cover letter

Cover Letters? Yes, You Still Need One. Make It Brief and Timely!

cover-letterCover letters? Yes, you should include one with your application. Will it get you an interview? Likely not, but by including a cover letter you demonstrate to the hiring manager you’re thorough and have solid written communication skills.

Frequently, cover letters are never read and won’t influence whether you get a new position. But at times, a hiring manager will read a cover letter and some consider the cover letter an essential piece of your application and interest in the company. Consequently, a simple concise cover letter will never hurt you and may help you. A compelling cover letter may help you, but it will never get you the job. If you can write a compelling cover letter because you are extremely interested in the industry or company, then do it. If you don’t know enough to be passionate about the role, then write a crisp, solid cover letter specific to the position and include: the reason you’re writing in one sentence (because of your interest in the company or you saw the position opening). Add, one recent accomplishment related to the role you’re applying for, one personal strength, and an ask, which asks for a meeting, an interview, or a conversation.

cover-letterA good cover letter should be short, related to the job, and asks for a meeting. Keep it to 250 words or less. Most employers are interested in the ‘shorter the better’ approach to cover letter writing. If that seems too brief, just remember: What you need to include in your cover letter is the job you want to fill, the reason you would be a good fit, stated simply and concisely, and an invitation for a meeting.

With over 15 years of recruiting experience, I’ve seen cover letters go unread, but I’ve also seen instances where the hiring manager considered it a critical component to the job application, and a strong cover letter prompted them to invite the candidate to have a conversation.

When creating your cover letter there are a few fundamental rules you should follow

  1. Use Common Language and Speech Patterns. Be authentic and write your cover letter like you would draft an email to a business colleague.
  2. Show Interest. Be friendly and passionate, if it’s sincere. Don’t be overly formal because it conveys insincerity and doesn’t convey authenticity.
  3. Demonstrate that you understand the company.
  4. Don’t just restate your resume, but add something that relates to why you’re a solid fit for the role.
  5. Focus your letter on what you can do, not how great the company is, or why you want the job.
  6. Keep your letter brief, but statements should be thorough and on point. Edit your sentences to remove unnecessary verbiage.
  7. Highlight your personal strengths that align with the company’s culture.
  8. Conclude with an ‘ask’, ask for an interview, meeting or conversation to learn more and discuss your background and interest.

cover letterA good cover letter can help you make a positive first impression quickly. It demonstrates to the prospective employer your written communication skills. Either include the cover letter with your resume when you apply or send a separate cover letter directly to the hiring manager with your resume, if you have their contact information. And, either format works, email or regular mail. Both are equally appropriate in business.

Lastly, review your cover letter several times, and especially right before you send it. Make sure spelling is accurate and sentences strong. Nothing will kill your candidacy faster than spelling mistakes or a poorly written cover letter. And remember, most cover letters, even basic ones, can help you get to the next step, an interview.

A compelling cover letter CAN get you to an interview!


Why Do I Have to Sell Myself in My Resume?

Hiring managers get dozens, if not hundreds of resumes from possible candidates. Strong resumes that grab the reader’s attention quickly and encourage them to read further improve a solid candidate being considered for the roles they want. Most of us don’t like to brag or ‘sell’ ourselves, but today it’s critical to insure you stand out from the crowd. If your resume doesn’t stand out, you may never get the opportunity to be considered further.

So, how do you make your resume stand out?

Successful Resumes

Understanding the fundamentals of how people read and review resumes will give you a head start in creating a strong resume.

Hiring managers and recruiters frequently review dozens of resumes. Because resumes aren’t the most interesting reading, most people want to review them as efficiently as they can to find the best candidate. As a result, if your resume is strong starting in the first half page of your resume, you’ll encourage the reader to read on.

To make your resume compelling right from the start you want to make your resume easy to read, with enough white space on the resume so the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed as they begin to consider you as a candidate.

When you include a professional summary near the beginning, incorporating information that provides your business strengths, as well as your personal strengths you convey what you’ll be like on the job and as a member of the team. Are you a strategic thinker, a good problem solver, creative? Make sure you include some positive statements about your personal strengths.

In the body of your resume highlight your accomplishments and contributions. Many people feel they did ‘what was expected’ on the job, and don’t realize they made contributions such as a special project they took the lead on or the time they solved a problem implementing a process improvement or practice that improved outcomes. Think hard about even the smallest contributions you’ve made.

Historically resumes included statements that frequently started with…

Successful Resume Writing

Responsible for…

Use more compelling action verbs that catch attention. Start statements with an action verb since it’s easier for the hiring manager to identify what your actual contribution was.

Let’s consider a few accomplishments and contributions and compelling action verbs to highlight them.

Ex: You were the manager of a team. Try using verbs like cultivated, fostered, inspired, mentored, motivated, or aligned to highlight traits that differentiated you as a manager.

Ex: You worked in customer service. Try verbs such as advised, resolved, improved, or informed.

Ex: You met your goals, either revenue or a specific metric. Try adding verbs like surpassed, demonstrated, accomplished, or attained to differentiate your accomplishment.

Ex: You wrote documents or processes. You might want to use verbs like authored, composed, promoted, created, or reviewed.

Ex: You led a project team. Add verbs such as headed, organized, executed, or oversaw to catch the hiring manager’s attention more quickly.

As you’re considering what to include, focus on times when you increased revenue or saved the company time or money. Bottom line, accomplishments focused on savings or increased revenue are more significant.

Your resume and career history will make a bigger impact if you use dynamic action verbs to highlight your contributions and accomplishments. Verbs that are overused and anemic will diminish what you’ve done and may not get you to the next step. Using strong compelling words in your resume can compel the hiring manager to invite you to interview.

A strong resume is the beginning of a successful job search.

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