By Wendy Steele
Founder of BluePrint Résumés & Consulting
Letters are read as long as they’re written right. Not those generic ones that you submit in a job search engine blast. Cover letters are meant to put you at the top of the pile and to get your résumé noticed quicker. Many people start off with the wrong salutation and follow up with the same exact things that are already in their résumé. The following are some key things you should and should not add in a cover letter.
What You Should Add:
A salutation to the effect of: Dear Mr./Ms., Dear Recruiter, or something that addresses a direct person.
Examples of how you will solve their problem, save time, grow their business or whatever their goal is.
Professional Development…any additional training, seminars or workshops you have attended. This can be especially helpful if you’re an older worker or someone who’s been away from the industry for a period of time.
Additional accomplishments that you didn’t have room in the résumé to add. You can even add customer kudos if you have them.
Sabbatical reasons, but don’t go too deep. You just want to briefly explain a gap. For example, if you were laid off and used this time to finish school, took time off to travel overseas, care for family or what have you.
What You Should NOT Add:
Antiquated salutation that says: Dear Madam or Dear Sir. Not only does this scream cover letter blast, but to a hiring manager it shows that you didn’t even care enough to look up the name of the interviewer, hiring manager or company department.
The same exact details already in your résumé. If you just want to reiterate something, you can reword it without sounding repetitive. So that when they do get to the résumé it’s not boring.
Salary requirements unless they are specifically requested.
Everything you want because it’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for the company.
Too many personal details such as a major illness or having and raising children. Some job candidates think that honesty is the best policy. Well, when it comes to the job search don’t ask don’t tell is the best policy.
And lastly you SHOULD answer any questions that are listed on a job posting specifically requesting a cover letter and you SHOULD NOT add things that just “sound” nice and flowery. Like non-relevant info. or generic phrases.
Got questions? Feel free to email BluePrint Résumés & Consulting at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me, Wendy Steele at: Wendydknows@gmail.com
And as always… Good luck in your career search!
photo courtesy of LinkedIn
Another tip by Wendy Steele
Founder of BluePrint Résumés & Consulting
As professional résumé writers, we’re always thinking of the best adjectives or action verbs to market our clients in the best light possible. And… we know that recruiters get tired of seeing the same ole flowery summaries or so called buzz words on every other résumé that pops up on their computer screen. That’s why yesterday, when I was writing, or I should say creating another work of art for one of our mid-level executive clients, I was destined to find some other synonyms to keep him from looking like everyone else on paper. The first and main one was to describe him as a leader. Accomplished was what he previously had. This was okay and it did describe him, however it’s starting to become one of those cliché words.
Many job candidates take note (as they should) of succulent language to use and make themselves stand out, but when everyone starts using the same words and phrases it becomes…boring. So, make sure you stand out. No matter how good Alex or Cindy’s résumé sounds, put your own voice to your own document. When you get stuck…
Look up the synonym for the word you’re trying to replace. And don’t just look it up in Word if that’s what you’re using, because it can be pretty limited. An online thesaurus or Gregg Reference Manual is best.
Check out various job postings for positions you’re interested in. I know many (most actually) say the usual must-haves such as excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership, etc…, but there are also those that are very descriptive and have unique wording such as polished, astute, champion of…, strategic, driven and so on.
Those two options are the best ways to find replacement words in my opinion. Remember not to make your summary or profile too lengthy either because recruiters these days don’t have the time, nor do they care to read all of that.
By the way, for the client, I decided to use something like decisive based on other attributes he told me and followed that up with some examples of his accomplishments vs just saying he was accomplished.
Hope this helps! And as always… good luck in your career search!
Tired of multiple interviews for one job? Do you wonder if the company is playing a game or you feel like giving up?
When I was in the job market two interviews were common. After the second one you were either hired or received the standard rejection letter. And if it did go to a third one, that was just a meeting to fill out the paperwork and to give consent for the background check. So, for awhile I myself didn’t understand why employers couldn’t make up their minds. Until our company started growing and I had to start hiring. I found out even more when I started networking with executive recruiters and friends in HR who gave me advice on better screening and hiring techniques.
I know it can be frustrating, but don’t give up. At least not yet. First, I’m going to list some top reasons why companies do multiple interviews, and next I’ll list how you can handle getting through this (what feels like) a never ending process.
Why They Do It
- The interviewer or interviewers have additional questions. For example, you’re well qualified, but maybe your resume showed some job hopping. This may be even due to layoffs, but still, employers may want to further question if you remained with the company to assist for awhile or were you one of the first to be let go. A lot of employers feel like if you were let go then you must not have been that valuable. Gaps in employment? There are legal ways to ask certain questions. They may call you back to ask in a round about way. Other questions could simply be skills or project related.
- The position itself may have experienced high turnover so they want to make sure you’ll be happy and that they’ll be just as happy with you. So, more questions. This is where you might be asked more situational questions.
- The interviewer or interviewers want to ensure you’re a good cultural fit. This is similar to what I mentioned in a previous post about not getting the job offer after. Fitting in is a big deal. Interviewers don’t want any personality conflicts, non-motivated employees or whiners (although you can’t always tell this from an interview). They will do everything possible to see if you’ll be able to align with the company vision.
- The interviewer wants to make sure you’re serious and not faking it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed candidates who say all the right things, do their research, praise me, our team and the company as a whole on our 11 years of success. Or, those who say they’re eager to help the company grow. As I’ve learned through the years, it’s not always the best candidate who gets the job, but the one who interviews the best. So, you can fake interest and all the enthusiasm in the world with the first and second interview, but by the third or fourth your true colors will usually show through.
- They want to introduce you to the department you’ll be working in to see how the team views you. Yep! I remember being on a peer committee, and although it was mainly for existing employees, the manager of our IT department used to ask for my input on certain job candidates. We would compare one candidate to another based on their education, experience, you know the usual stuff. Then once we met them we would interact a little and later give our assessment. This is similar to fitting into the culture. You may just meet the entire management team, or other employees of a team you may be assigned to. All in all, they’re just checking you out.
- The team may be asked how they view you and they’re not all on one accord. Piggy backing on the one above, now that you’ve met the team and they’ve been asked to give their opinion, maybe everyone just can’t agree. One may say, well we need someone who knows x,y,z or when I showed her this, she had no clue what I was talking about, or he’s great with customer service, but doesn’t seem to have a leader mentality. In any case, that could warrant another interview.
- They may have already found someone more qualified for the position you applied for, but have another similar role that you may be a good fit for and they have more questions. And that pretty much says it all. This is a good thing too because if you are hired, even for the other position, once you’re in the company you can get an insight on what the original position entails and either apply later or decide to move on to something else. I’ve seen it time and time again where a candidate just didn’t have enough experience, but the recruiter or hiring manager felt that within a few months in an assistant position they would be up to speed, or just had something better for them.
How To Handle These Multiple, Never Ending Interviews
Be Patient! Be Proud! Remember, you’re a top candidate in the running. There’s a reason why they keep calling you back. I would rather be called back multiple times with the chances of learning more about the company, it’s culture and providing more details about my capabilities than to receive that rejection letter after the first or second interview. Now, this is not to say you won’t still receive the rejection letter, but at least you were given more opportunities.
Ask if there are any skills that you should elaborate on. This would be a good time to send that thank you letter if you haven’t already done so because you can elaborate on your skills there. If you’ve already sent the letter then of course you can discuss verbally if given the opportunity.
Check online resources about the company. This is a great way to learn more about the company to see if it’s common that they conduct multiple and/or tough interviews. Network with members of LinkedIn and ask questions. Check out Glassdoor.com where you can find lots of information on what it’s like working in various positions at multiple companies. You can even find interview questions. I love Glassdoor!
Keep looking, but Keep Going! As the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, but don’t give up either. You could miss out on a great career opportunity to get everything you’ve ever dreamed of! However, some companies (i.e. startup, tech companies) might interview a boatload of candidates with no intentions of hiring anyone just to get free information. For example, let’s say they ask you to show how you would code something, what do you feel are the best and latest CRM software packages, best plug-ins for something specific on a website, how you would develop a social media following, etc… you keep answering and you’re basically consulting or training them for free.
I’ve even had candidates tell me they actually worked on team projects at a company and weren’t hired! Reminds me of business school where you do mock projects for a Fortune 500 Company. They’re getting free help! Time to move on! Respectfully bow out from the leeches. For the legitimate ones though it’s difficult to tell how many interviews are too many. That’s really up to the hiring manager. However, if and when you feel it’s just too many interviews, but you can keep going, at the same time keep looking!
Well this concludes our Interview Series. I hope this helps some of you and as always…
Good luck in your career search!
Founder & CEO
BluePrint Resumes & Consulting