The Dreaded Cover Letter

According to plenty of experts in the career-sphere, including myself, the cover letter is growing obsolete.

But according to the results of a recent OfficeTeam study, which surveyed senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees, cover letters are still an important part of the job seeker’s toolbox.

Ninety-one percent of the more than 1,000 executives queried say cover letters are either somewhat or very valuable when evaluating a job candidate.

“Although the job application process has increasingly moved online, the importance of a cover letter shouldn’t be underestimated,” says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “It often is the first opportunity to make a positive impression on hiring managers.”

Cover letters are also a good opportunity to build rapport with a prospective employer and show how the skills on your resume fit with the job for which you’re applying.

Here are some tips for getting it right:

  1. Make it look good.Before someone starts reading your cover letter, they’re going to look it over. So if your cover letter looks like a chore to read, you’ve already fallen behind.

Avoid long sentences and big blocks of unbroken text. Keep your sentences short, direct, and active. Separate paragraphs (there should only be two to four) with a single space. Think about using bullet points when listing skills and accomplishments to make the text look airy and less daunting.

  1. Make it original. Every job opportunity deserves its own cover letter—that means non-generic in form. Take a good look at the job posting and tailor your cover letter to it by using similar terminology and tone, but be yourself at the same time.

You can follow a standard three-paragraph format for most letters:

  • Introduce yourself and tell them why you’re writing.
  • Match your qualifications to the job using specific examples.
  • Reiterate your qualifications, request an interview and let them know how you’ll follow up.
  1. Make it relevant.Your cover letter shouldn’t just be a list of your skills and experience (that’s the purpose of your resume). Instead, it should make the case for why your skills and experience are right for a particular position. Match your qualifications with some of the job requirements using real-life examples. Remember to keep it brief. With any luck—and a good cover letter—you’ll be able to elaborate during your interview.
  2. Use names.First, do your best to find out who will read your letter and address it to that person—there’s nobody named “To Whom it May Concern.” Also, if you have an inside connection at the company (who doesn’t mind vouching for you) work it into the first paragraph.
  3. Make it perfect.Typos, bad grammar, and poor spelling kill cover letters. So don’t just dash off a cover letter and send it. After your first draft, set the letter aside for a few minutes. Then reread it. Look for ways to strengthen the points you make while tightening your language and deleting unnecessary words. Then read it again. Use spell check (but remember to double check it). And, finally, let someone else give it a read.

 

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How to Enhance Your Resume Without Stretching the Truth

How to Enhance Your Resume Without Stretching the Truth

Finding a job is rarely easy, but for the millions of people who are currently unemployed, it seems nearly impossible. Saving money is a luxury many can no longer afford because they can hardly keep up with day-to-day expenses.

Are you beginning to think your job hunting efforts are hopeless? Does submitting your resume online feel like sending it into a black hole? When your livelihood is on the line, it might be tempting to resort to questionable tactics to gain an edge over the competition. Maybe you’re considering embellishing your resume to make yourself a more attractive candidate.

You should know that lying to get a job is just about guaranteed to backfire, big time. Whether it’s your experience, education or abilities, stretching the truth is always a bad idea. It is possible, however, to make your resume stand out as an applicant and without having to lie–it’s all about how you present the information.

  1. Axe the objective and reference sections.The simple act of submitting your resume makes your objective very clear: You want the job. Resumes should be kept as concise as possible, and writing an objective wastes prime real estate on the page. If you do feel like stating an objective, save it for your cover letter.

The same is true when you end the page with “References available upon request.” Yes, let’s hope they are. It’s much more helpful to bring along a separate page with references and contact information already listed, so that in the case your interview goes well, you can provide it on the spot. (Here are some other old-fashioned resume elements and outdated job-search advice to ignore.)

  1. Place keywords strategically.Using meaningless business buzzwords to describe yourself does the opposite of make you stand out. Instead, your resume blends in with the hundreds of others characterizing “go-getters” with “can-do” attitudes and “outside-the-box” thinking.

In fact, these 7 words & phrases should be banished from resumes completely:

  1. Responsible for
  2. Self-motivated
  3. Experienced
  4. Excellent written communication skills
  5. Team player
  6. Detail oriented
  7. Successful

 

Instead, research and identify words that describe what your potential employer is looking for in the position specifically. Read the job description thoroughly, and check the company website’s “About Us” and “Mission” pages for language you can mirror in your resume. This is especially important because screening resumes is increasingly becoming an automated process, and poor word choice means your resume may never reach a real person’s hands.

  1. Be specific and show results.The fact that you were a manager means very little if it did nothing to propel the company forward. What’s really attention-grabbing–andimportant to hiring managers–is measurable results directly related to your efforts.

If you increased sales by 10 percent or created a new process that cut a project’s time in half, definitely replace dry or obvious job descriptions with those facts. And remember, numbers have much more impact than text. Your resume is the first impression you make on a hiring manager, so don’t wait for an interview that may or may not happen to showcase your achievements.

  1. Change the order.Traditionally, a resume features the applicant’s name and address, followed by an opening headline or title, a summary of qualifications, job experience, and education or training finishing it off. However, following this format may not make the important information stand out.

If your work history is limited but you received extensive training in a specialized field, list your educational accomplishments before delving into past employment. If you possess a rare skill, list your abilities before the rest of the information. Also include only the work history that is relevant to the position you’re currently applying for: Two years as an accountant? Great. Those three months you spent making ends meet at the burger joint? Not so much.

  1. Keep It clean, neat, and error-free.It should go without saying, but triple-check your resume for errors before sending it out into the world. Preferably, have a second set of eyes look it over. I’ve personally received a number of professional resumes that looked as though they were created by fifth graders–which is a pretty alarming–but finding even one error means I stop reading and move on to the next applicant.

Most employers will react the same way to misspellings, poor grammar, and formatting mistakes. Again, your resume is your first impression; do you want it to say you don’t care enough about the job to proofread it?

And the fancy stuff (colored paper, unusual fonts, or images) is not appropriate for a resume, period. It doesn’t look like you put more effort into your resume, it looks like you’re compensating for its lack of substance.

Job-hunting can be frustrating and disheartening. When the competition is as fierce as it is these days, you need to do everything you can to get a potential employer to notice you–don’t allow a poorly optimized resume to prevent you from getting your foot in the door.

Casey Bond is editor-in-chief of http://www.GoBankingRates.com, which provides readers informative personal finance and investing content, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide.

 

Written Resume Do’s and Don’ts

Written Resume Do’s and Don’ts

In my professional opinion these are the 12 basic do’s and don’ts of a resume.

  1. Keep it simple. Don’t use some erratic layout that will get messed up in transition. You may send it to a recruiter, then they send it to a company or you may have to attach it to an online application. If you use a pre-designed format chances are it will get messed up in transition. Stick with basic Microsoft Word and use the highlight, bold, underline and bullet point functions.
  2. Keep your resume to 2-3 pages, anymore and the reader will get bored. You want just enough information on it to catch the reader’s attention and to want to learn more. Once you have them on the phone, then you go more in detail. Utilize buzz words, keywords and other terms that may be industry specific for you. You want it to stand out without being over detailed.
  3. Never put your picture on your resume. Enough said.
  4. Never use flashy colors or fonts.
  5. Leave your “Hobbies and Interests” section off. As a recruiter I care about your qualifications and experience, not which club you belong too or if you’re into scrapbooking or your golf handicap.
  6. NEVER…EVER…EVER…EVER…EVER exaggerate your qualifications or your education. We’ll find out in the long run.
  7. Next to every position with every company make room for a line that briefly explains why you left or are no longer there. And please be honest, because we’ll find that out too.
  8. Some recruiters and hiring authorities really don’t care about the cover letter. If you want the truth, I’m only going to read your cover letter if your resume is interesting.
  9. Header should include your name, city and state, email address and a VALID phone number. If you have a LinkedIn page, the link to that is acceptable. But the valid contact information is the key. “Confidential” resumes are pointless and at my desk will be deleted pretty quickly.
  10. Most trained recruiting professionals can take 15 seconds and look at your resume to tell if you are qualified. Keep that in mind.
  11. References and “References Available Upon Request” no longer belong on a resume. We’ll ask for them anyway if we get to that point of the process. Use that room on your resume for meaningful content.
  12. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Try and talk more about your accomplishments than miniscule responsibilities.

Good luck in your resume writing adventure. If you need help, please feel free to reach out to me and ask.

Happy Job Hunting!

Here’s a couple of bonus ones for ya.

  1. Your email address…make it somewhat normal and/or professional. I’m going to think twice…well maybe 10 times about calling a candidate with the email address beerchugger@hotmail.com.
  2. Just for the love of humanity have a shred of common sense.

 

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