for a reply from the company and they still haven’t responded, there’s a point when you have to move on — even if you really like the company and want the job. Chris Fields, a human resources consultant and expert resume writer at ResumeCrusade.com, reminds job seekers that focusing on other opportunities is the best way to move forward. “Don’t take it personally; just move along. You never know what is happening internally at a company. Here is my rule of thumb: Follow up once, and if you receive no response, follow up once more. If you still don’t hear anything, move on.”

Fields adds that company time frames can be tricky to predict, and candidates should take encouraging comments during an interview with a grain of salt. “Workplace emergencies happen unexpectedly and all the time, so it’s important to follow up a couple of times. But if you hear absolutely nothing, then it’s time to move on,” says Fields. “Some interviewers are complimentary to avoid confrontation; they tell you what you want to hear. Sometimes it’s genuine, but there is no way for you to tell. If the company wants to hire you, they will contact you, whether it happens a week later, a month later or even several months later.”

5. Don’t Make Assumptions With References

A request for references doesn’t necessarily mean that the job is in the bag, says Mirizio. “It’s a good rule of thumb throughout the hiring process to never assume anything,” he adds.

Fields agrees. “I’ve seen some crazy stuff, like negotiations falling apart, offers rescinded and miscommunications. [Being asked to supply] references is a good sign that you are in the top two or three candidates, but it’s no guarantee of employment,” he says.

The ultimate goal in any job search is to receive multiple offers so that you, as the candidate, can choose the best one. Creating a strategy to follow up after interviews is just as important as the actual interview itself.

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Good luck!!!